The Smith Sartorial: Trends Across the Decades

Michelle S. Lee ’16

Have you ever rummaged through your parents’ closet from decades past, looking for clothing inspiration, and found yourself pleasantly surprised when you did? Apply this principle to the fashion industry at large. A common saying that gets passed around is that art is derivative, and fashion is no exception to this. But what are we deriving from? And from when?
From the ’60s: Monochrome is back. It was never quite out, but hasn’t taken center stage like this since perhaps the ’60s, when block colors were all the rage. Geometric shapes and patterns are slipping back into style – we’ve come a long way from Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Mondrian dress back in 1965. As designers play with the geometric elegance of black and white patterns and motifs, we will happily take the occasion to rock the monochrome look. Perhaps it’s a nod to consumer demands for minimalism and sleek chic that have manifested themselves in tech, merchandise and now clothing, but nothing screams “polished” more than a sharp black-and-white aesthetic.
From the ’70s: Loose-fitting bottoms. 2015 fashion revises how we’ve been wearing bottoms for the past decade. It appears that now when it comes to pants, tight is not quite alright. We haven’t quite gone back enough to the days of full flare and bell-bottom jeans, but it’s comfortable enough that we’ll take it. Flute pants are coming back into the foray, as we tuck away our skinny jeans and cast aside our leggings for classic late-night library studying days.
From the ’80s: Nothing. Quite ironically, the decade preceding such a beloved era in fashion has quite little attention. There was a brief period in the early 2010s when neon reappeared in streetwear and colored leggings came into vogue, but those trends were quickly shelved. If ever we do see a throwback to the retro glam of this era, it’s often much more subdued. The ’80s were about being loud in color, material and accessories alike. Perhaps this pop-heavy boldness is precisely why we see relatively few references to it in current fashion – while other eras excel in compatibility of neutral tones with sharp, minimal features, the ’80s pale in comparison.
From the ’90s: Everything. From a fascination with youth culture in all material goods derivative of the era (you can’t go a week on the Internet without coming across a “You Know You’re a ’90s Kid When…”), to a true scrapbook montage of all fashion statements almost synonymous with the decade, ’90s style is coming back with full force and has yet to stop. High-waisted shorts, crop tops, chokers and so much denim. Denim shorts, denim jackets, denim overalls. It seems we cannot get enough of the casual rebelliousness of this era, to the point of almost nostalgia in our appropriation of their fashion trends.
So what’s new? While streetwear enjoys the melting pot of key fashion trends across the decades, we should expect colors and tones to become more and more neutral in the forseeable future. Beiges and greys seem to have become staples across the seasons, and this fall, burgundy takes the stage before you can even say “pumpkin spice latte.” We are leaving the late 2000s focus on tight A&F shirts and skinny jeans (or worse, tights in January) for variations of platform shoes, high waisted and loose fitting clothes. Comfort has become something of a necessity in recent trends, an occurrence about as rare a blue moon and one I fully intend to take advantage of.


Leave a Comment