100 Year Fashion Evolution from Hats and Sticks to Yoga Pants

Evolution of Fashion

The first fashion statement in human history might have been made by a Neanderthal woman or man putting a feather in her/his hair. Fashion historians are still debating when clothing and fashion started. The scope of this article, however, is limited to the last 100 years. But it is very important to keep in mind an outline of the larger history and how fashion evolves.

Fashion from 1900 to Millennium

The first quarter of the 20th Century

Men’s fashion in the latter part of the 19th century was the long coat or frock. The turn of the 20th century saw men moving to three-piece suits which consisted of a trouser, jacket and a waistcoat. Detachable collars were in vogue since gentlemen changed their dress several times in a day. Shirts were of milder colours. Lighter and less heavy fabrics were preferred. The gambler hats were trending.

The early 20th century found women still imprisoned in their corsets. In fact, the corsets became longer and covered the thighs as well. The ideal figure for a woman was full and corsets helped, with a bit of help from stuffing and other ingenious aids incorporated into the corsets. Skirts that were floor length in the early 1900s rose to ankle high by the end of that quarter and dresses became a bit looser. As Europe colonized the orient, bright and vivid colours found their way into fashion influenced by the oriental fashion.

The second quarter of the 20th Century

The second quarter of the 20th century saw the lighter fabric and more colours in men’s coats. Even shirts moved from the staid white to colours. Boater and fedora hats were worn along with driving caps as automobiles came into wider use. The economic downturn affected the fashion industry in the 1930s. It took the US and the world a decade and more to catch up economically. Woolen and tweed were the fabrics in use along with flannel. World War II that followed brought more economic opportunities but austerity was the keyword and fashion followed suit and clothes became less flashy. The notable progress in fashion was in the way neckties evolved. Bow ties gave way to patterned ties in multiple colours that were bold.

Women’s fashion moved to ankle-high gowns and looser fit. Depression and WWII affected women’s fashion. In fact, to a larger extent since more women worked in couture shops. The general style remained cautious fabrics chosen for their economy. As more and more women joined the workforce, designers cut the daily wear to retain the feminine form and style. Clothes with natural waistline which were introduced in 1930 were now as common as those with the cinched waistline.

The third quarter of the 20th Century

The third quarter of the century saw cautious adventurism in the 50s and 60s. Sunglasses became an important accessory and were part of the style statement. Sports and related wear became fashionable and polo shirts and shorts were seen more regularly. The Beatles dominated the fashion world and slim fit trousers and narrow ties were the rage. The 70s saw the advent of bell bottoms and vivid colours. Synthetic fabrics made clothes more affordable. This was also the decade of the rebels and the youth made a conscious effort to move away from established adult fashion.

The end of the war saw a resurgence in fashion as Paris and Milan established themselves as fashion capitals of the world and many a master like Christian Dior started making an impact on women’s fashion. Fuelled by TV and fashion magazines women’s fashion market grew at a rapid pace. Nylon stockings which were much sought after in the previous decade became more accessible as the war ended. Full-length gowns with rounded shoulders were popular. Bikini made an appearance along with Stilettoes and quickly became the rage. Lingerie as a separate segment found serious growth. The hippie look was pretty well established in the 70s.  Women’s fashion was well and truly back and flourishing.

The fourth quarter of the 20th Century

Music and sports started inspiring clothing heavily during this quarter. More and more youth gravitated towards casual wear and formal wear turned towards comfort. Brands started making a mark as people moved from tailored clothing to cheaper mass produced clothing that offered more variety. T-shirts with funny slogans, jackets, and sweaters dominated the youth scene with the ubiquitous denim jeans.

The early 80s saw women looking for knee length gowns and colours that were easy on the eye. Like men, music and sport impacted women’s clothing too. Women started wearing jeans and sweaters in their various forms and tight-fitting leotards. Formal trousers and skirts for women grew in choice as more and more women joined the workforce and took up higher levels of management.

Millennial Fashion

Millennial fashion is more towards comfort and easy wear. Technology became a great leveler as niche brands had to fight to retain their signature designs which were copied for mass production. More importantly, accessories became a bigger component in fashion and fashion houses responded by turning out stunning styles in accessories. Sneakers became the popular form of footwear for the youth and hats were few and far in between. Leather jackets were in and so were hoodies. Formal wear retained its focus on lightweight easy to wear slim-fit suits and narrow ties.

As the fashion market became global, the millennial women had more choices. Sarees from India and Chinese coats mixed freely in western fashion. Unisex clothing too had its niche. The young women moved towards one style for all occasions and those who worked opted for semi-formal wear that was high on comfort. Towards the later part of the 2000s, accessories and brands dominated the women’s fashion. TV shows too inspired women’s fashion. A bold new generation of women started exploring anything and everything including past styles in fashion.

Comfort Is The New Keyword

Men or women, we find that fashion has moved firmly towards comfort. Yoga pants are now worn to schools and colleges and tracksuits are as omnipresent as sneakers amongst the youth.  As technology evolves we will see more twists to this ever-changing story.

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