How fashion has evolved through the decades

by mylovesiren1

Jun 26 2023

Fashion fades, style is eternal.” While the quote by the famed Yves Saint Laurent does ring true, we feel that it is more apt to say “fashion is reimagined, style is eternal.” This is because if there is anything that we can all agree on in the fashion world, it’s that fashion always recycles, whether we like it or not. Over the last few decades fashion has changed rather dramatically, but has also kept trends from the past very much alive.

For men and women, fashion is fundamentally tied to identity. You are what you wear. There are many different ways to dress and style yourself that could be inspired by media, print, or anything from the past. Beginning with old-school trends back in the 1980s and later being revived into a more modern style in the 90s and late 2000s, fashion is a never-ending tidal wave of change and revival.

For someone to understand fashion and its fascinating never-ending cycle of change, one must first know and appreciate the history of fashion trends over the decades. Now, without further ado, let us dive into history and discover how fashion has evolved from from the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s.


If you grew up in the 1980s or have older siblings that were born in that decade, then you definitely know that 80s fashion was all about being bright, big and loud! It was a decade of big hair, shoulder pads, large and dramatic earring types, acid wash jeans and vibrant, eye-catching fabric colors and patterns. That being said, the 80s style was more than having bright clothes and larger than life hair- it was also about finding one’s own style individuality and breaking the strict rules of what men and women could wear set by the previous decades.

Here’s the top 4 must haves for every fashion enthusiasts back in the 80s:

  1. Printed blouses- Structured outfits and printed blouses were all a go-to for women.
  2. High Waisted Denims- High-waisted anything seems like the fashion mantra of the ‘80s, and it’s usually worn with a tucked in shirt.
  3. Blazer With Shoulder Pads- Preferably oversized and boxy, in bright colours or floral patterned.
  4. Bomber Jacket- An essential part of both men and women’s wardrobe at that time

80s fashion gave rise to more style idols than any previous decade. It might be hard to imagine right now in the age of social media influencers, but in the 80s there were no cell phones or internet. TV offered only a few channels, and watching a movie was a luxury. After television, magazines, and advertising were the average person’s main source of fashion information. Thus, the limited exposure gave a select group of celebrities, pop artists, music bands, and eighties clothing brands the opening to exert a significant influence on 80’s fashion trends. In short, the 1980s was really a golden age for music and movies, and along with that came all of the iconic looks that we know today as 80’s fashion.

Celebrities like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Molly Ringwald, and Cyndi Lauper heavily influenced the masses when it came to what they wore. And even though it has been decades since the 1980s, who could forget the cool and crazy outfits these fashion trailblazers wore? We know we can’t! Let’s take a deeper look at the best fits of these 80s style icons.


Even though Madonna had so many fabulous looks during the 1980s, there were some fashion trends of hers that remained constant that those who followed her will recognize. While punk fashion has long been commercialized, Madonna is credited to popularizing the whole girly punk rock fashion movement. Madonna’s daring, tight-fitting ensembles were a game changer- like her controversial white outfit for the 1984 MTV VMAs. Her white lace gown and long fingerless gloves, combined with a plethora of pearls, “boy toy” belt buckle, and her signature cross necklace made an impact on everyone at that time.

Madonna also embraced all things dark and edgy. She loved combining different styles together, like soft feminine with traditionally masculine pieces, like her memorable look from that era which consisted of a tuxedo jacket draped over her low-cut black top and black pants, combined, of course, with signature layered accessories like pearl necklaces, a black bow headband, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and bangle bracelets makes her outfit quintessentially 80s.

Michael Jackson

The King of Pop was known for his distinctive fashion sense and style, which were heavily influenced by his love of fantasy and theatrics.It’s been decades, but his iconic looks and costumes, such as the white glove, glittery jackets, fedoras, and aviator sunglasses, continue to be referenced and imitated by fashion designers, celebrities, and fans alike.

One of his most memorable attires would have to be his white suit, which was first seen in the music video for “Smooth Criminal”.The suit featured a white jacket with black stripes, black pants, and a white shirt.

Molly Ringwald

Millennials and Generation Z probably never heard of Molly Ringwald, but back then she was a teen fashion icon. A fun style mix of girly and edgy, Molly was the perfect 80s icon for teenagers discovering their own sense of style. 80s babies definitely remember her pink prom dress from the “Sixteen Candles” movie- the halter neckline, puffy sleeves and inverted-triangle, sack like silhouette has 1980s written all over it in the best way.

The ’80s darling rocked numerous other classic ’80s trends, like cropped off the shoulder t-shirts, pleated skater skirts, quirky little hats and some chunky jewelry. However, we personally cannot get over her character Claire Standish’s spoiled suburban princess fit- a pink shirt, a brown maxi skirt, a brown belt, brown boots, and a white ascot. Truly an 80s classic.

Cyndi Lauper

Along with the likes of Madonna, Lauper was known for her distinctive, free-spirited image that was influenced by bold trends of the ‘80s. Colourful stacked bracelets, vibrant locks, and retro cut dresses and skirts, Lauper blended the boldness of the ‘80s with punk-rock elements when it came to her ensembles. Lauper favours the preppy meets grunge vibe, like a red plaid high-neck top with a matching skirt or babydoll mini dresses with sparkly sequins. Lauper also rocked the denim on denim ensemble, or more specifically a long sleeved, denim button-up shirt, a denim vest, and a jean skirt. She also went all out on the accessories- multiple chain belts, transparent gloves, vibrant chandelier earrings, bangles upon bangles to tie up the look. The fact that many still emulate the “Girls just wanna have fun” singer till this day is a testament to her impact on 80s fashion.


In the final decade of the twentieth century, fashion continued to move towards a more casual style of dressing and minimalism, but it was still bold and vibrantly colourful. Breaking away from the big hair and shoulder pads that dominated the ’80s, the 90s fashion trends consisted of casual, chic outfits defined by cardigans, baggy T-shirts, slip dresses, and sportswear. Being the last ‘cell phone-less’ generation, 90s fashion was also heavily influenced by television and magazines.

To sum it up, the 90s fashion trends encompassed glam and grunge looks, with casual streetwear-inspired outfits and chic, high-fashion looks. Listed below are the top 5 ‘must haves’ in a 90s fashionista’s wardrobe:

  1. Slip dress: This simple, spaghetti strap garment embodied the minimalist approach that dominated 1990s fashion. The mini silk slip dress also played a key role in defining the underwear-as-outerwear trend.
  1. Chain belts: Inspired by the hip-hop music scene, chain belts are a type of belt made out of linked metal. Rather than fitting through the belt loops of a pair of pants like a traditional buckle belt, a chain-link belt is worn looped around mid-waist or hips and hangs down, sometimes wrapping around the body more than once. During the ‘90s, chain belts appeared on the runway in couture shows for ready-to-wear collections.
  1. Sportswear: Athletic wear—such as oversized jerseys, cropped T-shirts, and tracksuits—became a staple in ‘90s fashion.Pop artists often wore baggy sports jerseys, and the iconic Princess Diana often wore a pair of fitted biker shorts with an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of white sneakers. This relaxed, workout look became an iconic image of ‘90s casual wear.
  1. Graphic tees: Both women and menswear during the ‘90s included oversized graphic tees. Baggy T-shirts with colorful and patterned designs were a laid-back way to make a fashion statement. A typical grunge outfit included a band T-shirt, pair of jeans, and beanie hat.
  1. Overalls: This casual outfit was a signature trend, and the style to wear denim overalls was to rock it with one strap down. Furthermore, most wore bold, patterned long-sleeve shirts or a simple white turtleneck under the overalls depending on the look.

It would be remiss of us to list out 90s fashion without mentioning the most influential fashion icons of the 90s- supermodels! Their fame and social power allegedly surpassed that of many movie stars back in the day, with their outfits taking center page in all the magazines and gossip columns. One such example is Kate Moss, who was the face of the 90s supermodel chic style. While her runway and beauty campaigns were absolutely stunning, Kate is more famous for her personal style. Her love of vintage, edgy and effortlessly cool clothes has made her a memorable style icon.

Kate is an expert in laid-back polish. One of our favourite street style outfits that she has would definitely be the simple white-tank-and-jeans ensemble, which she styled with a statement leopard print tote and a gold chain. Other than that, Kate also elevates a T-shirt and jeans to new heights with heeled sandals and a cute shoulder bag. When it comes to red carpet looks, we love Kate’s gray micro-mini skirt, diamond accessories and massive white fur coat. Boxy, androgynous, with the merest hint of sparkle, it really is a show-stopper and captures the essence of quintessential 90s style.


The arrival of a new century meant a whole new era of fashion must haves as well as new style icons. Fashion trends in the 2000s were born out of globalization and the rise of fast fashion (affordable clothes based off runway designs usually found in department stores), and celebrities’ growing influence as style icons. This decade spurned the era of reality tv as well as blogging- in fact, technology and Y2K had a huge impact on fashion in the early 2000s, as the general public had access to fashion shows and online fashion influencers that many had never had before.

Style mavens of the 2000s would definitely need these 5 items in their wardrobe:

  1. Baby Tees- While the 90s favoured oversized tees, the midriff-baring baby tees were the favoured t-shirt of the 2000s.
  1. Baguette Bags- Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw popularized these itty bitty shoulder bags in this decade.
  1. Velour Tracksuits- Brands like Juicy Couture were instrumental in popularizing this look back in the day. As for color, the 2000s baddies preferred to rock them in bubblegum pink, baby blue, bright green, or soft purple—the more velveteen looking, the better.
  1. Metallics- Due to the technological advancements of the era, futuristic fashion was all the rage in the 2000s.
  1. Kitsch Accessories

Friendship bracelets, charm necklaces, sparkly barrettes, zig-zig headbands were all the rage back in the day.

When it comes to style icons in the 2000s, there’s no denying that Carrie Bradshaw was one of the biggest sources of Y2K fashion inspiration. Who can forget her little ballerina inspired tutu outfit and Dior newspaper print dress from the show? We know we can’t!

The actress behind that iconic character, Sarah Jessica Parker, had an off-screen style that was just as good. SJP never shied away from statement pieces, funky hats, and bold accessories. She often styled late 90s trends like strappy heeled sandals and strapless dresses with an early 2000s flare.

Other than SJP, another style icon of this decade would have to be the famed hotel heiress and socialist, Paris Hilton. As stated earlier, this decade favoured velour tracksuits, which was actually popularized by Paris. Other than that, ultra-low-rise jeans, skirts, and trousers that exposed a lot of hip bone was also a staple in her 2000s era closet. One of her most iconic looks, which is the silver Julien Macdonald chainmail dress, was a top favourite that decade- risqué, sexy, and, ultimately, legendary.

Needless to say, Paris Hilton is a pop culture legend. However, considering the recent resurgence of Y2K styles, she has also been solidified as a fashion icon.


Fashion got casual in the 2010s. From the wellness movement to 24/7 access to just about anyone on Instagram and Snapchat, a relaxed culture ensued. The 2010s were essentially defined by hipster fashion, athleisure, a revival of austerity-era period pieces and alternative fashions, swag-inspired outfits, 1980s-style neon streetwear, and unisex 1990s-style elements influenced by grunge and skater fashions. Gone were the days of low rise jeans with tight spaghetti tops, this decade embraced the art of playful layering and vintage boho street wear.

With that being said, here’s the top 4 must haves during the 2010s:

  1. Peplum tops: Peplums are essential to every girl’s closet at that time. This versatile top can be seen worn casually or on a fancy night out.
  2. Skinny Jeans: skin tight black jeans were very much preferred in this decade
  3. Leggings: This essential item was often worn on its own with a cute top or under a mini skirt, paired with boots or wedge sneakers.
  4. Millennial Pink: Clothes and accessories in this popular shade was a must back in the day.

As stated, 2010s were the start of internet influencer culture. Instead of just celebrities and fashion shows, such as social media influencer, Kylie Jenner. Kylie’s fashion style was undoubtedly popular in the early and mid 2010s, and is still fondly remembered by many as her best style era to date. Sporting unforgettable blue dip-dye hair, Kylie often rocks cutout and bodycon dresses and styles them up with statement bags with open toe heels or big black boots. One of our favourite looks of Kylies during that era would have to be the silky black gown with a thigh-high slit, accessorized with some stacked bracelets and a long necklace.

Interested in rocking some of the best fashion trends throughout the decades? Check out SRY and Havan for the best fits right here on Atome.

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