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Spring's History Part 2

Written by: Kene Nzelu

I’m back with part 2 of my previous blog post, “Spring’s History”, which covered the history of women’s spring fashion in America during the first half of the 20th century. This blog post will cover the second half of the 20th century.


During this decade, Christian Dior’s New Look, which consisted of dresses with cinched waists and full skirted silhouettes, dominated women’s fashion till the mid-1950s. Adhering to this trend were poodle skirts which had defined waists and full skirted silhouettes. There was an emphasis on elegance and femininity for women’s fashion. However, fashion houses Chanel, Dior, and Balenciaga introduced the straight cut suit. This was also popular, but it differed from the New Look. The popularity of sportswear also continued with fashion designer Claire McCardell continuing to produce wrap over dresses and introducing pedal-pushers with matching tops. For accessories, the flower piled hat was worn by many women during this decade.


This decade saw skirt suits with matching accessories such as gloves and hats. Women’s fashion during this time gained inspiration from England. The cultural phenomenon called Swinging London which highlighted youth, music, and fashion inspired many innovative fashion designs. Skirts got shorter, with miniskirts ending at the upper thigh. Minidresses also emerged, including sheath minidresses and A-line minidresses. Women’s fashion during these years was bold. British fashion designer Mary Quant introduced colorful designs and other fashion designers made clothing inspired by pop art and space. Hippie style also reigned with full length maxi skirts, secondhand clothing, headbands, beads, and nonWestern accessories.


Women were gaining more sexual freedom during these years, and their clothing reflected it. Crop tops, halter tops, and halter dresses could be seen everywhere. It also became more acceptable for women to wear trousers for both formal wear and work wear. Trouser suits became less form fittng and feminine and they were decorated with fun patterns such as animal prints. Women not only experimented with patterns, but also with attention grabbing colors. Flared pants and jumpsuits were common. Some new types of dresses emerged during this time. The prairie dress was midi length and had flounces and elegant floral patterns. The wrap dress was also midi length, had long sleeves, and could be paired with strappy sandals, which were also popular during this time. Boho fashion was common with many women wearing tunics.


Leather dresses and lace dresses were seen often. There were also some experimental elements to women’s fashion during this decade, including disco tops, pattern clashing (wearing clothes of different patterns at the same time), and bright colors. In addition, puffed sleeves could be seen, as well as oversized accessories such as belts and bows. Preppy style emerged with American fashion designers such as Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren making elegant blazers, button downs, and hand knit sweaters for women. Of course, sportswear was still popular, but updated with off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and leggings.


This decade saw a revival of fashion trends from the 1960s and 70s, including mini-skirts, flares, and Punk styles. Sportswear looks of the 80s continued with additions of biker shorts, leggings, Keds, and oversized sweatshirts. Women’s clothing was also becoming more casual with cargo pants and sweatshirts from The Gap being worn by many women. Grunge fashion emerged, introducing baggy worn out jeans, flannel shirts, Doc Marten boots, and simple slip dresses paired with chunky boots. However, by the mid-90s, women’s clothing became more traditionally feminine again with slip dresses over white t-shirts and the “sexy schoolgirl” look which included undersized sweaters, baby doll t-shirts, and knee high socks. Towards the end of the decade, the bohemian style from the 70s made a comeback, including embroidery, mixed fabrics, and Eastern influences.

Those are the spring fashion trends that women in in the United States were wearing in the 20th century! Should we bring back any of these trends? Have we already brought back some of these trends?

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