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American Fashion Through the Decades – Eclectic Outfits

fashion through the decades

Fashion has always been deeply rooted in American culture. Learning about fashion through the decades in America will help us interpret and follow the contemporary style in a better way. You can take trends from different decades of fashion and mingle them to create eclectic outfits. Let’s travel back in time to discover American fashion history and create. 

American Fashion Trends Through the Decades  

Fashion has always held prime importance for Americans. The style of any particular era defines the culture in those days. It also portrays the general choices of the masses, their taste in music, arts, and even their professional statuses. Each decade is known for its bold or conservative fashion, which reveals the level of acceptance of people of that time.  

Women’s fashion through the decades has shaped the trends that we now follow. Some of them are classics that never feel outdated, such as leather moto jackets and midi skirts. Women use them to dress according to their age. While some keep going in and out of fashion, much loved for a while and then going obsolete for years. 

Being well versed with fashion over the decades tells you what trend comes from which era. You can create particular decade inspired outfits with ease. Many of the trends that we see on social media and runways are inspired by different decades of fashion. 

American Style: Fashion Through the Decades Timeline

American fashion trends are continuously evolving. In the past decades, women used to wear very different types of clothing. The general silhouette of the attire varied, going back and forth from straight to flattering. The length of the garments, fit, color choices, and fabrics were also different. 

Social and economic circumstances played a huge role in the way women dressed. The availability of materials and tailoring also affected the trends cycle. 

Below is a roundup of the dominant American fashion trends for every decade of the past century. Read on to learn fashion through decades and try creating different decades’ outfits. 

1920’s Fashion 

1920's Fashion 

Back in the 20s, fashion for women mostly meant straight silhouettes, simple styles of skirts, and slimmer cuts. Fur coats were a popular trend, while wool sweaters were also typical. The concept of the little black dress was soaring high in the 20s. 

The coming of the Jazz Age in the 20s gave birth to the Flapper, the term used for women who loved to express freedom with their style. They used to wear straight dresses with short lengths, low necklines, and high heeled shoes. With bob cut hair, bucket hats, and excessive makeup, these women were the true icons of the Roaring 20s.

Other popular staples from the decade were sailor blouses, coats in brown, dark blue, and coats and large brimmed hats.

1930’s Fashion 

1930's Fashion 

The decade that followed is known in American fashion history for glamorous trends. For instance, floor length evening gowns, the use of satin and lace, and other draping fabrics. The women of the 30s mostly preferred modest necklines, floral prints, and pastels for daytime dresses. Puff sleeves and cape sleeves were in fashion.

Outerwear game reflected the glamour as well, with belted trench coats in the dark, muted colors and wool lapels being the popular choice.

The footwear choice was captivating, with strappy sandals, pumps in silver/gold colors. For casual wear, thick heels shoes with detailing such as cutouts and perforations were all the rage.

1940’s Fashion

1940's Fashion

The 1940s is the decade lesser known for fashion and more for World War 2 and its effects on the world. However, this decade is significant for American fashion in a way. New York got the attention as the new fashion capital while Paris braced the challenges due to the war. 

Still, as the war affected the whole world, fashion had a hint of subtlety during those days. Specifically, the lack of embroidery and patterns on clothes proved the fact. Elegant dresses and skirt suits became prevalent, with the length of the skirts usually below the knee. The suit jackets were cinched around the waist with belts. 

The androgynous style was predominating, consisting of wide legged trousers and monochrome outfits. Another iconic trend in the 40s was square shouldered jackets which professional women usually wore. 

1950’s Fashion

1950's Fashion

The 50s will be a decade mostly known as a breath of fresh air for fashion lovers. After the world war ended, designers introduced new prints and colors, which proved that fashion was thriving. Elegant, formal looks for every occasion were a trend, and women ensured perfect matching for accessories.

When we observe the trending silhouette for women’s clothing, we can conclude that it is highly feminine. Crossing the lines of practicality, achieving the hourglass appearance was the goal. Cinched waist dresses, bustier tops, and sweater skirt sets were in vogue.

The ever popular Mod style, Rockabilly and Pinup style came into fashion during the 50s. Rockabilly was inspired by the early rock and roll music, including full skirts and dresses. The flare was achieved with crinoline cages. Gingham and polka dot patterns, bright colors, and low heels were a part of this fashion. 

Pinup style outfits usually consisted of halter neck dresses and swimwear with accessories like gloves and silk scarves. 

1960’s Fashion

1960's Fashion

The 60s saw the rise in popularity of the shapeless shift dresses, pencil skirts, and mini skirts. The tops were quite basic, usually chunky knit sweaters, turtlenecks, and button down shirts. Women wore stirrup pants, Jax pants, funky tights, and flare pants

Detailings in clothes with fringes were in. Tie and dye prints, funky paint splatter prints, and bold florals were considered high fashion.  Footwear trends showed vinyl shoes, boots, and low heels mostly. 

It was in the 60s when the famous Hippie style originated. Defying mainstream American life, the hippie style was psychedelic. Women wore comfortable tunics, tie and dye prints, headbands, bell bottoms, and fringes.

Another raging aesthetic in the 60s was the beatnik style, a non-conformist way of getting dressed to express freedom.

1970’s Fashion

1970's Fashion

Fashion in the 70s had so many different styles and aesthtics. It was undeniably the most iconic decade in the history of fashion.

The tie and dye trend from the 60s continued in the 70s as well. Long tunic tops, Hungarian blouses, peasant blouses, halter tops, and jumpsuits were the latest thing. 70s women aced the layering game with ponchos and capes. Bottom wear styles included bell bottoms, pleated midi skirts, and maxi skirts. 

Other soaring trends from the 70s were shearling coats, shirt dresses, ankle length dresses, and platform heels.

1980’s Fashion

1980's Fashion

Fashion in the 80s had a strong flavor of maximalism. For women, bright colors, bold patterns, and baggy silhouettes were the thing. Notable trends were reversible jackets with faux fur and leather on either side and high-rise bodysuits. These trends made the decade a significant one fashion-wise. 

Other soaring trends were sweater dresses, pouf dresses, off shoulder sweatshirts, and rugby sweatshirts. 

The outerwear game was iconic in the 80s. Long and cropped jackets with athletic details ran the gamut. Women didn’t shy away from wearing broad shouldered power suits. The preference for baggy silhouettes was seen in jackets, tops, and bottoms. 

A stylish fashion from the 80s was baby doll dresses worn over biker shorts.

The rise of the punk scene heavily impacted American fashion. Punk style included ripped jeans, band t-shirts, leather jackets, and chunky soled black boots.

1990’s Fashion

1990's Fashion

The essence of the fashion from the 90s was trendy, casual, and comfortable. Music, TV, and Movies were the prime source of inspiration for fashion trends. Another factor that impacted the trend cycle was advancements in design and tech. 

The colors and prints for women in the 90s 

was anything but subtle. Besides animal prints, floral prints were an obvious choice, and bright colored sweaters were the norm. Oversized plaid flannels were tied on the front, usually paired with acid wash baggy jeans. The pleated jeans were also in style. 

The fashionable tops back in the day were tube tops and soft knit tops in various colors. The denim on denim trend was huge, with women wearing trendy denim jackets and vests with jeans or denim shorts. The rise in the fame of the Grunge music scene gave birth to the Grunge aesthetic, including band t-shirts, flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and leather jackets. Complete leather outfits with faux leather pants and biker jackets were all the rage.

Women with a penchant for a daring style in the 90s wore sheer dresses, revealing slip dresses, and corset tops.  Colorful windbreaker jackets, puffer jackets, and women’s varsity jackets were integral to every woman’s wardrobe. 

2000’s Fashion

2000's Fashion

In the 2000s, we were not only entering a new decade but an entirely new century. This was a huge reason for a drastic shift in the usual styles women were wearing earlier. Hence, fashion took a new turn, and choices became bolder. 

Unlike the 90s, skirts, jeans, and pants in the new decade were low rise, giving rise to the midriff baring trend. These low bottoms were usually paired with halter tops, cowl neck crop tops, and front tied graphic t-shirts. 

The sporty look was gaining much attention, making sweatsuits a trendy attire. Other 2000s trends were sequined cocktail dresses, wide belts, choker necklaces, and kitten heels. 

2010’s Fashion

2010's Fashion

The last decade was no less in terms of fashion diversity. The beginning years of this decade saw fashion trends from the 50s and 80s, such as the bodycon dress, bright and bold patterns, and baseball jackets. Studded moto jackets were used to layer different types of dresses, skirt blouses, and tunics with jeans. 

Skinny jeans, a type of jeans that fits you like it’s sprayed on, are quintessentially 2010s style. Acid wash jeans were quite a frequent sight. The shirts mostly in fashion were western shirts, floral tops, tunics, and camisoles. 

Social media, fashion influencers, and street style were the new sources of gaining knowledge about trends. 

The massive trend of this decade’s fashion was athleisure. Hoodies with yoga pants or custom windbreaker jackets over sweatpants were deemed fit for day-to-day style. 

Women’s casual wear included bright-colored sundresses, midi skirts, maxi skirts, oversized cardigans, and parachute pants. 


What was the most fashionable decade?

The 70s are termed as the most stylish of all decades. There was an array of different styles and aesthetics, each catering to every woman’s personal style. Women followed many distinct fashion trends in that era, like bold patterns, mini skirts, bell sleeves, and jumpsuits. 

How was fashion different 100 years ago?

Nothing has evolved more than women’s fashion through the decades. 100 years ago, people lived in the post-world war I era, and the fashion was way simpler and more modest. Women used to wear dresses to calf length with straight silhouettes. Sailor blouses, tailored skirts, and large-brimmed hats were in fashion. 

What Is Decade fashion?

Decade fashion marks the widely followed trends and aesthetics in ten years. The decade of fashion is known in history for the general trends, design innovations, and society’s acceptance of new fashion. 

What was Y2K fashion?

Y2K was the decade when the 21st century began. The era was marked by unique, bold trends inspired by pop culture. Low rise skirts and jeans were highly popular, paired with different types of shirts, crop tops, and tube tops. Accessories included choker necklaces, wide belts, and statement hats.

What old fashion styles are coming back in?

This year, a plethora of trends from the past decades will get a revival. From the low rise jeans and skirts from the 2000s to the bold and bright patterns from the 70s and 80s, we will celebrate maximalist style this year. 
Puff sleeves from the 30s and oversized sized plaid shirts from the 90s grunge aesthetic are also trending high these days. Another trend which is on the rise once again after 90s is the denim on denim look. 

Wrapping Up

Turning to the past for fashion inspiration is always a great idea. You can see how some trends from the last ten decades are evergreen, and we still love them. On the other hand, some are making a comeback this year, which will be a chance to relive those eras in your own way.

Learning decades of fashion trends in America will diversify fashion choices for you. In a way, it unleashes your creativity to build outfits with assorted fashion trends from the past. 

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