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Women's Workwear Throughout Time

As we come up on the 100-year anniversary of the ‘flapper’s’ post-World War I fashion revelation I thought it would be a good time to dissect women’s workwear fashion trends through the century. Short hair, relaxed shapes, and political triumph shaped the women of the roaring twenties and in turn, shaped their fashion. With a booming post, World War l economy and newly afforded political, educational, and professional rights women began to express themselves more freely. Gone were the days of long hair, tight corsets, and uncomfortable fabrics. Silk, velvet, and dropped waist were in fashion and almost always paired with an androgynous bob. This era marks the beginning of women dressing for themselves, despite what society might think.

The 1930s brought The Depression era, marking a turn of the century change for fashion. The freedoms financial security had afforded women were quickly replaced with what was called “workwear chic”. Knee length wool skirts, shoulder pads, and an all-around more conservative sophisticated style took hold. What was once free expression was replaced by simple, prudent outfits. Most women did not have the resources to keep up with trends, so every accessory was carefully curated for maximum effect. This carried on into the ’40s which boasted a “waste not want not” style. Post-World War ll left little supplies for clothing production. Many items were produced with a little fabric and embellishment as possible. Pants for women also became popular out of the necessity for women to take their wartime husband’s place on the workforce. Instead of wearing flashy clothing women distinguished themselves with their hair and makeup. Victory rolls and bold red lipstick were extremely popular during this era of fashion.

The ’50s and ’60s ushered in classic feminine dress back into fashion. These eras were all about the young generation putting a spin on old designs. Gloves became shorter, skirts tighter with shorter lengths than before, heels became thinner and taller, accessories took center stage. Formal suits with cinched waists and miniskirts became all the rage and were designed with young women in mind. Women experimented with boxy jackets pairing them with shorter skirts and stiletto heels mixing masculine and feminine styles together. Eventually during this mix came to a head in the ’70s, where women were divided on the issue of pants. More women joining the workforce meant more women wearing pants than ever before causing feminist to debate whether it was right or wrong for women to wear pants and “be seen as a man”. The 70’s also brought us iconic looks such as the wrap dress and flared bottoms.

“The color, the shape, and the texture—none of it is accidental. Every item we wear has a glorious history, and that history extends back years”

 Tim Gunn


The influence of the most recent eras, the ’80s, and ’90s, is visible to this day. With the iconic 80’s male influence power suite, serious dress, and expensive taste this was a pivotal moment in women’s workwear. Even though the color and glam of the ’80s toned down at the turn on the decade, power dressing continued into the ’90s. Minimalism returned and is still relevant in today’s fashion landscape. The 2000s through now have seen a return to classic styles with a mix of the 80-90’s edge. Power suites are around but with a more timeless tailor, made to compliment women, not to mimic men. Prints have returned but they are paired with the muted colors form the 90’s and selective accessories.

With easily accessible vintage and high-end pieces, women are able to customize their work style now more than ever. Mixing pieces of each era into a homogenous wardrobe that both pay homage to the old and celebrates the new. Celebrities have also begun to honor fashion trends of the past, further influencing women to mix up their style. The beautiful thing about all of this history is that we can see it repeating itself now. Between Beyoncé’s love of the ’80s, Adel’s 1930’s influence, and Kate Middleton’s 70’s flare, there are endless examples of women mixing up styles from different eras. Looking at the past also shows us how much we as an industry have learned and, how far we have to go. I created Citrine Grey to make workwear for a new generation of women. Women who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want out of life and want clothing that will back them up. Citrine Grey workwear is designed to be classically beautiful, to compliment women, and give them the confidence they need to go after their dreams.

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