Fashion Trends and Social Change

Fashion Trends and Social Change

In our last journal post, we talked about skinny jeans and this got us thinking about how fashion trends come and go. We wanted to take a deeper look into why this is. If we look beyond the surface of fashion as simply what we wear, we can see how it has always been a powerful vehicle for change, rebellion and self-expression. Fashion is a mouthpiece for society. 

We are fascinated by the history of fashion, and this is reflected in our love for vintage-inspired denim at HERA. We love how you can look at an old photo and pinpoint the era simply based on what is being worn. The clothes represent the mood and culture. They tell us of the spirit of an era - what were their ideas and beliefs. What was happening in the world at that time?

Women in pants 1930s fashion

As we look back, we can see it in the roaring 20s, as society came out of the repression of WW1 and women wanted to free themselves of corsets and long dresses. During WW2 women took on the jobs of men. Fashion reflected this in the scarcity of materials available, with menswear being worn and adapted, creating a very utilitarian and practical style. 

Again, post-war brought big change. The ‘new look’ popularised by Christian Dior was a clear contrast to the fashions of the 40s. These are the big skirts and hyper-feminine shapes of the 50s. However, you could say this was a setback for women, a reflection of society telling them they were to go back to the roles they held pre-war - this is where we get the 50s housewife era. 

Mini skirt protest 1960s

Mini skirts in the 60s were a form of rebellion and were often worn by the young to make a statement of women’s rights. They were a reflection on the availability of the contraceptive pill and an expression of their sexual freedom. 

This is also where our beloved jeans start to take a centre-stage. During the 60s, jeans had spread to the American middle class (a contrast to their humble beginnings as workwear for lower class men). Protesting college students wore them as a token of solidarity with the working class - those most affected by racial discrimination and the war draft. They even became banned in schools, which only made the young embrace them more. Jeans became a symbol of youth and rebellion.

Vintage Jeans 1960

The 70s, we all know, was the era of hippies. Fashion was a huge vehicle for self-expression as many fought for a better and more equal world - and jeans continued to be a centrepiece of the youths fashion, often being worn to protest with embellishments of peace signs and other symbols of social change.

The ’80s brought another big stage for women’s rights with a more androgynous style of oversized power suits and shoulder pads. Women were again making a stand that they hold a position in the workforce equally with men.

And now we are in the here and now. Again, we’ve been breaking down gender stereotypes and challenging what is typically ‘feminine or ‘masculine’. We’ve been seeing fashion continue to become androgynous, blurring the lines of men and women’s clothes. This may be part of the reason for the move away from the figure-hugging shapes for many women, and specifically the well-loved skinny jean (in reference to our last post), showing us transitions to a world that is no longer hypermasculine or hyperfeminine. It is a world that is giving both men and women more options and greater freedom to truly express themselves. 

1970s jeans with peace sign

Our digital era of fashion and social media has made huge changes for fashion. We are able to see a much wider representation of bodies, styles and beauty. We can find our niche and community in ways we never have before. We’ve brought a voice to the people like never before and are able to hear and know what you are wanting in real-time. The age of the influencer has turned the leaders of fashion around on the people, not on designers or celebrities as it has always been in the past. We are seeing more brands representing groups that have been underrepresented in the past. With the internet broadening the reach brands are able to have, this is ultimately enabling us to create a far more inclusive fashion world.

Whether you’re an early adopter, embracing a fashion change for a conscious social or political reason, or you wear a trend because it’s simply what’s on offer in the stores, it’s interesting to look at the reasons why a trend becomes popular. If we look a little deeper, the beginnings of that trend will surely have more meaning. 

Ultimately, we want to see women of today dress in a way that feels authentic to them, and that is really what’s amazing in the fashion offerings of now. You can take a trend and love it or leave it if it’s not for you, really, this is a time in which we can and should dress however the hell we want!


If you want to read a little more, take a look at these posts: