Womens Fashion Timeline

Women wearing 1920s fashions

The greatest moments in style history can be traced through a women's fashion timeline. From the introduction of the world's most iconic pieces to the trends that essentially defined the decades, timelines depict everything that has had stunning impact on women's fashion through the years.

A Look Back at Women's Fashion History

A close inspection of women's fashion reveals some true highlights. These moments have had an enduring effect on women all over the world. Era by era, each period in the women's fashion timeline has its share of unforgettable moments.

1800s to 1850s Fashions

Wrought with a style so romantic that women's fashion has never quite been able to recapture it, these years featured dreamy looks captured in a mélange of rich fabrics and elegant silhouettes. Costume-inspired pieces, such as thick cloaks, embroidered pelisses (coats) and elaborate dresses, reigned supreme. There was a significant focus on décor, a look that spoke to the period's appreciation for all things gothic and Elizabethan. Accessories like parasols and dainty hats completed the looks perfectly.

1860s to 1880s Fashions

This period marked one of significant change. With the advent of the sewing machine came more creative innovations. Synthetic dyes made it possible to color clothing in vivid hues. Couture also played a stronger role in designs of this era. During this period, dresses progressed from the full, extreme skirts of previous years to styles slightly sleeker, though no less dramatic. Ornamentation remained popular, thanks to the sewing machine, which made it easy to embellish dresses with more detail.

1890s to 1910s Fashions

Gradually shifting in another direction, women embraced La Belle Époque during much of this period. These styles were favored by members of high society, and included a bevy of lavish pieces. The suit also made its introduction, although initially it was frowned upon for its seemingly unfeminine design. Over time, it became a go-to choice for working women, and was also seen as a strong symbol of independence.

1920s Fashions

This was the decade that broke barriers. The Roaring Twenties introduced flapper style to the world, and the looks were adventurous and challenging of authority. Gone were dainty, "good girl" styles. Flappers preferred their dresses shorter, their cuts more shapeless and plenty of makeup. Women also began to bare more skin by showing off their arms and wearing nude stockings. Sophisticated coats, cloche hats and Mary Jane shoes were popular accessories of the day.

1930s Fashions

The '30s ventured back into decidedly safer territory. Sleek silhouettes were favored, particularly in the form of daytime dresses with more body-conscious (though never scandalous) skirts. The styles were all shapelier and more graceful than they had been before. Fashions mirrored the busy lifestyles that women enjoyed; as such, there was an influx of practical clothing for daytime use, such as crisp trousers and shirts.

1940s Fashions

The overall mood during wartime was understated, and clothing of this period reflected that attitude very well. Women's attire was quite austere, featuring broad shouldered jackets and crisply tailored skirts. An appreciation for recycling clothing came into play, particularly in light of rationing when supplies were extremely limited. Sewn and knitted garments became even more popular, and women would often use old pillowcases and other materials to create coats and tops.

1950s Fashions

This decade rekindled a passion for fashion and broke all kinds of barriers. Gone were the strict and subdued wartime looks; in their place came fresh colors, shift dresses, shapely tent dresses and empire dresses. A certain youthful approach could be seen in the styles, which signified the strong impact teenagers had on popular culture. Synthetic fabrics were introduced, and soon tailored pieces made of nylon, acrylic and polyester were everywhere. It was indeed something very different from the fussy fashions of previous years!

1960s Fashions

Youth may have made some small impact in the '50s, but it was during the '60s that they really influenced style in unexpected ways. From more free flowing skirts with shorter hemlines to chic little sweater dresses, the styles of this period remained relatively timeless - with a few small updates, they wear just as well in the present. Women also wore pencil skirts with form fitting sweaters for a look decidedly sexier than ever before. The mini skirt became popular in the late '60s, and there was no looking back from there.

1970s Fashions

The disco era ushered in looks that were at once wild and glamorous. An appreciation for flared pant legs and skirts was evident, and vibrant prints and embellishments were extremely popular (such as plaids and glitter). Casual looks included halter neck dresses and jumpsuits paired with platform heels.

1980s Fashions

It was known as the decade of excess for good reason. The power suit signaled the woman's escalating role in the workplace while casual wear continued to be dictated by teenage trends and popular culture. From off-the-shoulder tops to Laura Ashley dresses, almost everything enjoyed moments of intense popularity. The shoulder pad was the essence of extreme, defining the "power" looks of the decade.

1990s Fashions

Almost as if trying to escape the '80s, the '90s found women decked out in sharp-shouldered blazers, stirrup pants, cropped trousers and floaty little babydoll dresses, complete with Doc Marten shoes on their feet. The grunge era of the mid '90s was defined by overuse of flannel, plaid prints and baggy cuts.

2000s to Present Fashions

Haute couture has never been hotter, designers have never been more abundant and, on the whole, women have never been able to afford as much as they have now. Such progress has paved the way for a mixed bag of styles. Many women take their influence from popular culture and runway trends while others subscribe to the "do it my way" style of dressing. Either way, it's clear that fashion has come a very long way since the early days of strict, no-fuss style.

Womens Fashion Timeline