How and why has Fashion Changed over the last 50 years?

I firmly believe that the way fashion changes is indicative of how a society or culture changes and evolves. Think about how the mini-skirt became popular in the 1960’s; this reflected the fact that attitudes toward sex and the female body were changing and becoming more liberal. So in this sense I believe our clothing and style changes as we change, as technology becomes more advanced, and as our attitudes change as a society. World events and trends also inspired the clothes we wore in the 1970’s, the hippy movement certainly sparked a fashion style. As I was growing up in the 90’s, I was influenced by many different things, and (I’m going to put it out there..) my teenage years were influenced by the rise in hip hop culture, this culture was reflected in my clothing. As a 16 and 17 year old, I wore basketball singlets and high top sneakers (cringe!!)

The way fashion changes also highlights our changing economy and environment. For example, the rise of ‘clothes swapping’ and sustainable, recyclable fashion has no doubt been sparked by the economic troubles of recent years, and our growing awareness of the fragility of the environment around us.
Natalie, –FashioNZ editor

I am a fashion design student. I have put a lot of thought in to current and past fashion trends over the last few years and my overall thought on the change of fashion is that up until the 90s there were obvious evolutions in fashion, then suddenly then the movement stopped and we have since started recycling old trends. I think the reason for this is that by the 90’s we had pushed all the limits and boundaries in fashion we could i.e. super miniskirts, skin tight, super baggy, androgynous, military, disco, mod etc. It’s like we have come to a standstill, we are only looking back and reinventing past looks and styles with a subtle difference.

I myself as a budding designer am so looking forward to a completely new wave, I can’t imagine what we could create to completely step away from the past but it would be good to see a new silhouette and line in clothing as it seems all new (old) fashion coming out has been done before.

There will always be new trends but not original ones, well not for the next couple of years at least, as the 90s comes in…. so buy some 90s’ era-vans, book your spiral perm and pray for a new fashion era!!











Karen Walker

I think a big change in fashion today is the severing of style restraints. Although we still watch trends and continue to create new ones (and visit old ones!) we are so much more free to our own devices when creating fashion. We pretty much have no restrictions or expectations and every day we can become a fashion innovator in our own sense. Fashion is our playground and we have the confidence to be dynamic and embody fashion as an attitude and a way of life!

Another change in fashion today is where we draw inspiration from; we are forward thinking; drawing inspiration from people on the streets, blogs, art, music and film (Camilla Franks channelling Avatar at Australian Fashion Week!). Increases in technology and interconnectedness means that there are virtually no limits to the sources we can look to in the search for a fashion muse!

I have always had a passion for clothes and fashion. I made my first garment, a skirt, by hand at 9yrs of age and have been making clothes ever since. I am still very passionate about fashion and clothes but only sew for myself now as work full time as a nurse. Now I am in my fifties I have great difficulty in how to dress. I want to wear fashion without looking “mutton/lamb” scenario and my body has taken on a shape that is very foreign to me. I can still visualize a garment and create it but the age thing sneaks up on me & kicks me in the butt. I see women my age wearing clothes the same way younger girls wear them which is hideous. I believe us older ones can wear fashion but differently. I obviously still have a reasonably good dress sense as friends & colleagues ask my advice and respect my opinion on fashion, even the younger ones.

Yes the fashions are cyclic. I hoard garments I really love and reinvent them at appropriate times. Last weekend I tweaked a 10yr old very expensive, hardly worn skirt and wore it to work today. Recently I walked into a very posh boutique wearing a Glassons skirt from 80s. I heard the shop assistant comment “look at that lady’s gorgeous skirt”!

Paisley – I wore it to death in the sixties and it keeps coming back. I have never been able to bring myself to wear it again. It’s the same with velvet. And shoulder pads are back! That’s great as in theory if you dress with shoulders & hips about same size it gives the illusion of smaller waist.

Why has fashion changed? The range of fabrics is huge now. The construction, dyes, and usability is amazing. And of course designers of fabrics and garments are not inhibited to try anything. Generations ago woman didn’t go out to work so. Competition is rampant. I must dig out an 80s blazer of mine I had tucked away. I hope it fits as I noticed on a recent trip to Surfers Paradise, blazers were worn with everything and I think a well cut blazer always look smart whether with jeans, shorts or skirt. I’m a great believer in “it’s not what you wear but how you wear it”










Juliette Hogan

50 years ago all NZ fashion was actually made in NZ, there was no importing of garments from offshore, and this did not happen until the 1990’s when legislation changed. 50 years ago people’s lives and needs were different, there was a lot of home sewing as buying clothes was expensive, now with china made being so inexpensive, it is now expensive to do home sewing.

Another change can be attributed to technological changes, in the development of new fabrics and ways of finishing fabrics and treatments contributing to more sophisticated outcomes. World values have changed and where 30 years ago vintage clothing was scorned, now with the embracing of recycling and caring for the environment vintage clothing is revered.

As Oscar Wilde said, “fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”. Change in fashion stems from a need for individuality but due to a lack of creativity, we fall in love with old trends again. I think we get bored easily, and fashion is no exception. Change in fashion also reflects the times; we buy high end fashion clothes when the economy is good, and see a revival of scruffy or cheaper clothing during these changing times. It is all a reflection of society.










Madame Hawke

I think that fashion changes with lifestyle and attitude. Fashion designers get their inspiration from their own ideas of what fashion should look like. You mentioned that old fashions tend to make a comeback, which would indicate that perhaps fashion hasn’t really changed very much at all. What have changed are people’s attitudes, especially among the younger generation. What I’ve noticed is that younger people wearing 80’s style clothing look more modern, smarter and youthful. Perhaps it has something to do with their attitude and because they are young. It is not always about the clothes but the person wearing the clothes.

I’m turning 50, (yes 50, groan) this year. What sticks in my mind, about fashion is this: As I was growing up, I always wanted to wear the pretty, floral sundresses my mother wore in the summer. I thought my mum looked beautiful, feminine, and soft. In the 60s, 70s and even early 80s I still loved this look. Now, I’m dieting, and I am sooooo going to buy or make a pretty sun-frock for myself this year! That’s fashion…something that you grow up with…your memories.

Article by Natalie Cosgrove

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