The history of women’s fashion

Reading Time: 2 minutes Here’s a timeline of how women break down barriers through their clothing.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“We as females have thousands and thousands of years of fashion in our DNA. We want to wear nice … clothes.” Courtney Love was right when she said this at the Oscars in 1998. Clothing is more than just fabric or garments. It is a statement and a way of expression. Fashion is not only in women’s DNA; it is in women’s history. 

To begin, the 1910s women’s fashion was all about coverage. Ankles and wrists were covered. Silhouettes were loose and shapeless. Women at this time were fighting for their right to vote; they earned that right to vote in the year 1920. 

In the Roaring Twenties, hemlines rose; dresses were sleeveless; and women were empowered. What women wore in the 1920s was based on what they were doing, whom they were with and what time of day it was. This fun, party scene was gone in the thirties.

Fashion in the 1930s was overshadowed by the Great Depression. Tough times caused no significant fashion trends. There is a significance to that lack; it is a reflection of the times. 

With the beginning of World War II, women’s fashion in the forties was all about an hourglass silhouette with masculine details. Dresses maintained this look, but every piece of clothing had the same hourglass shape. Women began to wear high-waisted pants with a wide leg shape. Being put together, cheerful and practical was the job of women’s fashion. Their outfits paired with red lips, painting a happy face during the difficult times. 

Post-war, clothing was big, bold and feminine. The trending look was inspired by the Victorian era, but the clothing was shorter while still being modest. The clothing industry was booming at this time. Women went to work in the forties, but in the fifties, most women were encouraged to fulfill their role as a wife, mother and housewife and to look beautiful while doing it. 

The modesty that was key in the fifties was not apparent when the mini skirt was introduced in 1964. The introduction and invention of the mini skirt was one of the most defining moments in women’s fashion history. That small amount of clothing broke barriers for women’s fashion.

The look of the sixties carried over into the early seventies. Disco took over fashion in the mid- to late seventies. This disco style for women included wrap dresses, tube tops, sequined shirts and high slit skirts with boots or chunky heels. 

Fashion for women dramatically changed during the 1980s, from dresses to fabrics and hairstyles. Virtually, nothing went unchanged. Neon colors, velour and acid wash denim was all the rage. 1980 witnessed a revival of a classic preppy look. 

Women’s fashion in the 1990s was very distinct but not quite as loud as in the 1980s. The nineties took what was trending in the eighties and tried to be a little bit smarter and classier. 

The 20th century was full of varying catalysts for women’s fashion. Many outside influences changed the way women dressed. Those same influences paved the way for how women dress now. Fashion is in women’s history because fashion is in women’s DNA.