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What's been the biggest change in fashion trends in the last decade?

Fashion in the 21st century can seem like a grab-bag of 20th century classics.
Fashion in the 21st century can seem like a grab-bag of 20th century classics.
Leonard Mc Lane/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Every decade leaves its mark on fashion past. The '20s put flapper dresses on the book. The '40s gave us women's menswear. The '50s brought midis; the '60s saw minis and Pucci prints; the '70s ushered in the hippie-bohemian look and the '80s kicked off girly punk. The '90s let us down a bit with combat boots and grunge but inspired, happily, a backlash: The millennium's woman is all woman.

The first decade of the 21st century has been a feminine one, with curve-hugging jeans and minis paired with flowing tops, sexy platforms and pink, so much pink. Even the later-decade's bold, bright primaries work to highlight, not hide. But even in all this there is the question: What will the first decade of the millennium leave on the books? Because certainly "womanly" has been done by other designers in other times.

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So what's the look of the '00s? It's an interesting question, with an even more interesting answer: The millennial fashion statement reveals a pretty surprising cultural statement -- maybe even a rebellion.

But it's not the kind of rebellion we've seen before ...

If you had to define the millennium in one word, it might be something like "forward." Progress, most notably in the technological realm, isn't stopping for a breath. Our world today, in terms of processing power, gadgets, video capabilities and communication speed would be unrecognizable to a time traveler from the '80s. It would likely boggle the mind of one from the '90s.

And yet fashion-wise, time travelers would feel much more at home. Super-flares and skinny jeans, maxi skirts and platforms, mini-dresses, knee-high boots, head wraps and "boyfriend" blazers all take their cue from decades past.

The decade's greatest fashion statement is in direct opposition to its technological one. Fashion, in this decade, is looking backward for inspiration, perhaps more so than any decade before.

Retro is everywhere, from the runways to the department stores. When you pull something new off the rack chances are pretty good it's a twist on something old, and people love it: Katherine Hepburn's high-waist, drapey wide-leg trousers minus the pleats; 1980s skinny jeans in modern color washes; '70s platforms now supporting shoeties and strappy stilettos.

And so much more. This decade is seeing ankle pants and flats straight out of the '60s, '70s-style bohemian maxis and skinny leather head ties, OTK boots not seen since 1990's "Pretty Woman," and blazers the over-40 crowd wore in high school with their penny loafers.

High fashion has helped set the "old is new again" look. Pillbox hats (with asymmetrical veils!) showed up on fall season runways. Winter haute couture featured old-school, (mostly faux) fur vests. Spring lines sported big, bold prints that call up Pucci -- in caftan cut, no less.

What exactly the heavily retro fashion movement tells us about our forward-thinking culture is up for grabs, but it seems to point to a certain, perhaps sub-conscious resistance to the "new and now" of the millennium. Where so many components of society, technology and industry are looking forward, and fast, the fashion world is decidedly reminiscent, taking pieces from the past and making them new again -- and not always all that different.

Of course, few fashion lovers will be shocked by this revelation. Fashion is, and always has been, cyclical. The past decade has simply taken it up a notch. Perhaps the early 2000s will go down as the fashion era with the confidence (and defiance?) to look unabashedly back.

For more information on fashion, style and all kinds of trends, check out the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • Anderson, Kurt. "You Say You Want a Devolution?" Vanity Fair. Jan. 2012. (March 27, 2012) http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2012/01/prisoners-of-style-201201
  • Feldman, Jenny. "The 10 Best Fashion Trends of the Past Decade." Glamour. Dec. 2010. (Mar. 27, 2012) http://www.glamour.com/fashion/2009/03/70-years-of-style#slide=1
  • Hagerty, Casey. "Top 10 style icons of the '00s." The Arizona Republic. Nov. 28, 2009. (March 27, 2012) http://www.azcentral.com/review/2009/style/articles/2009/11/28/20091128decade-styleicons.html
  • Harrell, Ashley. "The 10 Worst Fashion Trends of the Decade." SFWeekly. Dec. 23, 2009. (March 27, 2012) http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2009/12/the_10_worst_fashion_trends_of.php
  • Lee, Melissa. Fashion Trends Through the Decades. Fashion in the 20th Century. (March 27, 2012) http://www.tufts.edu/~mlee21/trends.html
  • Wasserman, Sydney. "Fall 2010 Runway Fashion Trend: Dress the Decades." Elle. June 14, 2010. (March 27, 2012) http://www.elle.com/Fashion/Fashion-Spotlight/Fall-2010-Runway-Fashion-Trend-Dress-the-Decades

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