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Fashion Through the Decades

From Mary Quants London boutique in the early 1960s to Jean Paul Gaultier’s self-titled clothing line in the late 1980s, fashion has followed suit with innovation. Over the last 50 years, we have watched trends fade in and out of the spotlight. Throughout all the trends and fads we succumb to one thing that remains certain: fashion is a physical embodiment of self-expression. We have used fashion to spark a rebellion, create art movements, and spotlight parts of our culture. Let’s roll through the styles of the last few decades and check out just how much our looks have changed.


Can you dig it? The 60s was a time of rebellion, with women everywhere cutting their skirts shorter and the rise of fan culture with Beatlemania taking over the country. With the world changing on its axis we see a lot of new art arising from culture, now edgier than we had previously seen in mainstream media. The “Pop Art” movement is an accredited art movement that took over culture in the 60s, being noted in history as one of the most recognizable styles of modern art. An often controversial artist popularized during these years was Andy Warhol, who frequently used commercial logos in his work by editing them using different colors and patterns. These logos were still recognizable as the product but were edited slightly in color and shape. Most notably, Warhol’s work is recognized by the Campbell soup can and Coca-Cola logo.

The Pop Art movement was a controversial step forward in the art world due to its connection with commercialism. Using logos and famous visuals from brands and significant companies elicited criticism from other artists that this was a ploy towards promoting consumption in capitalist society through their work. Despite these arguments, many Americans found themselves enthralled with the rise of modern art. Common symbols many recognized in grocery stores seemed to bridge a gap between those in the art world and the regular person who is not often consuming this content. The Pop Art movement affected every part of the culture in the 60s, as well as the future of modern art.


Calling all “Daisy Jones and the Six” fans. The 1970s provided a plethora of innovations from their use of flared jeans and belle sleeves to the incredible clothing (or lack thereof) worn during the summer of love. Woodstock and the Summer of Love were often associated with escapism, a way to get out of the war-ridden world we lived in and escape into the music. These festivals were often associated with hippies and other free spirits. Unlike in the 60s, we see a rejection of modern art and any association with commercialism, instead earthy palettes were all the rage. With “hippie” being the new buzzword, many switched from the bright ways of the 60s to more muted, natural tones. With the Vietnam War hitting a boiling point during these pivotal years we see a rise in political outcry. Protests took place all around the United States, often associated with college campuses being the starting point of many of these protests and students being the organizers. The Anti-War protests of the 1970s and overall rejection of the government or mainstream media is where much of this innovation comes from.


Let’s get physical! If steps class hasn’t tired you yet, make sure to hit the mall for a bite before grabbing your skates for the roller rink. Why did leotards come into fashion during the 1980s, only to fade out entirely and become a flashy memory? During the 1980s we saw a rise in new gym fads, including jazzercise, steps classes, and pilates. Enter Gilda Marx, Gilda was a fitness instructor to the stars in Hollywood, California during the 80s. Gilda’s emphasis on the new “jazzercise” attracted hundreds of stars throughout Hollywood. The new jazzercise craze became so big that even Jane Fonda opened her very own studio in 1982. Very quickly, Gildas leotard became the standard uniform for workout classes everywhere. Gilda wore a leotard to every class as she felt it was the most comfortable piece of clothing to wear while exercising. Although, it was obvious the leotard needed some adjustments. Gilda worked to design her leotard that supported the chest as well as looked flattering on adult women in a way that ballet leotards did not. Gilda found great success with her line of leotards, as one of the most iconic fitness coaches in Hollywood those who took her classes followed suit in purchasing her leos. Gilda is now remembered in history as creating one of the signature looks of the 1980s.


As if! With MTV blaring through the speakers of my box TV, we visit the 1990s to say hello to some favorites from this era. As we enter the age of the internet, we see how accessible media affects trends during these years. During the beginning of the 90s, people started to split off into different subcultures like our grunge, preppy, and punk looks. These subcultures are inspired by mainstream celebs and what we see them wearing. Our first mainstream celeb that drastically affected culture with their looks was Will Smith in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. This television show was a quick hit that launched Will Smith’s acting and music career. Such a hit in fact that men everywhere start to adjust their wardrobes to more preppy looks that include some staples from the show such as oversized shirts and high-waisted jeans. Many of the clothes Smith would wear on the show were heavily inspired by the 90s prevalent hip-hop culture. Meanwhile, Grunge starts to become its own subculture with the rise of rock music in the 90s. With bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam gaining popularity we see a rise in ripped jeans and dark clothing. These darker color palettes match the aesthetic that the musicians chose to market. For what seems like the first time in history, we have more access to people through the internet than we ever have, which seemed to lead to the individual celebrity having more of an effect on fashion than ever before. This phenomenon plus the increase of subcultures and cliques led to a large spectrum of iconic looks during the 1990s.


Guys, where’s my Barney Bag?! Finally, let's touch on the gift that keeps on giving: y2k style. Throughout the 2000s we see celebrities like Janet Jackson and Missy Elliot aligning with the concept of Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism is known for its elements of the fantastical as well as its connection to outer space. We see Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson pioneer this modern twist on the concept with silver eyeshadow and metallic clothing. Current y2k trends that we see making an appearance today like low-waisted jeans with chain belts were first worn by the early 2000s group Destinys Child (OG Beyonce fans know). Of course, none of us can forget Paris Hiltons iconic looks from this era. Her show “The Simple Life” starring Paris and Nicole Richie gave us a taste of what luxury these girls are used to and grew very popular on TV for their quotes and commentary. Paris, known not just for her role on reality TV but also for her style, always seemed to be sporting extremely low-rise jeans or a glittery slip dress. Y2K fashion is alive and well today with so many of these looks being repeated on red carpets as well as on the streets of NYC. With all of these trends making a comeback, let us pray that jeans under dresses stay in the past.

Written by Liadin Stewart

Styling, Creative Direction, Production Management by Kaenaaloha Watson

Creative Direction by Sophia Querrazzi

Shot and Edited by Mark Bluemle

Production Assistance by Jake Pranian

2000s Outfit Designed by Kari Alexandra

Models (From L to R on Cover Photo): Eden Masliah, Serge Beaucéjour, Taylor Jackson, Mikial Hamilton, Ayana Velasquez, Alexis Rios

Sources used:

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