Where it began: In 1947 French designer Christian Dior ushered in the lavishly feminine New Look with a nipped-in waist and a full skirt. Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy gave it mass appeal in the 1950s, making it the silhouette of choice for well-dressed women.
Why it keeps coming back: It complements curves and looks polished but never over-the-top, says Patricia Mears, the deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City.
How to wear it now: Sophistication lies in the details. A dainty print with a pop of pink is instant ladylike.
Where it began: When Europeans began colonizing Asia and Africa in the 18th century, they brought home the skins of the leopards, tigers, and zebras. Those exotic patterns were soon reproduced on fabrics (for the über-rich, of course), leaving their mark on clothing and decor. Two centuries later, sex symbols like Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe harnessed the prints’ come-hither magnetism.
Why it keeps coming back: Animal prints are like neutrals—they’re made up of brown, beige, and black, after all. “They’re seasonless, and you can wear them with almost anything,” says Jaffe. Plus, they add a little edge to your wardrobe.
How to wear it now: Hit the spot in small doses if you fear the print will swallow you whole.
Where it began: Thank designer Coco Chanel, who popularized pants for women in the 1920s. She also gets points for making sportswear separates, like jersey jackets and cardigans, that were designed to be stylish and comfortable on the go. Not far behind her: actress Katharine Hepburn, a trailblazer for the tomboy look in the ’30s; and ’70s musician Patti Smith, who added a little rock and roll to the mix.
Why it keeps coming back: “You might expect menswear to be desexualizing, but it’s often the opposite,” says Sharon Graubard, the senior vice-president of creative services at the trend-forecasting agency Stylesight, in New York City. Menswear is flattering on almost any shape or size, and it works in or out of the office.
How to wear it now: Dapper touches, like a collared shirt and cardigan paired with slim fit shorts are flattering and definitely channel Ms. Hepburn.
Where it began: French designers André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin made mod shift dresses in the 1960s (model Twiggy was a fan), and Halston kept the streamlined silhouette going in the ’70s with monochromatic jersey dresses and stretchy jumpsuits. But in the ’90s it was Miuccia Prada who had the most staying power. Her simple shapes and sparse ornamentation were a welcome palate cleanser after the huge shoulder pads (and hair) of the ’80s, and they’re still popular today.
Why it keeps coming back: “Clean lines and functionality have always been hallmarks of American style,” says Mears. Audrey Hepburn’s Capris are a classic example of this intersection of élan and ease.
How to wear it now: Color blocking is a popular way of sporting this classic trend.
Where it began: With Mother Nature, really. Flowers-as-adornment is as old as the hills. But in terms of being painted or printed on clothing, blossoms were seen on Japanese kimonos around the year 794 and on rich Genoese velvets in the 1400s.
Why it keeps coming back: In a word,pretty. “We always think of a flower as the symbol of a woman,” says Mears. And there are countless interpretations to appeal to any taste—from soft, watercolor petals to full-on flower power, as worn by ’60s model and “it girl” Jean Shrimpton.
How to wear it now: Pair this fun floral print with your tried and true black legging. Instant Outfit!
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