Iconic Fashion Trends from History That Will Inspire Your Next Outfit

Beauty & Style

April 18, 2021

Have you ever looked into your closet and had no idea what to wear? You've browsed through all your Pinterest boards but can't seem to find anything that speaks to you.

Why not go back in time for some inspiration? Who knows what might appeal to you, you could find your new favourite outfit or accessory! Starting from the 1950's, we'll showcase some of the most iconic fashion trends from the past decades and show you how to style them in your everyday life.

The 50's: Pencil skirts

Pencil skirts, which came in various colours and prints, became popular in the early 1950's. The war had ended only a few years prior and women were looking for clothing that wasn't too expensive due to the restrained economic climate during the Cold War. The pencil skirt itself was invented by a man named Christian Dior in 1947.

Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

These skirts go from the waist down to the knees. You can pair the pencil skirt with any top you have (whether that be a crop top, a tee-shirt or even a sweater). In the 1950's, pencil skirts usually came with a short, matching jacket.

The 60's: Colourful print

Colourful print was all the rage in the 60's. These fun patterns would range from bright flowers and bold peace signs to psychedelic swirls and tie-dye designs. They would go on anything from dresses to skirts to pants. The colourful print style was later acquired by hippies.

If you want to stand out with this lively style, don't hesitate to try these prints! These pieces can help you be as bold as you want.

Argentinian band "Los Gatos"; Credits: Unknown Author, 1968

To adopt this style, you can pair any bold or colourful piece of clothing you have with flares or a skirt. Try to find a piece of clothing with lots of daring and eye-catching colours to ensure you pull off this look.

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A post shared by Jenna Phipps (@jennaphipps)

The 70's: Bell bottoms

Bell Bottoms were popularized by the 70's 'hippies' movement, acting as a staple piece during this time period. Good news, they're making a come-back! These groovy pants were flared from the knees downward, forming a bell shape. The pants were often made from denim, bright cotton or satin polyester and they would vary in colour and patterns.

Credits: Unknown author - (Argentinian photo shoot for bell-bottoms); Revista Pelo n° 26, Public Domain

To style these hip pants today, pair bell-bottoms with any top: a matching jacket (see photo above), a crop top, a solid-coloured shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a cotton button-down blouse or a retro graphic tee... needless to say, these pants can be matched with absolutely anything.

The 80's: Acid-Washed Denim

Acid-washed jeans were a perfect accident when they came to be in the 1980's. The Rifle Jeans Company of Italy had accidentally mixed jeans with bleach and pumice stone - and had forgotten to add the water. Luckily, the end result was a new and cool fashion item.

Credits: Jasmin Chew

These jeans are meant to look weathered and well-worn. Despite the name, no acid is actually used to make the worn effect of the denim. Not only do these jeans look super cool but they are also very comfortable. The acid-washed look wasn't only done on jeans, it has been featured on skirts, jean-jackets and many pieces of denim clothing.

To style acid washed denim, wear some neon! This was popular in the 80's and any neon piece would make a great match to a pair of acid-washed jeans (think neon graphic tees, for example). The 80's were a very colourful decade and a pair of acid washed denim jeans are sure to make you stand out.

The 90's: Bucket hats

Bucket hats, which were originally conceived in the early 1900's as a way to protect Irish fishermen and farmers from the rain, gained popularity in the 1980's but continued to be as popular throughout the 1990's. They are most often made of heavy-duty cotton materials such as denim, tweed and canvas.

Many celebrities have styled bucket hats in the past and continue to do so. In the 90's, bucket hats were popularized by rappers such as Jay-Z. However, they made a sudden return to popularity in 2019.

As a result, many influencers and celebrities were wearing bucket hats. Current popular styles of this cute hat include long-brimmed and fluffy bucket hats.

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A post shared by Hailey Rhode Baldwin Bieber (@haileybieber)

You can style a bucket hat in many ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Monochrome outfit: Pick a bucket hat and find colour-matching clothing. For example, if your bucket hat is light green, find a light-green top, a light-green skirt or pants and you can add a light green accessory such as a baguette bag.

  • Dainty dress: Find your favourite dainty-looking dress (such as a mini dress) and mix and match with different bucket hats.

  • Jeans & top: Match your favourite top (whether that be a crop top or a t-shirt) with a bucket hat and add some baggy or bell-bottom jeans. (Optional: To layer, add a cardigan of your choice. For example, a tie front cardigan.)

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A post shared by MATILDA DJERF (@matildadjerf)

  • Matching cardigan: Find your favourite cardigan and match it with a bucket hat of the same colour. For an extra touch, wear some cargo pants.

  • Go for that 90's look: Find a 90's inspired top (like a graphic tee) and pair it with some wide-legged pants. Finish off the look with an iconic bucket hat from the time period.

Credits: Renzy Atibagos

The 2000's: Velour tracksuits

Y2K trends are so in right now and what speaks more Y2K than velour tracksuits? These iconic 2000's fashion pieces are perfect for a lazy day at home or for a walk around the neighbourhood. Popularized by a brand called Juicy Couture, they are both comfy and stylish, creating a very co-ordinated and put-together look.

Many celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, were among the ones who helped make this iconic fashion piece famous.

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A post shared by @glamfendi

The 2010's: Athleisure wear

If we went back in time about 10 years, we would notice that a large amount of people wore athleisure wear. Nearly everyone would be wearing leggings, the decade's clothing-of-choice.

Athleisure wear, which primarily included yoga pants, sneakers and sweatpants, was a combination of both sports and leisure wear. The aim of the style was to make comfortable clothing you could wear while working out or whenever you wanted to. It played a major role in the revival of sportswear in the fashion industry.

To try this 2010's trend today, layer sports kit with your go-to clothing. For example, you can layer a sports bra with a denim jacket and a pair of sweatpants or leggings. You could also wear sweatpants with a matching sweatshirt and some popular accessories such as oversized sunglasses. Or you can just simply wear a sports bra and some sweatpants (like in the photo above).

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A post shared by AVA WILLIAMS (@avagwilliams)

Athleisure wear is perfect for those stay-at-home days, especially during the pandemic while most of us are at home a lot of the time. It's comfortable and practical.

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A post shared by Sandy Paixão (@sandycarvs)

Want more inspiration?

Back in 2021, we have explored the looks and trends of the 1950's all the way to the 2010's. To find a look that suits you, play with all of these styles, combining them, if possible, and making them your own. For example, you could wear a tie-dye top from the 60's, paired with some "rad" bell-bottoms from the 70's and a cute bucket hat from the 90's.

Or you could do something completely different: wear an acid-washed denim jean jacket from the 80's paired with a pencil skirt from the 50's. Be creative!

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A post shared by @evameloche

Using current trends paired with past trends can also make for a unique look. For example, instead of wearing a plain-coloured bucket hat, switch it up a bit and wear a fluffy one instead - it's a unique current trend that's sure to make you stand out. A must-have pair of shoes for your outfits are white sneakers. They go with anything and you just can't go wrong wearing them.

On that note, I would like to say that you can use any of these past trends to create your own style. Be you and be creative. Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone because you never know when you might find your new favourite piece of clothing.

Emilia Wesolkowski
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Emilia is a high schooler from Canada. She has a passion for both writing and STEM, and also enjoys reading, learning new languages, and crocheting. She has been writing for The Teen Magazine since March 2021.