As television and film became more popular midway through the century, Americans began looking up to 20th century beauty icons for fashion cues. Women pined to look like blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s, and waiflike Kate Moss in the ’90s. Men first looked at silver screen stars and later bulked-up bodybuilders as influences.
Some of these fashion trends in the 20th century look outdated to modern eyes. But whether the look was understated and tailored or over-the-top and glamorous, these trends were all the craze at one point. Just remember – beauty was, and is, in the eye of the beholder.
The Early 1900s Championed Voluptuous Figures And Stylish Suits
Young men preferred trimmed mustaches and short hair, while only older gentlemen sported beards in the early 1900s and 1910s. Three-piece suits were common, along with narrow jackets and starched collars. After the onset of World War I, men commonly posed for photographs in military uniforms.
Curves Went Out Of Fashion In The 1920s
Men of that era started wearing suit pants with cuffs, and the lapels on their jackets were smaller compared to the wider lapels popular during World War I. Shoes became more lavish, with wingtips and fringed tongues. Like the women, Jazz Era men aspired to be thin.
Hats Were All The Rage In The Roaring ’20s
Men wore all sorts of hats in the 1920s, depending on the occasion: straw boaters, panamas, bowlers, or fedoras. The bowler was particularly popular; towards the end of the decade, men wore these hats in brighter colors.
1930s Fashion Was Glamorous, Despite The Depression
As for men in the ’30s, they wanted to be Superman – literally. The athletic figure was greatly sought after, and clothes emphasized broad shoulders and narrow waists. Military-inspired jackets and coats were popular, as were high-waisted, pleated pants. As for evening wear, Fred Astaire’s tuxedo tailcoat was the must-have look.
Practical ’40s Fashion Highlighted Shoulder Pads And Broad Chests
Men commonly wore suits, sport coats, trousers, and sweaters during the ’40s. The typical outfit consisted of dress pants and shirts. They also opted for fitted sweaters, sweater vests, and waistcoats. The clothing was meant to emphasize their figures; actors like Clark Gable and bodybuilder Charles Atlas inspired men to build strong, muscular chests.
1950s Women Showed Off Hourglass Curves While Men Lounged In Leisure Wear
Men loosened up with their fashion in the ’50s. They wore Hawaiian shirts, trousers, and loafers. Polo shirts also became popular both on the golf course and off. The younger generation wore cardigan sweaters and letterman jackets. The James Dean look – a leather jacket, white t-shirt and jeans – was relegated to the “bad boys.”
An Androgynous Look Dominated The Early ’60s
Women wore miniskirts and imitated British-inspired “Mod” fashion. Both men and women started wearing bright colors and clothes featuring geometric patterns. Men wore flared pants, knit shirts, and sweaters.
Hippies Broke The Fashion Rules In The Late ’60s
Individualism And Texture Filled The ’70s
Daisy Duke from The Dukes Of Hazzard mesmerized fans by showing of her stomach in crop tops, while working women wore power suits with silk blouses. Fur was also a popular add-on to many outfits. Men and women often wore double denim, pairing denim shirts with denim pants. Turtlenecks and belted tank tops were also in style.
As far as the bodies under all those vivid fabrics, a more natural look was favored. Health rather than thinness became the focus.
The ’80s Ideal: Supermodels And Super-Fit Bodies
Super famous supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Cambell, Christy Turlington, and Iman typified ‘80s style with their glamorous cover shoots. But women commonly wore leggings and spandex as well, channeling the fitness craze sparked by exercise gurus such as Jane Fonda.
Men modeled their look after popular shows, such as Miami Vice, and wore pastel suits, jackets over t-shirts, and shoes without socks. As for body type, men strived for huge muscles – action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone ruled the box office.
Thin Was In And The Everyman Reigned During The ’90s
Men strived to look like an everyday type of guy – neither too big nor too thin. Plaid was the pattern of choice, thanks to the rise of grunge. Plaid was super popular in the ’90s among both men and women. Other popular trends of the decade included oversized sweaters, overalls, and cargo pants. Casual silhouettes predominated, even in formal wear.