How women's winter wear has changed through the decades
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Like all fashion, winter wear goes through trends. Though the function of a winter coat is to keep you warm in the frigid temperatures, many people like to use them as an extension of their outfit and a fashion staple in and of itself.
Maybe you live in a city and spend a lot of time commuting in the cold and prefer a puffer coat of the 1990s. Or maybe you never spend more than a few minutes outdoors at a time and love a coat that's a little more fashionable than functional, like a shearling wrap coat of the '70s. Whatever your personal tastes, you'll be sure to find a favorite when you see how these winter staples have evolved over the years.
Looking polished and fashionable was a big priority for many women of the 1950s. Their outfit wasn’t to be covered with their coat, but enhanced with it. There were a number of stylish options — many of which followed the trend of a cinched waist and a full skirt, like the dresses and skirts of the time. However, thanks to the baby boom of the 1950s, fuller, loose coats were also en vogue, allowing pregnant women to comfortably wear their jackets without “showing” too much.
Most of these long coats were wool, though many wealthy women also had a fur coat handy for lavish occasions! Though it’s commonplace to wear dark or neutral coats that match everything in the winter in modern times, women of the 1950s wore a lot of bright colored coats, like pastel pink or fire engine red. When it came to bundling up, pillbox hats and berets were more popular among adult women than knit materials, despite not being as warm. Many women also wore gloves or fur muffs to keep their hands warm in the frigid temperatures.
Winter wear in the 1960s wasn’t too much different than in the 1950s — brightly colored wool coats were still trending. However, the double breasted style increased in popularity and the less fitted styles weren’t just popular amongst pregnant women. Tweed, plaid, animal print and houndstooth were also trendy patterns, with mod styles on the rise. Pillbox hats were still a favorite, but both men and women loved newsboy-style caps.
In the spring and fall — before women really had to bundle up and keep their coats closed — matching sets in the same color or pattern as the dress she was wearing were popular as well. One of the biggest shifts, though, was that the hemlines of coats were rising along with the skirts. Short, boxy coats were worn a lot.
When you think of winter wear in the 1970s, you probably think of long suede jackets with shearling linings, like the coat Penny Lane wears in Almost Famous. Fur and shearling were both huge in the ‘70s, making for cozy linings and big cuffs and lapels on coats. In fact, though fur coats were popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the 1970s was the heyday for animal-product coats, in addition to fur coats, because leather became popular among more than just the rebels of the decade.
Like wrap dresses were huge in the ‘70s, as were wrap coats. If fur or leather wasn’t your thing a wool wrap coat would be right up your alley. While earth tones did reign supreme, there were more patterned options than previous decades, with floral and paisley becoming popular patterns.
When it comes to vintage winter wear, there isn’t anything that stands out like the slope-ready styles of the 1980s. In vibrant shades, these swishy coats were the ideal complement to a preppy wardrobe. Headbands were a great way to keep your ears warm, too, and when it wasn’t that cold outside, you could layer a puffy jacket over you outfit, a la Back to the Future.
If you didn’t want to dress like the villain in a ski movie, though, leather bomber jackets were also trendy after being popularized by Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
Like the rest of ‘90s fashion, the decades’ winter wear was all about function. Puffer coats may have been on the way up in the ‘80s, but they absolutely exploded in the ‘90s. While there was a bit of a ‘70s revival, the look didn’t translate too much to outerwear. This could be because nothing could beat the cold like a puffer coat.
When it wasn’t super cold out, denim jackets always reigned supreme.