From tiaras and pillbox hats to tote bags and Telfar bags

By Liv Barry
Elm Staff Writer

Fashion designer Coco Chanel once famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” While Chanel’s devout followers might heed her advice, accessories have played a crucial role in fashion for centuries. The right accessories can elevate an outfit from basics to your own personal style.

Accessories aren’t just vessels for self expression, however; they serve as status markers. Designer accessories, like handbags, jewelry, and belts, are some of the most sought out fashion pieces. According to Allied Market Research, the luxury handbag industry alone is worth $58.3 billion.

In American fashion, modern accessorization was first seen after World War I. During wartime, accessories were less popular, as citizens were discouraged from wearing extra fabric in order to ration supplies.

 Throughout the 1920s, fashion morphed from practical to extravagant with the economic boom. Flappers accessorized with garter belts and flashy jewelry, like strings of pearls and oversized brooches.

At the turn of the century, however, accessories once again took a turn toward practical due to the Great Depression.

Many Americans didn’t have the economic opportunity to adapt to new trends, so those who weren’t impacted by the Great Depression dictated what was fashionable throughout the 1930s. Wealthy women were frequently seen in fur stoles, and men who could afford to wore trilbys, which resemble modern-day fedoras, and driving caps.

Similarly, the 1940s were a pragmatic decade for accessories. With World War II raging, fashion on the whole was conservative in an effort to ration material. Accessorizing again picked back up in the 1950s, however.

According to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s website, the 1950s were the first time in American history when teenagers were recognized as an age group. As such, fashion retailers found a new demographic to market to.

The accessorization of the 1950s was marked by pillbox hats, which would continue to be in style throughout the 1960s thanks to Jackie Kennedy, and Hérmes’ “Kelly” bags, a large, leather handbag that was popularized by film star Grace Kelly, according to Vogue.

Younger generations continued to influence accessorization throughout the 1960s. With shifting gender roles and the Baby Boomers’ hippie movement, fashion became more androgynous.

Men and women partook in similar fashion trends throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with collarless jackets, capes, and frilly cravats.

Oversized, tinted sunglasses were also popular. During the early 1970s, jewelry made from natural materials like wood and leather were worn by those in the hippie movement.

Accessorizing took a turn for the more absurd in the 1980s, being largely dictated by celebrities.

Revolutionary artists like Prince and David Bowie continued to popularize androgynous fashion, and many men began to pierce their ears because of their influence.

Madonna also influenced the accessories of the 1980s; men’s ties on women, fingerless gloves, and oversized crucifix-themed jewelry were all worn by Madonna and became popular accessories of the decade. The Birkin bag, which is still a coveted luxury bag, was first released by Hérmes in 1984.

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, “club kids” had a great impact on fashion. Stemming from the largely Black, queer ballroom culture, New York City’s club kids were known for their outrageous, costume-like accessorizing.

The accessories of club kids ranged from gaudy jewelry to angel wings. The influences of club kid fashion are still seen today, with designer Jean Paul Gaultier modeling his own accessories after what he observed in the club kid scene.

Besides club kid culture, the accessories of the 1990s were also greatly influenced by the “model off duty look.” The 90s were the first time that models were considered legitimate celebrities, and many looked to their street fashion for inspiration.

The Fendi “Baguette” bag was first released in 1997, and was worn by everyone from Kate Moss to “Sex and the City”’s Carrie Bradshaw.

While the 1990s saw more lowkey accessories, the 2000s and 2010s were full of busy accessory trends.

Throughout the 2000s, Louis Vuitton released two iconic handbags – the graffiti bag and the Takashi Murakami bag – both of which were bulkier purses with loud, colorful prints.

In the 2010s, accessory trends were all over the place. With the acceleration of the trend cycle, the 2010s saw dozens of different accessory trends come and go; chunky headbands, infinity scarves, “Aztec”-inspired jewelry, tattoo chokers, and Cartier love bracelets all came and went through the 2010s.

One of the few persevering trends of the 2010s is the Telfar bag. Its affordable price tag and timeless design have kept the bag relevant, even in 2022.

The accessories of the 2020s are similarly all over the place. While 2021 saw the renaissance of the Vivienne Westwood pearl choker, the once sold-out choker is now considered “cheugy” because of how quickly the necklace fell out of style.

According to Taylor Lorenz with the New York Times, “cheugy can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard.”

In the winter months of 2022, balaclavas (knit ski masks) were all the rage, but with springtime in full swing, everyone’s balaclavas are now shoved in the back of their closet.

Currently, tote bags are still the on-trend bag, but who’s to say how long tote bags will be in vogue? While accessory trends are fleeting, how you accessorize reflects your personal style, so choose wisely.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Caption: Currently accessorization sees people leaning toward a “more is more” mindset, with ample amounts of jewelry and other pieces added to an ensemble.

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