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1900s-1960s - Historic Changes In Women's Fashion

Nov 8, 2007
Women's fashion has been influenced throughout the years by history, location and design. In addition, a woman's status in society has also had an influence, depending on what clothing choices were accepted and expected of her. Women's roles influenced popular clothing styles, as seen through the length of hemlines, the layers of clothing worn, the types of shoes worn, and what was considered to be in fashion in general during a particular period of time. Following are some trends and the changes that have happened through the years, beginning with the 1900s.

During the 1900s, women's legs and feet were almost never seen, unless they were sitting. Therefore, stockings, shoes and other types of footwear didn't get much attention and in fact were designed to draw as little attention as possible. During this period, clothing and shoes often had silk bows, dark colors and small buckles. Shoes had pointed toes and a moderate high heel. After the Civil War, women's skirts were narrower and were more cone-shaped rather then bell-shaped. Clothing was very heavily starched and shirtwaists came in style; these were fashioned after men's shirts.

In the 1920s, it was no longer considered indecent to show one's legs, and clothing reflected this. Hemlines rose and women began to take an interest in flesh-colored stockings and shoes. Silk stockings were expensive and accompanied eveningwear. Ribbed and patterned selections, which were diamond cut, were very in fashion. The "flapper" fashion began with the Roaring 20s, and emphasized very light ethereal fabrics, handkerchief hemlines, and girdles.

In the 1930s, a more "ladylike" appearance was in fashion again. Clothing was very feminine, with crisp, clean lines during the day and with glamor emphasized by night. Shoes were more sophisticated and the open toed sandal made its appearance. There were also short fitted suits and jackets and the still popular "little black dress." Nylon was introduced as a fabric, which made stockings much cheaper versus the much more expensive silk.

In the 1940s, World War II negatively impacted women's fashion as leather became scarcer and certain fabrics were hard to get. Wooden soled shoes with wedge heels became common and many clothing items were rationed. To get rationed items, you had to use issued "coupons." Items that were not rationed included ribbons, lace, clogs, suspenders and mending wool. For variety, women began to paint their shoes with bright colors or to decorate the side of the soles with small items like shells or studs.

In the 1950s, glamor was once again back in fashion. Full skirts with petticoats, fancy suits, and swoop line empire dresses were popular. Stiletto heels and Italian shoes were the ultimate in elegance and refinement. Seamless stockings and beehive hairdos also became the rage.

By the 1960s, fashion reflected the freethinking attitudes of the time. Skirts were very short, and the miniskirt was suddenly in fashion. Stockings were no longer in vogue and pantyhose made their appearance. Flat boots were worn with very short dresses or miniskirts. Other fashion firsts were psychedelic prints, "everything denim" worn as everyday clothing rather than simply for casual or leisure time, and the introduction of the pillbox hat. Once again, shoes had thicker low heels with rounded or squared toes. Shoes with big buckles were also popular, and had matching gold or silver heels to match those buckles.
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