A Look at Fashion Trends of the Past: Can You Believe We Wore That?

Fashion Trends in the Past

When families get together during the winter holiday season, it’s not unusual for three or four generations to share a meal and reconnect. It’s a chance for younger family members to get to know more about what their grandparents—and parents—were like in earlier times.

Sometimes the photo albums come out from their resting place. There may even be some old home movies to watch and reminisce about. It can be amusing to go back and remember how things were back then.

We thought it would be fun to venture back and recall some of the clothing and hairstyles that were in vogue in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Maybe you have photos of yourself decked out in ensembles that once were chic, and perhaps you still have some of your favorite vintage garments tucked away in a closet or chest.

Let’s travel back in time and see how many of these former fashions you can recollect!

The 1950s: What a Gas, Daddy-O!

Known as the fabulous ‘50s, this decade is when designer fashions really began to influence what women wore.

Christian Dior’s “New Look”

Christian Dior introduced this style in the late ‘40s, after the war ended and women were returning to more traditional roles in the home and the office. The popularity of the curvy, hourglass-shaped women’s suits and dresses dominated throughout much of this decade.

The waistlines of dresses, skirts and women’s slacks were extremely narrow and often belted for emphasis. Skirts were full and worn with petticoats to make them stand out at the hemline and swing when the wearer walked. For a number of years, it was popular for teenage girls to sew applique felt poodles on their skirts.

Suit jackets often had a peplum to exaggerate the waist-to-hips ratio. Blouses were soft and feminine, and were worn tucked in, sometimes paired with a short, fitted cardigan sweater and a small scarf tied around the neck.

A Slimmer Silhouette

An alternative to full skirts, some women opted for a slender pencil dress or skirt. The fitted shape still emphasized a tiny waistline, but the hemline hugged the legs below the knees.

For casual or active wear, women often wore pedal pushers or capris, which were slightly longer. Women’s pants were high-waisted with slim legs. Teenagers and young women sometimes wore their pants legs rolled up, along with ankle socks and saddle shoes. Remember those?

Speaking of shoes, stiletto heels were a favorite in the ‘50s and were often worn with both full-skirted dresses and pencil skirts.

Midcentury Menswear

Overall, men dressed conservatively in the 1950s and into the early 1960s, preferring fuller-cut suits in dark, basic colors for the office. There was more latitude with sport coats and other casual attire, but the lines were still classic and clean. Cardigans and vests in a wide variety of colors and patterns were popular, often worn with a white dress shirt and tie.

Later in the decade, the subtly patterned fabrics typically used for men’s suits gave way to larger plaids and checks. Corduroy, tweed and other textured fabrics were paired with smoother ones, like gabardine. Sport coats sometimes had leather patches on the elbows. For casualwear, men started wearing brighter, bolder colors.

Young men and teenage boys sometimes favored the greaser look—blue jeans; a white T-shirt; a short, black leather jacket or bomber jacket and, of course, slicked-back hair. More common, though, was the Ivy League look, with a letter jacket or sweater and a button-up shirt.

Hats and Hairstyles

Men and women alike wore hats in the ‘50s. Men usually wore a fedora to the office and would wear a straw hat for casual attire in warmer weather. Women’s hats ran the gamut, from broad-brimmed sun hats to capulets, fascinators and mushroom, pillbox and perch hats. Women also wore headscarves at times instead of a hat.

Young adults who were part of the beatnik movement during the later 1950s and early 1960s commonly donned berets and Wayfarers or cat-eye sunglasses.

Hairstyles often had a lot of height, for men (pompadour) and for women (bouffant and beehive).

Women wore soft, short, curly styles (some so curly they were called a poodle cut). Ponytails tied with a scarf were popular for girls and young women. Curling irons and blow dryers weren’t household appliances back then, so well-coiffed women used bobby pins and hair curlers. Men and women used a lot of hair product to maintain their ‘do.

The 1960s: Feelin’ Groovy and Outta Sight

As the lads from Liverpool, the Rolling Stones and other British musicians took the world by storm, styles became increasingly more casual and individualistic. Rock stars often held more sway over fashion than did movie stars. Clothing became more playful.

Women wore suits and shifts in the earlier part of the decade, but the hemlines were shorter, and colors were often vivid. Jackets were often adorned with oversized buttons. By the mid-1960s, young women were following Twiggy’s lead, sporting miniskirts and minidresses in bold colors and patterns, frequently paired with go-go boots.

The Beatles’ fascination with Eastern spirituality spilled over into their clothing choices, and what they wore, young people around the world wore: Nehru jackets, baggy, collarless shirts and tunic tops, paisley suits and brightly colored, slim-legged trousers made of silk, satin or velvet.

Flowers in Their Hair

In the later 1960s, the hippie counterculture had as much effect on fashion as the psychedelic music scene did. Young men and women wore frayed, bell-bottom jeans with patches, tie-dye T-shirts, vests and jackets with fringe, love beads, sandals, headbands and long hair.

Women also wore long, flowing skirts and dresses commonly called maxi or granny dresses. Rimless granny glasses, like the ones John Lennon wore, were popular too.

Men grew beards and mustaches, and many who were clean-shaven let their sideburns grow long.

To the Moon and Back

Space travel and the lunar landing captivated the nation and the world in the late ‘60s. Designers seized the moment, creating vinyl trench coats, hats, shoulder bags, miniskirts, boots, suits and more.

The 1970s: Disco, Glitz and Glam

The styles that were so popular in the latter part of the ‘60s continued to dominate the fashion scene well into the ‘70s.

Bell-bottoms graduated to flared slacks with super-wide legs. Women wore cutout dresses and crop tops, over-the-knee boots and short skirts. Pantsuits, midi skirts, maxi dresses and hot pants were all in vogue. Peasant blouses were popular, as were wrap dresses.

One of the biggest fashion fads of the ‘70s for men was the polyester leisure suits, sometimes worn with a white belt and white shoes. Earth shoes, some of the first footwear to feature negative heels, were another big hit—with men and women.

Music, Fashion and the Stars Align

In the mid -1970s, music once again revolutionized the way many young people dressed. As disco and glam rock hit the airwaves, platform footwear became the latest trend, along with gold neck chains and wide-lapel suits for men and huge hoop earrings and halter jumpsuits for women.

Supersized eyewear was a hot ticket too, no doubt in part thanks to Elton John. Sophia Loren’s line of eyewear also featured large-framed eyeglasses, some with the temples attached at the bottom of the frame instead of the top.

Stars like Jane Fonda and Mick Jagger popularized the shag haircut, and there was Farah Fawcett’s feathered hairdo, too. Females from 15 to 50 wanted their hair cut like hers!

From Big Cities to Tiny Towns

While styles might start in cities like Paris, London and New York, those that endure eventually make it to faraway places—like the village in the Himalayas where Rupa Snowden, who manages assisted living at Penrose Harbor, grew up. Her family moved there when she was in elementary school.

Although Rupa typically wore dresses like the other girls in town, she remembers getting a pair of bell-bottoms from her grandmother, who lived in England, when she was about 14. She said the local women went crazy—a girl wearing pants! She also said with a laugh that she wore them with the zipper in the back for the longest time because she didn’t know any better.

Friendliness Is in Fashion at Heron’s Key

If you’re interested in senior living in Gig Harbor, whether it’s independent living, assisted living, extended care living or memory care you seek, you’ll find some of the warmest, most welcoming people here at Heron’s Key.

We invite you to contact us and set up a time when you can experience our community in person. While you’re here on our website, you can get a feel for the active lifestyle residents enjoy at Heron’s Key, from social activities, wellness classes and Lifelong Learning presentations to volunteer efforts and participation in more than 40 resident-led interest groups. Come take a look!