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100 Years Of Fashion

26th May 2015

Over the past 100 years of fashion, there has always been a fluctuation between what is vintage and what is retro.

Our fascination with both of these styles has strongly influenced our fashion choices over the last few years, but do you often wonder if you are dressing in retro or vintage fashion?

When defining the between retro and vintage, it is always best to defer to the experts. Gemma Latham, a fashion designer from London, offers us this insight;

“Retro is when something is 20 years old, hence why the 90s has had a major resurgence over the past few seasons.

You tend to see most styles/trends repeat around every 20 years, for example, we were loving the 70s when we were at school in the 90s with our flares, chocker necklaces and platforms!

Retro can also be made new and in the style of a previous trend or product.

Vintage is everything older than 20 years. To my generation in the 90s, the 70s fashions were retro, but they are considered vintage now.”


Vintage Fashion

So, now we have that sorted, we’ve taken a look back at the last 100 years of fashion to see how tastes have changed in the last century and what styles we now considered to be retro.

Dawn of the 20th Century

In the 1910s, no woman would be caught dead outside without a hat on. The bigger, the better! The ideal figure was tall and slim, with tight bodices and stiff collars.

Accessories such as parasols and muffs were also very common at the time.

Fashion trends from Paris and the rest of Europe began to have a stronger impact on British style, as did fashions brought over from America.

This influx of new cultures also affected the way clothes were made, with mass produced garments gaining popularity amongst all classes due to their affordability.

What to Wear:

During the Edwardian era, delicate jewellery became all the rage, thanks to new shaping techniques developed in the years previous. Fragile-looking and intricate designs in particular were very popular choices.


1910s Style Icons:

Lady Duff Gordon, Maude Fealy, Mildred Davis

The Twenties

During the First World War, many women chose to cut their hair shorter in order to make it easier to work.

Because of this, many of the flapper girls of the 1920s had cropped locks or sharp bob cuts.

In contrast, their dress lines became longer. Floor-length dresses became popular with dropped waists reaching as far down as the hip.

1920s outfits also consisted of a lot of layers with sweeping sleeves and oversized coats.

Pocket watches were still popular amongst men but wrist watches for women had always been the norm, with the twenties designing leather strap models with protective covers over the top to shield the glass face.

What To Wear:

Teardrop shapes were popular during the 1920s and anything that sparkled made your ensemble all the better.

The best way to rock a twenties look is to accessories with these teardrop earrings. Sweep your hair back away from your face and neck so that your earrings are on display for everyone to see.

You can also pair them with bright red lipstick to give your overall look a splash of colour.


Twenties Style Icons:

Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel, Greta Garbo

The Thirties

The previous decade had been all about straight lines and boyish figures but the 1930s brought back the female form with a vengeance.

Fuller curves, flattering waist lines and flowing hair became the trend for this decade.

The cowl neck and the halter neck were invented during the 30s and women began tanning their skin as opposed to the traditional pale look of the previous era.

Backless dresses were particularly sought after in order to show off as much of their tan as possible without appearing half-naked.

Of course, one of the biggest fashion staples of the world was put into production in the 1930s – Nylon tights!

Although the idea was invented in the 20s, nylon tights weren’t actually made until the 30s. Unlike the stockings of the time, nylons stretched without sagging and gave women the much sought-after tanned look.

What To Wear:

During the 30s, jewellery was all about colour and style. Making a statement with a single piece was all the rage and nothing fits the bill quite like this Marcasite Sun Pendant.


Thirties Style Icons:

Bette Davis, Doris Day, Rita Hayworth

The Forties


The WWII Pin Up girls who adorned planes during the war gave the impression of a highly glamorous look in fashion.

The truth is, times were hard for everyone, and fashion had to adapt.

Due to the Second World War, rationing was in place during the 1940s and the mantra for fashion was ‘make do and mend’.

Fabrics were in short supply and accessories were seen as frivolous and unpatriotic. Simplicity became the driving trend of the era.

Clothes designed to be practical and durable so that everyone could lend a hand in the war effort.

Buying new clothes with ration coupons was seen as something only to be done when mending and repair could no longer be done.

Women who re-wore the same outfits were seen as admirable in the eyes of their peers and second hand clothing rose in popularity as this was not rationed.

What To Wear:

One of the biggest fashion icons of the era was the head scarf, made famous by Rosie the Riveter and the Land Army Girls posters. Accessorise your head scarf with a pair of pearl earrings for a practical yet classy look.


Forties Style Icons:

Vera Lynn, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn

The Fifties

During the 1950s one of the most important sub-cultures of the 20th century emerged – teenagers.

This new group drove consumer culture for the fore and led to a boom in retail shopping and capitalism. Businesses began targeting teenagers directly with ad campaigns and products designed specifically for them.

Fashion became one of the hot buttons of the era as teenagers began earning their own pocket money and could choose their own items of clothing.

The female silhouette expanded from figure hugging to full A-line skirts complete with bouffant petticoats.

What To Wear:

Gemstone jewellery was big in the 1950s and anything that dazzled was considered a must-have. Recreate the look yourself with this stunning London Blue Topaz Ring.


Fifties Style Icons:

Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor

The Sixties

In the 1960s shirts got shorter and figures became slimmer. Simple styles such as sleeveless shift dresses and the world-famous mini skirt became the most fashionable pieces of the decade.

Many of what we considered to be iconic pieces of fashion came from this era, including go-go boots, the pillbox hat and the bell-bottom jean.

It was also the first decade where women began wearing trousers on a regular basis.

Photography also rose in popularity as glossy magazines began to shift away from home furnishings and recipes and focus on fashion and celebrity style instead.

This aspiration photography inspired a generation of women who began to create their own sense of identity away from the home, husband and children.

What To Wear:

The 1960s was all about colour and design, which is emulated perfectly in this distinctive marcasite necklace.


Sixties Style Icons:

Cher, Mia Farrow, Nancy Sinatra

The Seventies


The 1970s saw a mix of different styles come together as fashion began to take off at breakneck speed.

The mini dresses of the previous decade were still popular but now they shared their time with flared trousers, knitted tank tops and Afghan coats.

Long dresses became the go-to outfit for an evening party and floral patterns took over from the bold simple colours of the 60s.

For those who followed the Disco trend, hot pants were considered a far more modern alternative to miniskirts as they allowed the freedom to move and dance without the risk of revealing too much.

What To Wear:

Gold was the height of fashion when it came to accessorising in the 70s so adorn your wrist with this groovy Endless Triple Golden Reptile Gold Bracelet.


Seventies Style Icons:

Farrah Fawcett, Jane Birkin, Grace Jones

The Eighties

This decade brought us Power Dressing where women wore sharp, clean-cut suits as their impact on the world stage increased.

Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister and Nancy Reagan led the charge for female style and aspiration on the other side of the pond.

During the 80s, brands became more popular and desirable in the eyes of the consumer and the phrase ‘who are you wearing?’ gained significant importance at big events.

Any disposable income that people earned went on improving their look, both in fashion and home décor, in order to present an aura of affluence to friends and neighbours.

What To Wear:

The 1980s was all about standing out from the crowd and an item of jewellery that certainly catches the eye is this Table Top Ring.


Eighties Style Icons:

Madonna, Joan Collins, Debbie Harry

Retro Fashion

The Nineties

Because of the over-the-top style of the 80s, the next generation rebelled and choose to wear a far more toned down style.

Less is more became the motto of those in the 1990s and the rise of sub-cultures fragmented fashion even further.

Goths, emos, skaters, hipsters and preppies carved out their own individual styles and it became more socially acceptable to step away from the crowd.

Women began sporting shorter, sleeker hairstyles in contrast to the 80s perm and monochrome took the place of bold primary colours.

Also, because of the rise of international travel, the 90s was influenced far more by worldwide trends, with styles coming from Asia and the Orient in the form of Mandarin collars and floral-patterned brocade jackets.

What To Wear:

In the 1990s there was a surge of interest in simple statement designs such as simple cross pendants and Celtic knots. This cross is a great example of the style of the time.


Nineties Style Icons:

Melissa Joan Hart, The Spice Girls, Meg Ryan

The Noughties

With the internet now available to most, consumerism and with it, fashion, changed forever. Teenagers could now see the latest trends instantly and, as ability to find the latest celebrity images increased, so did the ability to buy jewellery online in order to emulate them.

Popstars led the way in style trends, closely followed by TV actors. Because of the massive influx of styles and trends, the fashion of the Noughties is less distinct in terms of one or two overall looks.

Fashion became more about who you were trying to be like, rather than who you were.

What To Wear:

As the Noughties was all about copying your idols, who better to emulate than Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw? Her engagement ring in the series was a showstopper and this Marcasite and Onyx Ring will help you replicate the look.


Noughties Style Icons:

Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga

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