I love looking at clothing from different periods! Although television and media don’t always accurately represent them, I still love seeing the different crazy looks these eras inspires.  

Just a caveat, I’m listing the most stereotypical outfits of each era. These outfits and inspiration looks are not comprehensive, or an accurate representation of the garments worn in that period. Instead, these are what generally garments most people think of when that they think of that time. A slice of life if you will.

This is all just for fun and not at all a historical account. So, don’t take it seriously! Find some fun in them.

The 1920s

Known as the roaring twenties the vision it imparts lives up to that moniker. It evokes images of opulence, glamour, and style. Women wearing “Flapper” dresses that are often stunning and glamorous with fringes, beautiful beading, and lines. The dresses echo the art deco aesthetic (influenced by the revival of the interest in the Egyptian Mystic) that dominated, with jazz music playing in the background. Think of the Great Gatsby for the aesthetic of the 20s that persists the most.

For the men, it’s the gangster wear that stood out from this time. The suits are iconic, think of The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone. These are the images conjured up when one thinks of the 20s. The suits were form-fitting with pinstripes, plaid or and were elegant. For non-gangster men pastel, neutrals, colourful suits were part of the scene.  Flashy but casual and topped off, perhaps with a fedora or a straw hat for the summer.

The 1930s

The 1930s is marked as one of the most devastating eras from the great depression to the rise of fascism. Despite the fact it was a sombre time, this doesn’t mean fashion didn’t exist. With a more concrete emergence of American traditions and values – the clothes of the era moved away from the glamour and opulence of the 20s. Frills, furs, pussy bows with and titled hats that were not fussy or over the top were some of the staples. To me, simpler silhouettes, practical and natural fabric movements encompass the 1930s.

Iconic people from this era like Amelia Earhart are great style icons, who embody the all-American look.  Even with the move towards simpler clothes, the height of Hollywood also pervades during the 30s. People such as Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Carole Lombard just to name a few became fashion icons. They exude elegance, with form-fitting gowns that drape oh so beautifully.

For men, suits, of course, were still in style. They were still dapper and well put together but the colours have become more subdued in this era from the pastel. Men’s clothes were more closely cut to save on cost. Padded shoulders, tapered sleeves and flowing trousers.  Also, the working-class men still have caps from the 20s, and leather jackets became a popular combination.

The 1940s

When I think of this era, I conjure up clean-cut silhouettes with patterns, film noir aesthetic with the smoke rolling through and a sexy undertone or even a more overt such as Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. A smirk and the smoke from a cigarette would hide a face in black and white with start lighting.  A sensual mysterious era is what stands out from the 40s.

Films such as Gilda, Double Indemnity, and Key Largo captured this aesthetic. For women, the femme fatale was brought to the forefront. Alluring, dangerous and mysterious. With the curled hair, dark lips, with long form-fitting dress or lingerie.

For men, the tough detective was a trope. Smoking, with a fedora titled, and a trench coat ensemble. These are the outfits that embodied this era.

The 1950s

The vision this era provides are jeans, leather, slicked-back hair, and rolled-up white sleeves.  Poodle skirts, bow ties, and heart sweet dresses. You can taste the milkshakes, hear Elvis and Johnny Cash, all in a 50s diner with the dirty black and white checkered floors with the well-worn down red leather stools. Drive-in movies and wayward youths with the edge of dangerous ambition.

Although this vision is cliche, it is one many can easily conjure up thanks to such classic movies as Grease. A distinct aesthetic and feel the 50s is easily one of the most identifiable eras in North America.

Iconic looks from this era, for example, is the James Dean-esque look in “Rebel Without a Cause”, James Dean epitomizes the 50s youth. The jeans, the white t-shirt, the hair, gosh he had it all.

For iconic female looks,  “I Love Lucy” tv star Lucille Ball is one to take your cues from. The swinging skirts, polka dots, sheath dresses, and the little scarf in her hair or around her neck. She had the iconic 1950s look and many have emulated her. Another style icon is Marilyn Monroe, her outfits at the time emphasizes her tiny waist, lovely dresses, and bedroom eyes, she was and still is a sex icon.

The 1960s

The 1960s saw a rise in synthetic fabric and the influence of space-age fashions. This allowed for innovative use for the new fabrics. Generally, boxy shapes, thigh hemlines, and big accessories were the in look. This created the notable GoGo girl outfit. The GoGo boots became synonymous with this look. The mini skirt also gained prominence during the 60s.

Mod fashion was also in. The model Twiggy fits the look to a T. Shift dresses, with stockings, teased hair and big doe eyes with exaggerated eyelashes. For both men and women, bold colours, short haircuts and riding on Vespas or scooters were the in thing. Men had boating blazers, prints, a more relaxed outfit.

During the 1960s a counterculture emerged. Hippies were the youth, who wore in the Volkswagen van, and attended Woodstock. The outfits that are brought to the forefront are tie-dyed clothes, ponchos, big peace symbols, bell bottoms, vests, and sandals. The 60s were all about being bold in very different ways and fashion was a way to be bold.

The 1970s

Although there are many great looks from the 70s. The one that stands out to most and simply encapsulates the 70s is the Disco look. This look spawn due to the distinct disco music. You can imagine it playing in the distance with Disco Balls, with rollerblades perhaps, bell bottoms, and tall shoes rushing past you. Discos fashion is and still very fun to wear.  

The colours were bright, there may be suits, jumpsuits, and bright sequin dresses. It brings out a carefree nature and the notion that the party never stops.

For the casual look, a great point of reference is that 70s show. V necks, collar shirts, bright and warm autumn colours usually. Also, if one feels inclined to dress up as an icon of the 70s, may I suggest Elvis Presley? His look is so recognizable and a great example of the culture at the time, which was cool, cool, and extremely cool.

The 1980s

Big hair and bright outfits are what the 1980s is basically about. From the colourful saturated workout outfits to the crazy power suits with padded shoulders of that age. It’s one of the most fun eras to emulate.

The 1980s were known for their fitness craze. For women leotards, tights, legwarmers, wide belts, and elastic headbands and tracksuits made their way into popular culture. Richard Simmons is a perfect look for the male fitness look. Loose tanks and dolphin shorts with perhaps a fanny pack.

Another iconic look can be found in the “Miami Vice look”. Suits with padded shoulders, fitted casual pants, and bright colours.  With the normalcy of women in the workplace, women also donned a signature of the 80s, the power suit similar to the men’s suit in Miami Vice, to show that women were men’s equal.

A lot of the 80s casual clothes were neon colour, the parachute pants were also a huge trend and jean jackets which is still as popular today.

The 1990s

Denim was a bigger thing in the 90s than in the 80s. From overalls to full-on denim ensembles, it is still a popular fabric and fashion staple today. Outfits were oftentimes casual and comfortable. Check out the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Friends”, and “Saved by the Bell” for some truly 90s everyday wear.

One of the other memorable looks from the 90s was the Preppy look. Movies like “Clueless”, Hilary from the “Fresh Prince of Belair” and more, established this look in popular culture. With plaid as a staple, bright colours, and a neat prim look it made it easy for young girls to emulate.  

Hip Hop was rising in the 90s and the Hip Hop aesthetic was catching on. It was casual, baggy, easy to emulated and still holds appeal today. Tracksuits, t-shirts, baggy pants fuzzy hats, caps, bucket hats, and bright colours were at one end of the spectrum. On the other end is darker clothing, big jewelry, but still held the same element of baggy and casual.

Grunge fashion was inspired by Grunge music and musicians like Kurt Cobain. The look was low-key and not at all flashy. With pieces of clothing from both genders, it was an androgynous look. Simple, clothing that does not emphasize the silhouette, flannels, and it was a laid-back style that persists today.

If there was anything wrong, please let me know so I can change it! Also, what era was your favourite visually? Mines was the 1920s!

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