Fashion Through the Decades

Fashion Through the Decades

Heidy Lopez-Rangel, Lama Younis

High School Fashion Throughout the Years

Whether the year is 1950 or 2020, high school is characterized by the fashion, the dating, the drama, and maybe some school work. Although the stories and struggles have stayed consistent throughout time, the clothing sure has not. The fashion within each time period helps reflect events and how teenagers were influenced at the time. 


The 1950s are a crucial time period for teens, this is the era where the term “teenager” was first coined, starting a culture that would stem into the future. The clothing worn by teens in the 50s depended on where they were – schools enforced various rules that limited options, especially for young girls. However, the weekends allowed for these teenagers to express themselves in a way that screamed, “rock n roll.” 

During the school day, the female student body had to be wearing skirts that were below the knee. They weren’t even allowed to wear pants to their classes, at least not until the 60s. Despite the fact that this era is known for the famous poodle skirts, the skirts actually consisted more of pencil, plaid, and felt skirts, that could come in a varying array of colors and patterns. These bottoms were paired with blouses, or cardigan sweaters – sometimes they were worn together. On the weekends, the girls could finally wear a pair of trousers, with a sleeveless blouse, and not face any repercussions. 

As for the young men of this generation, many of them wore the “greasers” type of look. This look consisted of denim jeans and leather jackets, with their hair greased back – catering to their “misfit” and “bad boy” personas. The more “sophisticated” boys would sport cardigan sweaters, preppy button down shirts, along with high waisted trousers or jeans. 



Although the 1960’s saw the Hippie Movement towards the end of the decade, the majority of the decade followed fashion rules of the 1950’s. Teenagers dressed like “ladies and gentlemen.” However, styles changed drastically in the last few years of the decade; teens who used to wear the innocent looks of the 50’s now wore casual clothes. 

High school boy’s fashion went from business to casual. For most of the 1960’s, boys wore dress pants, button-down shirts, and ties to school; a strict rule banned boys from wearing  pants with seams on the outside. That is until 1967 when the Hippie Movement commenced, and being a teenager became all about rebellion. Boys began to wear jeans with t-shirts, sweatshirts, and short- sleeved button-downs to school.

As for the gals of the decade, once again, they wore the likes of the 50’s until girls had begun to wear pants to school. Hip-huggers and bell-bottoms became a staple of a hippie teenage girl in the 1960’s. They paired these colorful, often patterned pants with sweaters, t-shirts, and sleeveless blouses.



The 60’s broke down fashion barriers and paved the way for the wild trends of the 70’s. For the earlier part of this decade, hippie garb continued to dominate the fashion industry. But this movement gave way to the disco era, an era where bright colors and flashy prints were the new norm. 

For girls, skirts got shorter, and so did shorts. It was, after all, the decade of the hot pants(extremely short shorts). Bell bottoms and blouses were common early on, but then the disco style came into play. This could be anything from midi skirts to miniskirts to halter neck cat suits with tropical and exotic prints. Jeans also became an essential part of any teenager’s closet. They were worn for just about any occasion except the immensely formal.

Just as fashion for girls did, fashion for guys in the 1970’s started with hippie and morphed into disco. The very end of the 70’s even saw some punk sensibilities that would really come into play in the next decade. Bell bottoms with platform shoes or sneakers were still fashionable. Disco saw the emergence of the leisure suit: wide-collared monochromatic ensembles usually worn with a ruffled shirt. Basically, late 70’s fashion consisted of anything suited for the dance floor. 



The 80s popularized more casual styles of clothing. However, it did not fail to have trends that were filled with bright colors, bold silhouettes, and big hair. Tons of new clothing styles arose in the 80’s, many of which are resurfacing nowadays. These include preppy, workout, punk, and rock. Additionally, the 80’s fashion was about materialistic values and flaunting wealth. Thus, a new age of buying brand name clothing, such as that of Nike and Coca-Cola(yes Coke made clothes in the 80’s) was born.

The gals of the 80’s rocked big shoulders, big hair, and a big attitude. The power suit, tailored to perfection and padded at the shoulders, became a go-to for many stylish girls in this decade. But business wasn’t the only look for teenage girls; so was fitness. Athleisure wear became the new craze. By the end of the 80’s, women of all ages could be seen wearing leggings, stir-up pants, and leg warmers on the streets. These were often paired with an oversized sweater, another trademark of the 1980’s.

Teenage guys typically took on more casual styles, donning a pair of dad jeans with a t-shirt. The outerwear of choice was some type of jacket, and there was a large variety to choose from; bomber jackets, denim jackets, leather jackets, sweaters, etc. When it came to footwear, white sneakers were the ultimate shoe for gents on a casual day. Of course, not all guys decided to take the casual route, and instead embarked on the preppy one. Preppy outfits boasted bright and pastel hues. The ultimate preppy outfit consisted of slacks, polo shirts, and a sweater thrown around the shoulder. Another popular trend of the 80’s was punk fashion. These gents took on a much edgier approach to fashion than did the previous types. This trend saw a lot of leather, hardware, and eye-catching hairstyles.


The excess of the 80’s did not translate to the 90’s. Instead, this decade took on a more relaxed laid-back approach, and saw the birth of grunge. Jeans were bigger than ever before, both in popularity and in size. “The baggier, the better” became the slogan for many clothing-wearers in this decade. Most people didn’t want wild patterns and colors; solid, subdued colors became the new big thing. 

The young ladies of the 90’s chose a more casual approach than those of the 80’s. Common fashion items of this era were black leggings, denim everything, oversized sweaters, t-shirts, flannels, turtlenecks, silk shirts, and skirts. Those with a more feminine taste often wore mini slip dresses such as those donned by the Spice Girls, spaghetti strap tops, and maxi skirts. For a tomboy look, girls wore baggy jeans and a striped tank top, or anything of the like. 

Guy’s fashion was dominated by the snapback hats, a look which was started by rappers and soon was worn by men all over the world. Another thing that was huge in the 90’s was overalls, but only with one strap hanging down. Everyone from Will Smith to members of NSYNC rocked this look, so it’s easy to see why these denim pieces were popular. Baggy jeans were a staple in everyones’ closets in the 90’s. For a grunge look, guys would pair them with a graphic tee, flannel, and combat boots. Oh, and windbreakers were also pretty big this decade.



Ah the 2000’s: the decade of denim, halter tops, and butterfly clips. Many trends born in this decade went down in history as the worst abominations of fashion. Remember those low-rise jeans and the horrible Von Dutch trucker hats that everyone and their mothers used to wear? Please, let’s leave those in 2005. Despite those atrocities, there were some pretty iconic fashion moments that arose in the 00’s that are being resurrected in 2020. 

The teenage girls of this decade took on a much flashier approach to clothes than did the girls of the 90’s. Halter tops were all the rage, and the shinier and more satiny these tops were, the better. The bottoms of choice were jeans, either pocket-less or with bedazzled pockets to hold those famous frosted lip glosses. And if you didn’t have a tattoo choker necklace on your neck, then what were you even doing? Another outfit of choice for any girl in the 2000’s was a Juicy Couture tracksuit. Those matching velour pants and jackets were donned by everyone from A-list celebrities, such as Britney Spears, to 16-year olds across the world.  

Some guys fashion in the 00’s slightly resembled girl’s fashion of the time. Both genders donned embellished denim and velour tracksuits. Even Eminem rocked the iconic velvety ensembles a couple times. Multiple popped collars were another questionable trend of this decade. Those preppy gents loved to wear several different-colored collars for no tangible reason. But it was the cool thing to do, so they did it. Cardigans, bootcut jeans, and studded belts were other clothing items that every teenage boy had in his closet in the years 2000-2009. 



The 2010s are the definition of a blast from the past – the trends within this time period were a mix of the fashion trends from previous decades. Although our generation might have put a twist on some of them, the originality in new styles was lacking up until the last few years of this decade. This set of years started with fads from the 2000s, however, the choice in denim did change. Instead of flowy bootcut jeans, teenagers were sporting skinny jeans. The more tight fitting these jeans were, the better. Varying new patterns also came into play, they ranged from mustaches, galaxy print, aztec print, and any other pattern you could imagine. 

Gradually, teenagers opted out of the fad of wearing random articles of clothing together, and changed teenage culture forever. Many girls began wearing retro and vintage-like clothing again, promoting a rise to thrift shopping that was so often looked down on. This also helped create what is referred to as “VSCO” girls (the name being coined due to the fact that these set of people use the popular photo editing app “VSCO”), who wear thrifted clothing, or a very basic set of clothing. Instagram and TikTok also helped create this culture of E-boys and E-girls, who wear a mix of 90s grunge fashion, hot topic goth, and 2000s scene. This type of fashion and style has grown to be quite popular amongst our generation, and was brought into 2020. 

A Wrap Up 

The world’s come a long way since 1950, and we can see that in the evolution of fashion between 1950 and current day. Where will it go from here? Are we going to start dressing like the disco era once again? Or is there some new, futuristic clothing trend to be discovered? We’ll just have to wait and see.