Much like the hairstyles of the 20th century, fashion was based on wars, politics, social movements, and more. From bell bottoms and poodle skirts to chansonettes and platform shoes, here are the last century’s best (and worst!) fashion trends.
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1900s: Feathered Hat
Often referred to as the "Plume Boom," the popularity of wearing real feathers in hats reached its peak in the early 20th century. According to The Smithsonian, women adorned their hats with feathers, wings, and even full taxidermied birds. This caused a huge decline in the bird population, and even led to the extinction of some. William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoo¬logical Society and formerly chief taxidermist at the <a href="http://Often referred to as the "Plume Boom," the popularity of wearing real feathers in hats reached its peak in the early 20th century. According to The Smithsonian, women adorned their hats with feathers, wings, and even full taxidermied birds. This caused a huge decline in the bird population, and even led to the exinction of some. William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoo¬logical Society and formerly chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian, said that in a short nine-month period, the London feather market used up to 130 thousand Egret birds!
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1910s: Edwardian Corset
The Edwardian corset was meant to accentuate a woman's breasts and hips, while cinching the body at the waist, and dramatically curving the back. With the busk now being positioned straight down as opposed to inward, women were finally able to breathe a bit better. This takes the idea that pain is beauty to a whole new level!
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1920s: The Flapper Dress
After the Women’s Suffrage Movement, women’s fashions took a drastic turn. Frowned upon for wearing makeup, chopping off their hair, smoking, and drinking, these "flapper" women abandoned their female form and wore straight-cut dresses that were hiked above their knees and bras made specifically to flatten their chests. This look, created by Coco Chanel and termed "garconne" was also about comfort--they continued without the corsets, but also ditched other uncomfortable undergarmets to move more freely during the Jazz Age.
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1920s: Flapper Headband
Named after the bobby pins that kept it in place, the bob haircut became incredibly popular in the 1920s. These rebellious women would often pair their cuts with headbands that cut across the forehead to give their 'do a more feminine look.
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1920s: Cloche Hats
According to The Smithsonian, the cloche hat was actually invented in 1908 by a woman named Caroline Reboux. During the Jazz Age, it became increasingly popular because women loved the look of the hat paired with their Eton cropped hair.
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1930s: Puff Sleeves
Moving away from the Chanel "garconne" look of the 1920s, women of the this decade returned to more feminine shapes in their wardrobes. The puff sleeve was said to help bring back the curves of a woman’s body, while also helping to create a curve if the woman didn’t have one. According to Elizabeth Leese in Costume Design in the Movies, Joan Crawford wore a puff-sleeved gown in the movie Letty Lynton which popular department store Macy’s replicated--and they ended up selling 500 thousand dresses nationwide.
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1940s: Utility Dresses
Much of the decade’s fashion was based on what many call civilian uniforms. These clothes, marked "CC41" for "civilian clothing 1941," were made to be durable and affordable, not fashionable. "Rosie the Riveter," (a character placed on government advertising that was meant to recruit women to the workforce), became one of the most iconic images of the decade. Women rolled up the sleeves of their utility outfits, sported a cloth in their hair, added a bit of red lipstick, and went to work. Along with the lack of materials came creative solutions for clothing--women repurposed old clothing, bedsheets and other scrap materials with patterns so their wardrobes weren’t so monotonous.
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1940s: High-Waisted Bikini
In previous decades, women had no choice but to wear one-piece bathing suits. In the 1940s, the two-piece bikini became popular which showed off slighty more skin. Because of the war-time rationing, these bikinis were cut plain and simply, with no adornments. Jewels, ruffles, and lace were added to these bikinis in the 1950s.
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1950s: The Poodle Skirt
With the end of the war came the end of rationing and the beginning of a generation of rock ‘n’ roll dancers. These dancers craved clothing that was moveable, and the poodle skirt allowed them to dance without any restriction. Termed "poodle" skirt because many of them sported an image of the dog on the hem, these knee-length skirts were often worn with cardigans, neck scarves, bulky belts, frilly socks, and oxfords.
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1950s: Saddle Shoes
The saddle shoe was initially created for sporting purposes in the early 1900s, but with the onset of dances like the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug in the '50s, they became the choice footwear. These shoes, much like oxfords, were acceptable for both sexes to wear and came in a variety of colours.
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1950s: Chansonette Bra
After being deprived from materials for so long, women looked for clothing that accentuated the female silhouette and the Chansonette bra did just that. These bras were made popular by female sex icons of the '50s, and were quickly given the nickname "bullet bra" because of their shape. The bra did not have any wires or padding, but had a pocket of air at the tip of each cup which was said to help the breasts breathe comfortably.
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1950s: Cat-Eye Glasses
These Hollywood glam glasses were made popular by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire. These specs became more of an accessory than a necessity for women in America.
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1960s: Go-Go Boots
These social movements of each decade generated their own fashions with help from international celebrities. From England’s Twiggy and The Beatles and France’s Brigitte Bardot, women in America began trying new trends, one of which was the boot. Before this decade, the idea of wearing boots for style was unheard of--they were simply worn to overcome the elements. The go-go boot, named after the French word "la gogue" for happiness, was a calf high plastic boot and can be credited to designer André Courrèges. As the hemlines of the decade were hiked, the height of the go-go boot rose to meet it. By the end of the decade, the focus of the boot became more about the height and shape of the heel than the height of the boot itself.
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While pearls had been popular among upper classes since the Middle Ages, the '60s brought about fashion pearls that were much less expensive, usually made out of plastic. These pearls were supposed to convey social status, while also promoting femininity and class Pearls weren’t the only iconic piece of wardrobe on the set of Audrey Hepburn’s best-known film. Her black dress made such a splash that in recent years; it sold for nearly a million dollars at auction! Read on for more of the most expensive dresses of all time!
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1960s: Pillbox Hats
While hats had been worn as a necessity in previous years, in the '60s they became an accessory. According to Vintage Fashion Guild, even the Catholic Church ended its requirement of hat wearing to mass in 1967. Small pillbox hats were worn on neatly teased hair to add extra volume, while floppy hats were mostly worn by the freedom-searching youth.
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While fringe had been on the scene for many years-- think of Olivia Borden and even Elvis-- Cher became iconic for sporting fringe on almost all of her clothing in the '60s. She was largely influenced by American Indian clothing and while there is some controversy behind it, Cher also claimed to be 1/16 Cherokee. We don't know for sure if she is or isn't, but we do know that her fashions spawned an entire generation of fringe-wearing women and men.
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1970s: The Crop Top
While crop tops and tummy tops are popular today, they have to be credited back to the '40s. Female celebrities dared to be different and sported these tiny tops but they never seemed to catch on. Finally, in the '70s, Catherine Bach played Daisy Duke in the ever-so-popular film Dukes of Hazzard and wowed the world with her sexy cut off denim shorts and a plaid cropped top. At the time, she was one of the first women to ever show her stomach on television! In the decade of social change and freedom, people saw something that they had never seen before and wanted to be part of it. Thus, the crop top was born.
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1970s: Wide-Brimmed Hats
It should come as no surprise that the wide-brimmed hat came out of the '70s--a decade charged by youth going against the grain. Bombshell Brigitte Bardot was photographed many times wearing these hats, on set and in leisure. For wide-brimmed hats and more, check out our rundown of the best fashion moments from RHOT!
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1970s: Bell Bottoms
One of the most popular fashion items in the '70s was bell bottom pants (for both men and women). While bell-bottom pants had started their rise in the '60s with non-conformist youth, the '70s welcomed an era of mass-produced flared pants in a plethora of different fabrics.
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1980s: Shoulder Pads
The 1980s was a decade of self-indulgence. Women looked for fashion inspiration from television shows, movies, and music videos and the fashions were over the top. Women were now becoming a large part of the workplace and were told that they needed to look the part. The "power suit" emerged as a woman’s go-to outfit for the corporate world, complete with immensely padded shoulders and a straight jacket cut. The thought was that the wider the shoulders were, the smaller the waist looked. We’re not the only ones inspired by Lady Di’s royal wardrobe – check out all the times Kate Middleton channeled Princess Diana’s sense of style!
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1980s: Oversized Sunglasses
Often credited to Jackie Kennedy in the '60s as a way to hide from the paparazzi, big framed sunglasses became incredibly popular in the '80s with the motto of "bigger is better." Designs in the '80s were over the top, which meant everything was bigger--hair, shoulder pads, and even glasses. Popular styles included the ever-so-famous tortoise shell, heart shaped sunnies, and the aviators. For some modern tips on this iconic accessory, check out the trendiest sunglasses for your face shape!
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1990s: Floral Dresses
As the over-the-top style of the '80s faded, the '90s welcomed a much more laid-back look. This was the first time in history that people were going to work in something other than a suit--people were more interested in comfort. People began boycotting brands and there was a decline in upscale clothing. Instead, women wore unfitted floral dresses and paired them with big hair, jean jackets, Keds, and ankle socks.
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We were surprised to find that plaid dates all the way back to the 1500s and had revivals almost every decade since! In the '90s, Cher Horowitz from the movie Clueless took the counterculture staple and turned it mainstream. With her bright yellow plaid jacket and her matching yellow plaid skirt, the world was convinced to follow suit.
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1990s: Chuck Taylors
While the shoe was originally made for basketball players, the '90s saw a huge revival of these Chuck Taylors on the streets. These shoes became synonymous with counterculture and were worn by lovers of grunge, punk rockers, and rockers. Today, these sneakers are one of the most popular out there.
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1990s: Platform Shoes
The platform shoe hasn’t always been about fashion. They were used to help royals walk through mud in the medieval times, boosted the height of Greek thespians on stage, and were actually outlawed by parliament in the 1670s! After many ins and outs in the fashion world, they made a huge comeback in the '90s as a go-to accessory for the popular British pop group, the Spice Girls. As soon as department stores saw the demand, they mass produced the item and had them on every girl that was willing to jeopardize her walk for fashion. This one may be seeing a comeback this season, but we’re still convinced platforms qualify as one of those red carpet trends ready for retirement!
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2000s: Velour Track Suits
Thanks to Juicy Couture, celebrities (including Paris Hilton!) in the early millenium were found wearing velour tracksuits in every colour. Trying to emulate Hollywood, people all over the world followed suit and dozens of replicas came onto the market. Unfortunately, some celebrities are still wearing these track suits today! Will this trend ever die?
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2000s: UGG Boots
When a fashion magazine featured Cameron Diaz wearing a fuzzy pair of boots while running errands, the entire world was up in arms--everyone needed to have them! These boots, named UGGs, are an Australian brand that rose in popularity in the early 2000s and was even featured on Oprah's list of favourite things. Ugg boots have come a long way – and now this brand makes our list for stylish winter boots that will keep you warm and dry!
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2000s: Underwear as Outerwear
Thanks to Britney Spears and her song "Slave 4 U," adults, teens, and tweens alike jumped on the underwear as outerwear bandwagon, wearing everything from bras, underwear and bustiers as clothing. Thankfully, this so-called trend was very short-lived. Some celebrities will never get tired of wearing their underwear out in public. Don’t believe us? Check out some of Lala Kent’s most outrageous looks!
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2000s: Statement Jewellery
In the early 2000s, celebrities started bringing the bling. From earrings to necklaces to rings, everything bigger really was better. We've since settled down a little (no more collarbone-length chandelier earrings!), but you'll still see some majorly glam accessories on most of Hollywood's leading ladies.
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Flashing forward to present day and fashion right now is all about vintage vibes. Looking through the decades for inspiration, the style savvy know that current trends are all focused on retro classics. Fashion blogger Caroline Daur has her throwback fashion on point wearing bell bottom denim, patterned shirt and fringe vest.