American Women’s Fashion Through the Decades

By Liz ’20

The purpose of this project was to showcase a change in society starting in the 1920s through the then current year, 2018. It was originally shot on black and white film with a Canon but the photos in this are the higher quality edited versions shot on a Nikon and were edited in the most recent version of photoshop. 

It opens with the 1920s with a flapper dress and pearls. This is meant to both showcase the flapper era, but also an ode to the modern fashion Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli truly created during this time period.

The 1930s photos are meant to show the divide within in America. Our economy was in shambles, but it was also the Golden Age of Hollywood. The pictures are also colored in Sepia which was inspired by the coloring of some of the most famous photos of the great depression.

For the 1940s I wanted to copy the “Rosie the Riveter” poster, but add a more feminine flair to it to encapsulate the fashion at the time, but also women in the workplace. The model wears a simple dress with a bandana pulling her back much like the iconic propaganda piece. She also wears red lipstick, which to me was the most important detail because Hitler apparently hated red, so American women started wearing it to rebel.

The 1950s photo is meant to encapsulate the American housewife. She stays at home, she wears her skirt, she cooks and cleans for the family. These pictures are simple because the life of women was simple. They weren’t partying like the 20s or working like the 40s. They were just stay-at-home as part of the all new nuclear family in an era of nuclear war. 

The 1960s photos capture the hippie and free spirit vibe of the time. The model has flowers and peace signs on her face, flowers in her hair, and a tie-dye crop top. Personally, these portraits are my favorite of the essay.

The 1970s are where the “essay” starts to split into different subcultures of eras. One focuses on music with a Pink Floyd t-shirt and the other on common women’s fashion of the time with bootcut jeans and clog-type shoes. The lime coloring in the photos is meant to like actual color photographs and polaroids of the decade. This is the one if I could go back and change I would. I would probably have done something based off of Jackie from That 70s Show and something a bit more rock and roll. 

The 1980s features 3 unique looks. The 80s were particularly cool because they were the easiest to make outfits for because modern pop culture has made items from them so popular again: particularly brands such as Champion and Adidas, as well as scrunchies. The first two looks might as well be modern. The challenge with these was of course timing the photos because I had to be in them as we were short on models.  

The 1990s also features 3 unique looks. The first one being grunge, the second one being an ode to my local city, and the third being the denim on denim trend. I felt like doing a grunge look was very important not only as a 90s alternative fan, but because it shaped pop culture. Flannels and Guitars defined the decade. The hockey jersey is mostly to represent a local feat: the penguins becoming back-to back Stanley Cup Champions in 1991 and 1992. The 90s were also when NHL jersey sales really began to pick up and become a part of fashion. The biggest challenge for this was trying to get everyone’s eyebrows to look thin as that was the supermodel trend, and unfortunately it did not work very well.

The 2000s once again features three unique looks. They were each based off of something pretty specific. The velvet dress outfit was based off of the outfit Kourtney Kardashian wore to Kim Kardashian’s playboy magazine gala. The striped sweater one is based off of emo icon, Pete Wentz, and the third was based off of juicy sweatsuits and “logomania”. These ones were by far the most fun to create because they’re ridiculous. Oversized Chanel sunglasses, a giant Louis Vuitton bucket, glossy lips, black eyeliner, sandals with tights. The 2000s were strange to say the least. 

The final set of photos shows 2018 fashion. I wanted to do a play on the whole thing by showing what’s old is new again holding the original camera used to shoot this and a bag from the 1980s. Another one of the photos shows the models taking a selfie to show we have also progressed in photo technology.  

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