• The 'S' Report

How Does Politics Affects Fashion

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Fashion is one of those things which can be affected by almost anything... For example, the rise of technology, celebrities, or political change. One of the most unknown factors which effect fashion trends is politics, essentially positive politics or modernization of society leads to more outrageous trends or to show more skin whereas more conservative politics often leads to more conservative and modest styles.

From 1900-1920 the main change to women’s fashion was in the shortening of skirts to around the ankles, clothing became easier to move in and some skirts could even be turned into trousers for cycling in! The main political movements to affect fashion during this time was the fight for the women’s vote, the Suffragettes and Suffragists needed slightly shorter skirts which were easier to march in. Hemlines were also raised because of the First World War where women were given more responsibility outside of the home.

The 1920s are of course famous for flapper style, dropped waist and luscious fabrics. These styles were more outrageous than they had ever been before because women had more rights, they were able to leave the house without a chaperone, have more control over their money and of course, vote (in some circumstances).

The Great Depression at the end of the decade cast the whole World into economic turmoil which in turn led to more modest styles and fabrics. Which continued through much of the 1930s, as World politics negatively turned towards Fascism, styles became more conservative and shapeless.

Although this did not change greatly during WWII it did lead to easier and cheaper styles to make as fabric rationing was put in. The Second World War created many different types of change to women’s clothes, on the one hand fabric rationing lead to inventions like the bikini and many women’s styles was made more fitted and feminine in order to please servicemen. But on the other hand, many styles became easier to work in as women were called for the war effort. Fashion during this time spread out, and there were more and more types of in-style fashion.

The intense feminine styles continued into the 1950s, the memory of the huge losses of WWII was very fresh and people were keen to create families. The idea of the nuclear family was created and women were encouraged not to work. This lead to clothes which would have been difficult to work in, Christian Dior helped to create this look with a cinched in waist and accentuated bust and hips. Women also wore corsets to help cinch in the waist. These expensive dresses reflected the post war posterity in the US and in the UK to a lesser extent.

The 1960s fashion movement was effectively kicked off with the contraceptive pill being legalised in 1961. Fashion trends reflected this sexual liberation through the trends introduced, in particular skirts were shorter than they had ever been before even though it was considered to be shocking by many, many people. The 1960s was a time of great uproar with youth culture growing and many people protesting against the Cold War which meant that these outrageous fashion trends were a sign of rebellion.

The 1970s featured a great amount of economic turmoil which led to miners strikes in the UK. This turmoil meant that the hippie subculture style became mainstream with more modest hemlines and loose clothing becoming more fashionable. Think maxi-skirts, bell sleeves and platform shoes. The anti-establishment sentiment in the country was reflected in the fashion of the decade.

Image Courtesy of MGM Pictures

The greatest influence of the 1980s was undoubtedly the rise of pop culture and technology. In particular there was great progress made in fabric technology which saw the rise of more synthetic materials.

Synthetic materials were synonymous for the 80s styles but in particular with the rise of sportswear and leggings. Clothing was also brighter and tighter than ever before. The 80s saw the rise of more and more different types of clothes and options for different patterns.

While there are many styles synonymous with the 90s, there are only a few styles which reflected the high fashion of the time. The bright colours, shell jackets and baggy jeans were really just left-over styles from the 80s. High fashion in the 90s showed a move towards minimalism both in colours and in styles, less patterns and less fabric. Sheer slip dresses and strappy sandals became popular. This reflected a swing to the left Tony Blair and Bill Clinton coming to power as well as a feeling of optimism with the fall of the USSR. In general, if people feel positive or there is a more liberal government in power there is a greater amount of skin shown in fashion and if there is a conservative government it is reflected in the conservative clothing.

Considering the horrific effects of 9/11 it would have been expected that there would be a swing towards more conservative fashions. Instead the trend followed the rise of mobile phones, developments in technology and social media meant that the trends of the 2000s followed celebrities and pop media icons instead of politics. Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and J.Lo all sported the lose rise jean, the Juicy Couture tracksuit and the monogram handbag and so did the rest of the country. While it can be considered strange that there was not a move towards conservatism it instead shows the beginning of the true obsession of pop culture icons and their influence. Their influence was far greater than pop culture icons before them, think Madonna or Kate Moss, because of technology, everyone all over the World could see their outfits every day.

Now the 2010s carried forth the legacy of the Juicy Couture tracksuit in to athleisure but the 2010s created athleisure without genders. The most recent fashion has seen the rise of androgynous fashion which relates to gender based stereotypes being relaxed and LGBTQ+ rights growing, such as legalizing gay marriage.

The most recent change came in around 2016, after the Brexit vote and Trump got elected, this huge swing to the right has reflected in the trends since then. We have seen hemlines much lower on maxi skirts and dresses and much looser clothing.

And finally who knows what the 2020s will bring, but if its anything like the first 5 months it will be pyjamas... Lots and lots of pyjamas…

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