Self Love Using Fashion: Through the Decades


Carlye Mahler, News Writer

Kate Spade, fashion icon best known for her eponymous designer brand, once said “Playing dress-up begins at age 5, and never truly ends.” Throughout history, fashion and accessories have been a way for people to express their individuality and also to reflect the unique aspects of the time period that they lived in. This article will explore  a single fashion accessory in each decade from 1900-2000. By taking time to reflect on how people of the past dressed themselves, perhaps we can be more thoughtful about the ways that fashion can serve as a form of self-love in the modern day.


1900: Decorative Parasols 


Lavish would have been one of the key words to describe women’s fashion in 1900. This opulent form of style makes it no surprise that decorative parasols were popular during this time period. As the word “decorative” implies, the parasols did very little to provide any shade or protection from the elements. Common materials included silk or lace, and the pattern of the parasols often matched the rest of the wearer’s outfit. As not everyone was able to afford such fancy and elaborate parasols, they were certainly a display of wealth and sophistication.


1910: Bowler Hats for Men


Sensible describes the bowler hat in 1910. While the average bowler hat was stiff and made of black felt, there were exceptions made with brighter colors. In contrast to the top hat of the time, which symbolized wealth, the bowler hat was closer to symbolizing upward mobility and the middle class.


1920: Long Strands of Pearls


The special aspect of pearls in the 1920s was their incredible level of accessibility. Although genuine pearls can be very expensive, in the 1920s, carefully curated fake pearls became a popular accessory. There were certainly still many women spending large amounts of money on authentic pearls, but they were hard to tell apart from the long strands of plastic pearls. Real or not, they both looked fabulous.


1930: Hooverette house dress


The Hooverette is a wrap-style house dress designed for women to quickly reverse the dress to cover up the mess of cleaning and other housework. The dress got its name from the popular Hoover vacuum brand. This was a helpful innovation that allowed women to use the same dress for both their household duties along with more festive activities such as hosting dinners in their home.


1940: Gloves for Women


In previous decades, women were primarily adorning themselves with jewelry such as bangles and rings. During the 1940s, however, gloves became one of the most favored forms of accessorizing. Gloves were a useful tool for women to disguise their hands if they were rough or calloused from factory work. 


1950: Handbags


Gloves remained in fashion in the 1950s, and could often be found holding on to a handbag with a short strap. These handbags could vary wildly in price, with higher-end bags certainly held an air of luxury. On the other hand, these bags did serve a utilitarian purpose in carrying a variety of items.


1960: Miniskirt


As fashion continued to evolve popular styles became more revealing. This is exemplified by the popularity of shorter and shorter skirts eventually culminating in the wild popularity of the miniskirt, along with much shorter dresses. Miniskirts were considered somewhat shocking at the time, but this didn’t stop their traction in the world of fashion.


1970: Bandeau Tops


The trend towards more experimental and revealing clothing continued in the 1970s, along with the hippie style and social movements. During this era of fashion, the bandeau top rose to popularity. Bandeau tops are sleeveless and usually made from an elastic material or are otherwise secured through ties or pinning.


1980: Spike Heels


The 1980s are known for being gaudy and over the top, but also well known for experiencing a mass amount of women entering the workforce. These shoes were characterized by a high heel which narrowed down to a smaller tip. In line with 80s fashion, spike heels of this decade were often bright in color.


1990: Biker Shorts


Brought into the mainstream by style icon Princess Diana, biker shorts were an essential style piece in the 1990s.  Biker shorts from the 1990s varied in color. Some were more subdued colors meant to be worn in preppy outfits while others were covered in bold patterns and bright colors.They were part of a larger trend that included athletic wear as a popular category of clothing, even for non-athletes.


2000: Juicy Couture Velour Jumpsuit


Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, it would be impossible to list all of the 2000s celebrities who were spotted by paparazzi in the recognizable matching Juicy Couture jumpsuit. There were many ways that a Juicy jumpsuit could stand out, from patterns, colors, and, of course, rhinestones. This leisurewear style was on the front of every tabloid and magazine.


Fashion has evolved a great deal throughout history. It might be easier to relate to the Juicy Jumpsuit wearers of history than the women who carried decorative parasols, but at the heart of both trends are people expressing themselves through fashion. Whether or not your accessories are on trend, they should make you feel happy and confident.