Over the past century there’s been a huge shift in politics, culture, technology and social norms — and fashion has mirrored this with its ever-changing cycle of trends. Here we are exploring how our current range is influenced by everything from the Roaring Twenties to the Swinging Sixties and beyond.
It’s London Fashion Week and whilst the catwalks are showcasing what we’ll be wearing in Autumn/Winter 2023 we’re taking a look back at how fashion has evolved over the last century. Toolally’s Founder and Creative Director Mags takes her inspiration from art, architecture and fashion history; delving into archives, books and often films to get inspiration from shape, trends and culture from past decades that ultimately inform our final designs.
The Roaring Twenties and The Jazz Age
During the 20s, women’s clothing became a form of self-expression. Many old-fashioned attitudes began shifting and women were given the freedom to wear what they loved. Dress became more relaxed. This shift wasn’t only apparent in fashion, but in all aspects of life. By 1920 more women could vote, drive and smoke. It was a revolutionary time where women finally felt comfortable to express themselves.
Designers Coco Chanel and Jean Patou led the way, sharing a belief that clothing should be comfortable and easy to wear. For everyday there were unstructured jackets, hip-length sweaters and simple skirts. Come evening drop-waist, full-hemmed flapper dresses that were perfect for dancing the night away at jazz clubs.
This era inspired our first Toolally earring collection and remains an enduring source of creative ideas.
At the beach
For years people had feared the effects of the sun. But as fashion became more exposed, along with it came the “suntan era”. Women donned short sleeves, rompers, beach pyjamas and wrap tops whilst lounging in the sun. A glowing tan was the new look people yearned for, and if the real thing wasn’t achievable, sunshine lamps, suntan stockings and suntan powder were used to achieve the look.
From Glamour to Utility
The Wall Street Crash in the Autumn of 1929 brought the Roaring Twenties to an abrupt halt. Hemlines dropped while waistlines rose above the natural waist. The reign of flappers was over. As more women take on paid employment, daytime looks become tailored and along came shoulder pads, calf-length skirts and angled, slim fitting clothing. Slimline silhouettes were broken up with clever seaming, belts, novelty buttons, deep cuffs and pussy bows. Matching hats became popular, which were worn at an angle. Designers Lanvin, Mainbocher and Chanel lead the way.
Understated elegance with an edge can be achieved with a single stud from our Alphabet Collection.
Styled by Hollywood
Hollywood became a big fashion influence in the 1930s. Cinema trips became a popular pastime and alluring movie outfits were adored. Inspired by the Tarzan films, animal prints were welcomed and by night Jean Harlow-styled outfits. Focus shifted from legs to plunging backs. Figure-hugging gowns which were frequently cut along the lines of swimwear were suspended from the thinnest of shoulder straps. Backs were often totally exposed and shiny fluid fabrics clung tightly to their body. Black, white, off-white, silver, gold and apricot shades were popular colour choices.
This era heralded the arrival of the silver screen goddess, and our Art Deco Chandeliers could have been designed to grace the ears of stars like Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo.
From the 1930s going through to the 1940s came the age of ruffles, frills and lace. Gathered fabrics created a soft look, with the addition of sequins for extra sparkle. Puffed sleeves, metallic shoes and V-neck backs dominated the evening look. Floral patterns were popular, giving a feminine and romantic feel.
The New Look
French designer Christian Dior’s revolutionary “New Look” dominated womenswear from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Waists were pulled in tightly, busts were high and shoulders soft. Skirts were longer than before and voluminous. This hourglass look revived petticoats, stiffened bodices and expensive fabrics.
Princess Margaret was an early adopter of the “New Look”, wearing this style in 1948 in the form of a suit. At each formal event appearance, her wardrobe reflected the style of the day. She quickly became an iconic fashion figure.
Pearls are always perfect, try our Flameball Pearls.
Swinging Sixties and Mini Magic
The swinging sixties was a time of optimism and positivity, and this was reflected throughout fashion. There was a shift towards youth, dubbed a “youthquake”. Women were no longer expected to wear suits as soon as they grew up. Young London designers paved the way and took their funky fashion to the US. Society was becoming less formal, model Jean Shrimpton attended the Gold Cup horse race in Australia in 1965 wearing a skirt 5 inch above her knee.
During the 60s, the minidress created a fashion revolution. This was an easy-to-wear basic A-line design that could be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Block colours, pop art prints and impactful patterns all worked. The dress could be as daring as the wearer wanted. London model Twiggy shot to fame in 1966, at just 16 years of age. Her look was a striking version of the mod – a crucial youth-cut link. She quickly became known as “The Face of ‘66”. Twiggy modelled countless variations of the simple 60s mini dress including Yves Saint Laurent’s landmark 1967 African collection.
Into the Space Age
The late 1960s through to the 70s was a time of space exploration, sparking imagination of what the future might look like. Fashion was quick to jump onto this theme and Pierre Cardin’s Space-Age collection began the trend. This look featured metallic cloth and colourful plastics, vinyl, PVC and acrylic. The futuristic pieces included geometric shapes, A-line silhouettes, unisex styles, miniskirts and bright, bold colours.
Our iridescent acrylic is the perfect material.
In the early 70s, the era of glam rock radiated through society. This trend was characterised by its iconic sense of fashion as well as its sound. Made famous by male-centric bands and their feminine sense of style, glam rock brought together all the hard-hitting volume loved by rock fans and plenty of colour and glitter. Musicians created larger than life characters which they would play out in a theatrical way – one to mention being Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust.
The Designer Decade
The 80s was the decade of the power dresser and punks. In 1981 MTV was born, which gave us Madonna, Sade, Tina Turner, Cher and many other superstars that dominated fashion. This was also the year that Princess Diana married Prince Charles and she quickly became a world-leading fashion icon.
Baby boomers such as Tommy Hilfiger were becoming mature and more affluent, and they planted their feet firmly among the upmarket fashion influencers. The hottest trends included high waisted and acid washed jeans, ripped denim, shoulder pads, leg warmers, spandex, Lycra, business suits with skirts, leotards and punk leather items. Dramatic statement earrings and big hair finished off the look.
Minimal and conceptual
The early 1990s brought a reign of simpler looks with plain colour palettes. It was a very different style compared to the 80s – but this appealed to women in professional working environments. New notions of anti-fashion emerged, with designers paring down their looks. Designers Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester in Belgium and Hussein Chalayan in England took an intellectual approach to fashion, stripping clothes back to first principles as part of their design aesthetic.
Vintage and Vogue
The grunge scene of the late 90s saw the vintage trend emerge, the idea of putting old clothes together to create a new look. Army gear and flannelette shirts from thrift shops were staples. By the early 2000s, the pared-back hobo look of grunge evolved into boho – short for bohemian. This referred to a group of 18th-century French artists living cheaply but with great style.