From Flappers to Feminism. Freedom for Women through Fashion.

Flappers - Melissa of Discover Black Heritage

When you combine depression chic with the 80’s revival you get a combination that’s about as subtle as a slap in the face – and the latest trends are certainly turning a few heads. Fashion is influenced by more than one might imagine. Dominant international design houses play a leading role in influencing fashion trends, but there are also social, political, and even environmental movements that impact on a designers creative direction. Kayla Langhorne of Designer Direction looks at some of the underlying influences that affect fashion trends from flappers to feminism.

New Zealand has followed the lead of top overseas designers to resurrect two of the most significant eras in fashion; think flapper inspired drop-waists and bead embellishments, 30’s coat-hanger silhouettes and shapely jackets, 80’s bright colours, slashed clothing and asymmetrical shapes. Now we all know there is more to fashion than aesthetics – in fact what a woman wears can say a lot about who she is and who she wants to be. So what does the emergence of these trends signify for the modern woman?

Alberta FerrettiThe current eye-catching combination of designs is no coincidence; throughout history fashion has been caught up in the attitudes, customs and happenings of the time. Women literally adorn themselves not only in objects of beauty and fascination, but with designs that reflect social movements. Trends as seen in the 20’s, 30’s and 80’s each emerged following times of hardship, war and feminist progression, so in today’s struggling world, is it any surprise that our fashion trends refer back to similar times?

Take a trip back in history and you’ll see that the 20’s and 30’s and the 80’s were each defining eras for both women and fashion, and saw women’s dressing become more masculine. Following the period of first-wave feminism and World War I, women’s fashion became more liberated and androgynous as they gained a sense of empowerment. Hemlines were raised, corsets were forgotten and the boyish look reigned supreme. Following the success of second-wave feminism of the 1970’s, 80’s power dressing emerged, with women combining masculine tailoring with sex appeal to assert their new-found confidence.

The recent influence of these eras in fashion seems like an assertion of the enduring strength of women as they emerge from a time of hardship and struggle. It’s girl power all over again, as women draw inspiration from times of female empowerment to send a clear message of strength and persistence. Feminism is still alive, well and very much in need; just read the news and you’ll see that women are still fighting for the protection from both sexual and physical violence, for equal civil, social, political, cultural and economic rights, as well striving for equal opportunities and pay in the workplace.

Whether it’s denim or Dolce and Gabbana, what women wear is an expression of personal identity. In this time of uncertainty, women are finding inspiration in the determination of women in the past and the clothes that represented them. Like the women of the 1920’s and 80’s, today’s women who still feel subordinated, overlooked or victimised don clothing that represents empowerment and freedom from gendered bonds. Modern women know where they’re going and who they want to be, and they’re wearing it too – so put on your shoulder pads and join the sisterhood.

Looking into your wardrobe, you may be surprised at how your sense of style has transformed during both your personal experiences and those of society. So what does your style say about you, and what has influenced your fashion choices?

Many thanks to Melissa for allowing us to use the title image via the Creative Commons License.

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