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Evolution of Women Fashion in Hollywood

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

While a century might not seem to be a long period of time in the course of history, we surely have come an extensive way in terms of Hollywood fashion, since its commencement.

The decade which marks the first recognition of fashion by America, that is the 1920s, witnessed the change to arrive through Hollywood movies. The films were the avenues through which Americans got visibility to the most recent trends of beauty and fashion. By the peak of the Jazz age, American women had started emulating their favorite movie stars and since then, Hollywood had used its Golden Age of 3 decades to generate unparalleled publicity and profits by endorsing new fashion designs.

“While a century might not seem to be a long period of time in the course of history, we surely have come an extensive way in terms of Hollywood fashion, since its commencement.”


It was in the 1930s, that Hollywood itself started taking fashion seriously and started keeping a portion of the budget for buying or renting costumes for their lead characters,

and eventually, every major Hollywood studio began having a separate fashion department. As the Americans grappled with the stock market crash and the Great Depression, the grandeur and glamour of Hollywood movie stars were eagerly observed by people desperate for distraction. Hence studios hired costume designers to design the most extravagant and stunning fashions to please their audiences.


By the 1940s, as the war began and women started joining the workforce, Hollywood fashion saw a sharp turn in its trends. Pants became the choice of apparel for many working women, and stars such as Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich promoted pants in their films as a viable fashion option for women. Ready to wear items and sportswear saw a sharp increase in popularity and movies featured leading ladies who wore day dresses and skirt suits. As there was strict rationing of resources, costume designers mostly bought some outfits off the rack, themselves, which made the screen outfits accessible to ordinary women.


The 1950s however, saw a return of the old feminine grace for the women on screen. This was in sharp contrast to the previous era, and the decade saw a clash between the fashions of working women and housewives. The costume designers, post-War, had got the resources again which let them make opulent gowns, but though the lavishness returned it never touched the heights of the 1930s again. Fashion had to be wearable and comfortable, despite grandeur. Some of the popular examples of this might include the pearl necklace of Audrey Hepburn, the sweetheart neckline of Grace Kelly and the one-piece bikini of Marilyn Monroe.

1960s to 1970s

The 1960s and 70s were the age of liberation in America as well as Hollywood, and that showed in their fashion as well. There was a newfound confidence in women, and the hippie culture added a new kind of flame to American fashion trends. While Janet Leigh’s off-the-shoulder satin dress became the talking point of female fashion in the 60s, the headscarf of Karin Dor became a 70s fashion staple.


By the 1980s the fashion influence shifted from Hollywood to pop culture, and the wardrobes of figures like Princess Diana, Madonna, and Cher were imitated. Hollywood had decreasingly stopped influencing the fashion on the streets, and instead was showcasing the street style of baggy trousers, leather jackets and high boots.


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