20th Century Fashion: From Muted Conservatism to Outlandish Flaunting

20th century fashion began with the early 1900's being heavily influenced by European fashions. Stiff collared dresses, hemlines that reached to the floor and broad brimmed hats were styles that marked the start of the century.
1930s fashion

Beginning at about the 1910s, however, the hemlines of the women's dresses and skirts started to rise. They never did come down to the floor again except within the designs of formal dress.

Although each decade seemed to have its own conservative period of time, with each passing decade, there seemed to be more casualness in fashions for both women and men. 1900 Fashion Bowler Hat

Men's fashions began the century with very formal top hats or bowler hats. These hats were worn with lounge suits or morning dress suits. By the end of the century, however, these formal fashions had fallen mostly out of favor except in times of high formalities such as weddings.

Common Themes of the Century

As each new decade came to pass, the fashions of the previous decade lingered for another few years before new fashions blossomed. Although each decade also had a conservative air to it, by the 1960s, the lines between convervative and contemporary were more blurred than ever. For example, when a situation demanded some type of formality, men traditionally defaulted to suits. By the early 1980s, however, the formality of the three-piece suits had all but dissappeared.

In stark contrast, early 20th century fashion saw a conservative air that sought to "blend in". By the 1980s, however, it was fashionable for men and women to flaunt their wealth, power and prestige. In the decades in between, people sought to differentiate themselves by identifying with groups of artists or musicians that were less traditional and less main stream.

This influence was particularly felt in the trends of casual wear as it followed the current and popular political figures, movie stars and musicians. Political figures as fashion trendsetters seemed to take a back seat to popular culture beginning in the late 1950s and continuing throughout the remainder of the century.

Major Influences of the Century

Jackie Kennedy

As 20th century fashion marched onward, there was a shift from leaders in government being fashion trendsetters to those people in popular culture. In the early 1900s fashion, politicians were often looked to as fashion icons. Jacqueline Kennedy, for example, exerted enormous influence on women's fashion in the 1960s. Millions of women in the United States copied her famous suit dress look that was completed by a dignified pillbox hat. Eisenhower Jacket

President Eisenhower was also influential during his presidency as men flocked to wear jackets patterned after his Eisenhower jacket.
Elvis and the Beatles

Beginning with the appearance of Elvis Presley in the late 1950s, however, musicians, movie stars and television stars became the primary influences for fashion during the 1900s. The Beatles and other British Invasion musicians were the primary source of fashion trends during the 1960s.

There's much to cover when it comes to 20th century fashion. That's why we've dedicated a whole section of our site to fashion throughout the 1900's. We cover general fashion of each decade from 1920 to 1980 as well as mens fashion for the same decades. Enjoy!

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