Baby Boomers To Gen Z: The Most Popular Fashion Trends From The Year You Were Born
Fashion has been changing and evolving long before and after you donned your birthday suit. Throughout the years, popular wardrobe staples have taken on shoulder pads, some flower embroidery, maybe even morphing into whole body apparel or head-to-toe denim. No judgement here, that’s just how fashion works.
Many of us have had moments in which we thought, “I cannot believe I actually wore that!” Trends comes and go, but we believe that having a laugh at your own expense is never out of style. So join us on this journey and look back at some of the fashion trends that were coming into style as you came into the world.
1. 1954-1955: Fit & Flare
Throughout the 1940s, women’s fashion trends were mostly focused around utility as women were finding wartime work. Fabric was being rationed, and there were strict guidelines, with regulations on everything from length to collar size. But that all changed in the 1950s. Designer Christian Dior turned fashion on its head by creating a “new look.” Welcome to the world of fit and flare dresses!
Following the war, Dior’s fabrics were voluminous and luxurious, and his silhouettes cinched at the waist. The designs were considered new and scandalous. You might have looked like an hourglass, but who cares! That’s fashion! So next time you knock the “fit and flare” style as being a conservative look of the past, remember it was once extremely ahead of its time. And you can thank this fashion moment for later inspiring the famous high-waisted jean look.
2. 1956-1957: Hats! Hats! Hats!
Big hats, small hats, pillbox hats, scarves as hats, sun hats, wedding hats, fascinator hats and swim caps. Hats for everyone and every occasion! The 1950s were all about an “out with the old and in with the new” mentality. Utilitarian clothing was out, and femininity was in, especially when it came to the hats.
Hats at this time were small and dainty, and usually pinned over some perfectly coiffed hair. Women were equal opportunists when it came to hats, but the preference at the time definitely went to shell hats. They came in all colors and styles, and were the perfect accessory to complete any 1950s outfit.
3. 1958-1959: Skirt Suits
While the billowing look of a fit and flare skirt was definitely still popular, the slim-fitting pencil skirt became the look of the late 1950s. To make the pencil skirt even more of a showstopper in the office or on the street, it was often matched with a coordinating suit jacket, creating a chic skirt-suit look that we still see at workplaces today.
Pencil skirts at this time were usually hemmed just passed the knee. Many women had plenty of these narrowly-cut skirts in their closets, made of different fabrics so that no matter the weather, she could still achieve this sophisticated look. Rain, sleet or shine, the skirt suit look could weather any type of weather.
4. 1960-1961: Trapeze Coats
By the 1960s, fashion designers and their female clients were looking for new styles and silhouettes. The 1950s “housewife aesthetic” was being challenged by more bold and daring designs. And with this, out were the days of a cinched waist, and in were the days of experimentation. Surprisingly enough, clothes didn’t need to cut off the wearer’s circulation. Enter the swinging, loose trapeze coat.
In the early years of the 1960s, all eyes were on First Lady Jackie Kennedy and her impeccable style. And if you look at Kennedy’s famous collection of perfectly tailored jackets, you’ll find quite a few trapeze style coats in there. They were an instant hit, challenging the sartorial trends of the past while creating a new idea of a classic look.
5. 1962-1963: Patterns
When many people think of the 1960s, they picture bright colors, bold styles, and loud patterns. And they would be right. The 1960s were all about trying new things in fashion. And while the 1950s included patterns, they were nothing compared to the bright, wild fabrics of the 1960s. Even the most simple dress would be seen produced in bright yellows and oranges.
While some women were looking at Jackie Kennedy’s perfectly put together clean lines and shapes for their fashion inspiration, others were looking at Bridget Bardot, the fashion opposite. She was bolder, brighter, and many women took note. In general, the 1960s were a time for fashion fun. And nothing was more fun than the jaw dropping patterns.
6. 1964-1965: Go-Go Boots
By the mid 1960s, high heeled shoes were getting the boot. Style was becoming more and more about function, and dancing in heels can be a real pain. Street fashion was in, flat shoes were in, and saving money was also in. So, along came go-go boots to save the day.
New materials like vinyl, a common staple of any good go-go boot, were being mass produced making the boots cheap to manufacture and sell. The vinyl material stood out from any outfit, and could be made into the brightest colors. And the classic low heels on go-go boots made them easy for walking around and, of course, dancing. These boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they did.
7. 1966-1967: Flower Power
By the late 1960s, it seemed that women’s fashion could not get any bolder. But guess again. Along came florals! Flowers were literally everywhere, from big, bright, floral jewelry to flowery dresses, and if you’ve ever seen a retro ’60s style home, you would know that flower wallpaper even crept its way into popular home decor trends. You could practically get a seasonal allergy just from all the florals you’d see.
The late 1960s meant that the “hippie look” was very much in, and references to the iconic era that was all about liberation continue to this day. Along with the popularity of hippie chic came the “flower child” look we all know and love. Flower patterns could be printed, embroidered, painted, studded, it didn’t matter. As long as there were flowers, and a lot of them!
8. 1968-1969: Minis
Long gone were the days of regulated hemlines that went down way passed the knee. In the late 1960s, anything went! And it seems like the more that time went by, the shorter hemlines were getting. High hemlines were the height of fashion at the end of the 1960s.
Shapeless mini dresses were extremely popular, along with shift dresses and the jumper dress. The mini dress was the epitome of the youthful side of fashion. While the 1950s were all about looking mature, the Swinging Sixties were all about celebrating youth. Pair that mini dress with some crazy patterned tights, and you’d have yourself a look.
9. 1970-1971: Platform shoes
By the 1970s, the world was starting to drift from the hippie days of the late ’60s and veer boogy toward the funky era of disco. While fashion styles were getting increasingly casual, they were also getting much more exaggerated. And one of the most exaggerated looks we can think of were gravity defying platform heels.
It’s almost hard not to hold your breath looking at someone walking around in these gigantic, heeled shoes. We bet at least a few ankles have fallen victim to this dangerous footwear fashion trend. But it was totally worth a twisted ankle to be able to rock this high fashion look.
10. 1972-1973: Collars
The disco generation would be nothing if it was not for the iconic collars of the time. Collars were everywhere, on many of the most popular shirts in the most popular fashion department stores of the era. And in the 1970s, the size of your collar was directly related to the coolness of your look. Sorry, we didn’t write the rules, it was just simple math.
Large collars were a staple for many of the button up shirts of the time. Men would show off their large collars by putting them over jackets they layered on top of the button-ups. At disco clubs, collars were metallic and sequined. There were knit collars, fur collars and collars with contrasting colors. If a material could be put on a collar, you better bet in the 1970s they found a way to tack it on there.
11. 1974-1975: Bell Bottoms
Could a list of fashion statements in the ’70s be complete without mention of bell bottoms? No, we doubt it. When thinking about the 1970s and disco culture, bell bottoms are perhaps the most iconic look of the time, and they have somehow continued to creep back into fashion in years since.
When it came to bell bottoms, the more flare the better. Bell bottoms were made into denim jeans as well as in a number of different fabrics and textures. At the same time, high-waisted pants were increasingly all the rage. Bell bottoms were on every street and in every packed disco club, giving any look a little added flare (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves with that pun).
12. 1976-1977: Jumpsuits
Why go through the hassle of picking out pants and a matching top when you can just have one article of clothing that does the work of both? Seems practical. Enter, jumpsuits to the rescue! The retro jumpsuit was another staple of the late 1970s that came in a ton of different styles and patterns and were considered fun, funky and very fab.
Breezy fabrics made the jumpsuit perfect for everyday use, and a velvet or sequined jumpsuit would be a show-stopper at the disco clubs. And the best part is that they were comfortable! Just pair it with some gold jewelry and you’d have heads turning with almost minimal effort. Unless you have to go to the bathroom, in which case there’s just a bit of added effort.
13. 1978-1979: Matching Head to Toe
Mornings are hard. And matching can be even harder some days. And on the mornings where you don’t have time to care, but want to look chic, pairing the perfect outfit can be a challenge. So why not just wear the same exact pattern from head to toe and call it a day?
If you were living in the late 1970s, that’s exactly what you would do. Inspired by the jumpsuit look, but with more practicality, the trend of using one fabric or pattern throughout your entire outfit was increasingly popular. Whether it was a jacket with pants, a skirt and a blouse, or shorts and a shirt, if you could find the same pattern for both, wear them together and be on trend.
14. 1980-1981: Punk
Throughout the mid to late 1970s, punk rock music was catching on in a big way. From the Ramones to Blondie, a new genre of music along with a new outlook on fashion was gaining popularity. By the 1980s, this genre that was previously considered to be a subculture was hitting the fashion mainstream in a big way.
Brands like Doctor Martin and Vivienne Westwood were inspired by the “I don’t care” attitude (hint: they did care) of the punk rock movement and more palatable, everyday wear versions of punk rock for the general public. Mom probably would not understand, but things like leather jackets, big boots and dark eyeliner were considered very rad.
15. 1982-1983: Black and White
In fashion, it seems that when one trend is born, an equal and completely opposite trend will later emerge. It’s basically a scientific rule, right? One example was the 1960s flat shoe just before the 1970s platform heel. Here we see how the bright colors of the 1970s made way for the chic, yet simple black-and-white palette of the early 1980s.
Black-and-white ensembles were very ‘en vogue’ fashion choice in the early 1980s. These simple and classic outfits would usually be paired with a bright, bold lipstick and big, chunky jewelry. When it comes to fashion, picking a good outfit is not always so black-and-white. But in this case, it was.
16. 1984-1985: Shoulder Pads
For better or for worse, depending on your view of this semi-questionable trend, shoulder pads have cemented themselves a place in fashion history, and a place atop many women’s’ shoulders in the ’80s. Shoulder pads were a symbol of the decade’s “more is more” outlook on clothing. The more you could put on your clothing, the better the outfit. But this look also had a more powerful role in fashion history.
With times changing for women, shoulder pads were also seen as a mark of female empowerment, taking on the broad shouldered look that was usually reserved for men. The “power shoulder” quickly became associated with strong, powerful women in Hollywood, and was soon seen in offices around the world, and today in thrift stores everywhere.
17. 1986-1987: Huge Hair
Sometimes the biggest statements in fashion cannot be purchased at a department store. In this case, 1980s fashion would be nothing without incredibly large, incredibly puffed up hair to go along with it. And it seemed that as the years went by in the ’80s, the hair only got bigger.
The mid to late 1980s was a time for experimentation with hair. The sheer craziness of the permed, crimped and teased hairstyles have created some incredibly funny yearbook photos to look back on. We cannot begin to imagine how much hairspray was sold during this time. But hey, we’ll take big hair over a mullet (also popular in the 1980s) any day.
18. 1988-1989: Spandex
The late ’80s was a time for bold fashion statements. The epitome of this was definitely the trend of wearing aerobics outfits as an everyday ensemble, known as the spandex look. As fitness culture picked up steam, so came with it the spandex look, along with leg warmers and the off-the-shoulder top that many of us have recreated for 1980s themed parties.
Even rock stars were donning spandex tights on stage, proving the Lycra look was not just for hitting the gym. The brighter the colors, the better, and neon reigned supreme. But spandex styles symbolized more than just a workout crazed movement, it was also a movement in fashion that was focused on comfort and function.
19. 1990-1991: Big, Bright Tees
The spandex of the late 1980s popularized the idea that sporty clothing could be worn outside of the fitness studio, and the idea that fashion could come right along with comfort. The early 1990s ran with this idea and took it to a new extreme, with gigantic and bright tee shirts becoming a popular fixture in street style.
From television shows to movies to just the average street, everyone was rocking a baggy tee shirt and straight legged jeans (often cuffed). It seemed like almost everyone was calculating themselves as three sizes larger, wearing tee shirts that would almost swallow them whole! Sometimes style is confusing, luckily it’s an ever-evolving creature.
20. 1992-1993: Grunge
In the early ’90s, artists from Neil Young and Nirvana to Pearl Jam were hugely popular in influencing music, and they were equally popular in influencing fashion culture. Fitted clothing and put together outfits were out. And a more disheveled, loose-fitting aesthetic was totally in.
Big, baggy jeans and a beat-up, old tee shirts could be perfectly paired with a large flannel button-up and maybe even a choker necklace (if you wore any jewelry at all) to complete the ensemble. Clothing was rumpled and hair was messy in order to achieve a “just out of bed” look that probably made it seem like you didn’t care. But don’t be fooled! If you were a ’90s kid during the grunge era, you totally cared.
21. 1994-1995: Tube tops
Some fashion trends can be practical, others are not as much. Take, for example, the tube top. Whoever decided that straps were unnecessary? But in fashion, it does not always have to make sense. And as far as fashion in the ’90s, straps on your clothing were definitely not de rigueur. Instead, many turned to the tube top.
Tube tops could be as long or short as the wearer preferer. Tube tops ranged from the cotton, airy, “long” style, to the belly-baring, tight and fitted alternative. Hollywood stars and performers were all wearing tube tops, and they became the unofficial uniform of basically any singer you would go watch in concert or see on the cover of popular teen magazines.
22. 1996-1997: Denim on Denim
We will not pretend that wearing denim was a new thing in the 1990s. Denim was a staple for many outfits for hundreds of years prior. But the mid ’90s took its love for denim to a whole new level. Why wear one denim piece when you could wear an entire outfit made of denim?
And why stop there? Why not wear a denim hat? Maybe a denim dress? The so-called “Canadian tuxedo” was a full-blown fashion trend from the celebrity elite to middle schools across the country. Perhaps the most popular denim moment came when ’90s power couple Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake arrived at the 2001 American Music Awards in full matching denim getups. Swoon! It was an entire fashion trend of jean queens, and we’re here for it.
23. 1998-1999: Logomania
We’ve heard the infamous red carpet question , “who are you wearing?” If you were living in the late 1990s, there was no need to ask that one. Name brands were ubiquitously found plastered across outfits. Literally showing off brand names was the epitome of cool, and the look was everywhere.
Some of the most infamous brands known for plastering their names on their clothing included Tommy Hilfiger and the ;90s classic GAP sweatshirt that almost everyone had. Luxury fashion brands like Fendi, Moschino and Louis Vuitton were also slapping their names all over handbags and clothing as a way to show status.
24. 2000-2001: Bandanas
Bandanas were a trend that started in the 1990s but became a staple of fashion into the early 2000s. The usually square piece of fabric with a paisley design was absolutely everywhere. And by everywhere, we mean not only on stars and on people in the streets, but also bandanas found their way into almost every single article of clothing.
Bandanas were tied around heads, either folded into a headband or as an almost hat-like accessory. Soon they were made into small, barely there shirts. There were even bandana skirts and belts. Somehow, bandanas even ended up in red carpet looks. We’re not saying anyone looked particularly elegant in them, but we’re just saying it was a thing.
25. 2002-2003: Low Rise Jeans
The early aughts were almost defined by the barely-there, low-rise jeans that came along with it. Pelvic bone-hugging jeans were a staple of any teen and 20s something 2000s look. Think the early years of Christina Aguilera stardom during her “Stripped” album days or Britney Spears during, well, any day in the early years of the 21st century.
Other early 2000s fashion gods were equally loving this look, from Paris Hilton (pictured) and Lindsay Lohan to Beyoncé and Mischa Barton (her character Marissa Cooper in The OC practically slept in low rise jeans). The barely there trend wasn’t just exclusive for jeans. It seemed that every pair of pants from this time were way too low, no matter the fabric. Some could call it a low point for fashion.
26. 2004-2005: The Velour Tracksuit
Let us just get one thing straight: just because it is a track suit does not mean anyone ever actually ran in it. But in the mid 2000s, Juicy Couture was definitely running the fashion world with its matching velour tracksuit look. And across the country, parents were collectively groaning as children begged them for this comfortably, yet expensive look.
Literally everyone was wearing what we could only explain as the closest publicly-acceptable thing to pijamas. The popular velour tracksuit, and its slightly more affordable terrycloth cousins, could be found in array of colors for that “it’s almost a bath robe but it’s not” look. Some even included the Juicy brand name on the backside of the pants. In 2017, there was a brief scare that Juicy was bringing back this look. We’re still holding our breaths.
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