Breakthroughs and booboos


Maggie Gibbons

It’s easy to review the fashion of decades past with rose-tinted glasses, looking back on fashions as timeless, stylish and glamourous, but every decade had good and bad fashions. Indeed, some are best forgotten.
If you could choose a favourite decade which would it be? Mine is definitely the ’50s, when shapes complimented the figure and there was an understated elegance to clothes. Accessories were the order of the day and women wore hats and gloves everywhere.
The ’50s were all about the silhouette, with huge emphasis on the waist. It was all style and ultra femininity. Hats, full swing skirts, ladylike gloves and dresses were a welcome change after the austerity of the war years. Fabrics were rationed during the ’40s so the lavish use of material was a welcome change. Dior introduced his ‘New Look’, calf-length skirts with slim, short jackets. Très chic!
The ’60s broke all fashion traditions with box-shaped and baby-doll dresses. There were huge influences like mini dresses and shifts. Crimplene anyone? This synthetic crease-resistant fabric was developed by ICI Fibres and was named after Crimple Valley where the company was based. And let’s not forget PVC! Twiggy entered the fashion stage and broke all the model moulds with her stick-thin body and black-rimmed eyes. Mary Quant made the mini skirt popular and the little black dress became the must have item in every wardrobe. False eyelashes and horn-rimmed glasses made their entrance.
1970s styles were very flamboyant. Flowing peasant skirts, flares and bell bottoms, platforms and hippie prints were everywhere. Sweatbands became a must have for every activity, from jogging to gym. Extreme, bright colors were in high demand and long skirts were everywhere. Safety-pin jewelry was popularised in this punk era. In my opinion, this was the least stylish decade of all. People could wear whatever they wanted, however, which was a good thing.
The ’80s brought us Dallas and Dynasty, and with those programmes came huge shoulder pads and massive hair. Leg warmers came into vogue along with fingerless gloves. Perms were popular with both sexes. In fact fashion lines got very blurred and nearly everything was unisex during this decade.
The ’90s were strongly influenced by the pop groups; not a lot to recommend style wise. There was no particular fashion. Velour tracksuits had its fashion moment. Enough said! The ’90s and noughties were just a mish mash of ugly style offerings with nothing to recommend them sartorially. Underwear was visible with the introduction of low-rise jeans and G-strings. And of course there were those ugly Uggs.

So what stayed?
The ubiquitous leggings have been around since the ’50s. They’re a brilliant cover, while allowing you to wear the shortest dresses and tunics. Comfy and easy to wear, they’re going nowhere – even if a certain airline tried to clamp down on them in first class.
The classic white T-shirt – popularised in the 1950s and ’60s by Marlon Brando, James Dean and Brigitte Bardot – is the perfect basic for any wardrobe. Wear with skirts, under jumpers or cardigans, and with that other wardrobe workhorse, jeans (which first appeared in the fashion pages in 1930, when Vogue magazine ran an advertisement depicting two society women in tight-fitting denims).
Of course there’s always the little black dress. Ever since Audrey Hepburn wowed us with her LBD in Breakfast at Tiffany’s we’ve been addicted! Wear it for style, for comfort and for creating a slimmer silhouette.

> Maggie Gibbons is an Image/Style Consultant based in Louisburgh. She can be contacted at