Dress Codes throughout the ages

Formal wear may not be liked by all, but it is undeniable that it makes one feel fabulous. From strict tuxedos to narrow skirts, all these combine into a special formal gear. But how did this uniform change through the years?

Let’s take a quick look at the transformations in the past 100 years.



This period is marked by modesty and conservatism.

Men would wear black tail coats with white shirts with high collar, together with some classy white gloves and tight vests. Generally speaking, black & white combo would continue to be dominant throughout the century for men, as the absolute classic colour combo.

Women too presented themselves in absolute grace, with some long gloves and hair done up.

If you ever watched Titanic, you can get a clear idea.





The motto was definitely ‘going loose.’

Relatively speaking, men’s wear remained relatively the same, with some additional accessories of a walking stick, pocket watch on chain and a top hat. Yet some enjoyed flashy neckties and gold-covered walking sticks.

Women though enjoyed a greater freedom of dress. Shapeless dresses with shorter lengths decorated with fringes and feathers. A long pearl necklace and headbands are some of the iconic ‘flapper’ accessories.

Everyone for sure has seen ‘The Great Gatsby.’


4An unstable period in the world and a drastic change in clothing; that is how the period can be described.

Men wore suits with extra-broad shoulders and thin waists, emphasizing the ideal manly figure.

Women too went back to highlighting their hourglass figures. Long, sleek and sexy dresses were the key characteristics of evening gowns, usually with backless designs. Being inspired by Ancient Greek and Egyptian Goddesses, this was seen in the modest elegance of the outfits.

‘Water for Elephants,’ for example, captures this well.


5Strictness and simplicity – the right words to describe this decade in a nutshell.

During war times, financial ability to walk around in lavish outfits was minimized. Military uniform became part of the formal uniform for men, with a bold look in general.

Women’s dresses simulated the Victorian age. Puffed sleeves, column-shaped gowns and short jackets grew in popularity. While black was the most popular colour, pink, red and blue too had a large consumer demand. In a less fancy manner, narrow skirts with knee length and jackets were the common pieces.

This is well seen in ‘Allied.’


6The Golden Years definitely impacted the formal wear.

Being marked with wealth and elegance, the period led to men continuing to dress up in suits with wide shoulders, yet with a greater variety of classic colours of grey, blue and red.

The female outfits are too one of the most legendary. Brighter colours such as red have returned, and a certain romantic and glamorous touch was largely present. Skirts have too become wider, usually reaching the length between ankle and knee.

‘Far from heaven’ is a good example.


7As it was indeed a socially revolutionary era, this reflected in the formal wear.

However, men’s wear unsurprisingly maintained the conservative nature with a simpler style.

The clothes worn by women have changed though. Shorter and narrow skirts, jackets and hats have ruled the decade, with more colours appearing on the acceptable palette. Simpler style was present overall, with fewer materials being used.

The movie ‘Jackie’ greatly represents the formal wear of women, based on the style of one of the America’s fashion icons.



More freedom in formal dresscode can be marked, as the transmission to a new era of formal wear is developing.

While the style of suits for men remained the same, more colours started to become acceptable.

Women had more loose dresses, with brighter colours and thin fabric all forming a sense of social freedom.

The exhibition of ‘Anchorman’ movie portrays that sufficiently.




Starting from 1980s, a modern uniform has been established in the rules of formal wear.

While men have always worn suits with slight fluctuations in style here and there, women too started to adapt suits more and more in the past 3 decades. Usually, the colours of white, black, dark blue or beige are preferred, marking this as the absolute classic.


Simpler style which is more fit to the natural body structure is now the ultimate way to dress and impress. Narrow trousers and blasers are the ultimate ingredients to the recipe of correct formal attire, where only the 90s have been the last moments with widened shoulder pads and baggy suits.


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