Hi everybody. Today I have a guest post for you all about the evolution of 20th century fashion.
History, politics, economics and popular culture all have a dramatic impact on the fluctuation of fashion trends and styles. When you are embarking on a new dressmaking project or looking to craft your own furnishings, then, you will want to ensure that you are not only using the correct materials but also keeping to current trends and looking to them for inspiration irrespective of whether you want to construct a contemporary or classic article of attire or decor.
At Sewing Online, we aim to supply you with a diverse variety of materials and equipment to enable you to be as creative as possible and produce designs which are not only beautiful but allow you to be imaginative and innovative too.
With the revival of vintage fashions, furnishings and novelty objects many designers and crafters are looking to the 20th century for their designs. Fashion during this time saw hemlines rise and fall each decade and the unstable economy often meant that there were many sacrifices in material being made which left designers to use their creativity and produce innovative in clothing from mixing and matching to using different variations of fabrics.
In a world where we are inundated with advances on the runway and popular fads like bell-bottom trousers and ripped jeans, we at Sewing Online have brought you our timeline of men and women’s 20th century fashion.
1900s – 1920s
Contrasts can be seen between rich and flamboyant designs before the Great War which then turned to more practical garments.
This period marked the appearance of, Haute Couture a Parisian movement meaning ‘high fashion’, which saw a rise in custom made clothing for women of higher classes which highlighted the silhouettes of the mature and full-figured bodies with S-shaped corsets thrusting the chest outwards and hips back creating a feminine curve. Skirts were often fitted on top which were fluted towards the hem.
As the end of the 1910s grew closer glimpses of ankle were revealed and the appearance of dresses of narrower and straighter angles appeared as designer Paul Poiret liberated women from the confines of a corset. This also meant form fitted gowns with high waists and long tunic jackets accentuating the waist appeared with frilly blouses creating a softer emphasis on the bust.
Three piece suits including jackets with high smaller lapels were worn by men of the 1900s and were often complemented with bowler hats. While some men wore their collars turned down it was a popular trend to starch collars so they stood pointing upwards. Modern knotted ties became more popular as the decade drew to a close. The Great War loomed as 1920 approached which saw men being photographed adorning military uniforms as opposed to upcoming fashion trends.
1920s – 1940s
The 1920s marked the modern era of fashion for the 20th century meaning liberation as well as overseas influences as a result of WW1.
As women liberated themselves from restrictive clothing for the first time – more comfortable styles appeared on the fashion market. Women were seen sporting shorter knee length skirts and lower waistlines and often wore cloche style hats – this became known as the flapper era, where women wanted to minimise their hips and emphasise a boyish look. The hourglass figure didn’t return until the Great Depression of the 1930s forced more traditional designs of dress to return where waistlines reappeared and longer skirts – difficult times called for more conservative attire where women had to wear more practical clothing as they worked harder at home.
Dressmakers began adding fabric, trimmings or fur to their old 1920s skirts to make them longer while cutting collars to create a cleaner finish.
New fabrics such as metallic lame were a popular choice for evening wear in addition to synthetic rayon although silk was the most popular choice for luxurious design houses.
Two contrasting periods adorn the 20s to 40s of the 20th century, tradition and post war. Fabric was something of a luxury to returning soldiers which meant that the former military jackets and Victorian suits were replaced with narrow cut lounge suits with pointed collars which were always turned down.
Colours were often neutral with lighter shades of cream symbolising wealth. Single breasted jackets were adorned with double breasted vest waistcoats which are trends often used by contemporary designers Hackett and Ralph Lauren to date.
Pinstripes were popular among the elite as the decades progressed as were anchored ties and wide legged trousers often referred to as the ‘Oxford Bags’
The working class often wore cloth caps and plainly patterned or colour cotton modern knot ties.
1940s – 1960s
Mood and economy affected the fashion of these two decades as uniformity of clothing was embraced by people who had to work with clothing they already owned in the midst of WW2.
Fabric shortages as a result of the war meant there were fewer pleats in skirts and blouses and almost no trimmings. As many men and women were already wearing uniforms accessories became among the most important ways to customise clothing, from ribbon right through to tall flowery hats and platform sandals.
Those who could afford clothing wore knee length straight skirts and jackets with padded shoulders. Buttons were often restricted to just three per item of clothing, meaning jackets offered more minimalistic designs.
At the close of the war, fashion designer Christian Dior bolted the fashion world into a new look with a return to femininity with dresses styled with curvaceous busts, small waistlines and long skirts made of excess fabric which twirled. His creations meant new bras had to be created to lift the bustline and petticoats were often worn to keep skirts full, cardigans became all the rage and women starting making their own cocktail dresses with luxurious fabrics that they had missed.
Men’s fashions still revolved around suit designs, whether it was a military suit or three piece suit. Post war, 1945 saw men leaving the armed forces issued with a ‘de-mob’ suit which consisted of a shirt, tie, double breasted jacket and loose fitting trousers, later on grey flannel material lounge suits were of the trend for the 1940s man particularly when worn with a shirt, tie and pocket handkerchief.
As fashion trends progressed it became fashionably acceptable for men to be seen wearing tweed or check jackets or cotton with mis-matching trousers complemented by open collared shirts for more casual attire.
Teenage boys started to dress differently after being inspired by American icons that wore leather jackets and jeans and pointed shoes.
1960s – 1980s
A youth explosion began in the 60s and 70s which completely overhauled fashion as it was seen in the early twentieth century as rebellions against systematic styles of dress were created.
Bell bottoms, short miniskirts and hot pants were no longer shocking items for women to wear and became increasingly popular making it, by the 1970s, very difficult to tell what was in fashion and what wasn’t. It was a time of social change with the arrival of ‘free love’ and the Beatles, women were adopting an anything goes approach to fashion. – Although conservative designs did make it to the catwalks in the 1970s, choice meant creativity - merging conservative tailored jackets with miniskirts.
The back end of the 1960s saw experimentations with the hippy movement over from America. Fashion houses experimented with colour and textures of material including tweed, chiffon and PVC.
These two decades saw the most dramatic turn of events for men’s fashion, while previously tailor-made clothing of plain and sombre materials was almost compulsory colourful new elements were being incorporated and experimentation was encouraged. Collarless jackets appeared with slim fitting trousers and boots.
Along with the arrival of ‘hippy’ vibrant printed shirts appeared, and no longer were men afraid of frills. Toward the end of the 60s wider legged trousers were being worn by men with every aspect of men’s clothing from shirt cuffs through to lapels took on hyperbolic dimensions of width.
1980s – 1999
Colour, textures and decorative garments such as a sequins arrived on the scene during these two decades allowing further creativity and versatility. Loose clothing was particularly of the time and involved a lot of heavy mis-matching.
The 1980s saw the arrival of eye-provoking and bold designs with the arrival of shoulder pads, to make shoulders look bigger and broader and sequined blouses, tops and saris as statement pieces allowing room for more customisations and creativity.
Miniskirts also saw a revival and were often seen worn by women as day wear as well as evening attire, sometimes with leg warmers for a bit of warmth, while ripped or stonewashed jeans, which were heavily influenced by the grunge music movement, were opted for as more comfortable, causal options with less of a focus on femininity.
As the 90s approached street wear became heavily popular with neon shades of fluorescent shades a big hit being worn with leggings, oversized sweaters, fur jackets and trousers, thanks to the likes of the rising hip-hop advance over in America. Music had a heavy influence over fashion as youths aimed to replicate their music icons, pop stars like Madonna created their own images designed to shock and inspire. Fishnet gloves, lots of lycra, leather and polyester made for excellent materials during these two decades.
These two decades hold some rather iconic images for men’s fashion particularly when the word shell suit is mentioned – tracksuits made from the non-breathable material, polyester, making them useless for athletic purposes but perfect for bold, bright and for some, hideous prints.
The 80s did however bring the leather jackets which were often worn with pushed back sleeves, shirts were also as bright and colourful as the previous decade as were casual slogan t-shirts which were often worn under smart jackets to make a fashion statement.
The term, ‘the looser the cooler’ became a handy slogan for men wearing baggy trouser in the 1990s, particularly with the arrival of the infamous parachute pants promoted by MC Hammer - hyperbolic trousers made from rip-stop nylon which were compared to parachute materials. These often had neon or bold prints which were eye-catching and rather impractical.
Baggy or high-waisted overall denims became popular in the 90s and are still worn today and can be seen in the numerous Levi styles that are available to this day.
Whether you are looking to create your own revival, customise a piece of clothing to make it reminiscent of a particular time period or design your own pieces then sewing-online have a vast collection of haberdashery items that can facilitate. From dress making mannequins through to ribbons and beads you will find all your needs in one place at competitive prices…get sewing today!