Clothes Call: What Were People Wearing the Decade You Were Born?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: AMC)

Strong fashion trends are hard to recognize when you’re in the midst of them. However, give them a decade or two, and what once was funky fresh is now just…funky. Fortunately for mom jeans, what’s old is new, and everything comes back around. We’ve chronicled the typical outfit decade by decade from the 1950s to the early 2000s, so you can spot the least attractive style to model your 2017 wardrobe after.


A simpler time, indeed. Options were limited and all styles were modest, which took the guessing out of picking the perfect outfit for the day. New Line Cinema’s Pleasantville (1998) hit the nail on the head with its classic ’50s garb. Men were dapper and ladies were ladylike.

Typical her: Shirtwaist dress, standard pump, and pantyhose (ALWAYS)

Typical him: High-waisted, loose-fit slacks fit for a clown, short-sleeved button-down pastel shirt, and clunky dress shoes

(Image credit: AMC)


This decade started pushing the boundaries of everyday modesty, favoring fitted suits and daringly short skirts. While Don and Megan Draper of AMC’s Mad Men may not represent the average Joe, their wardrobes are pretty spot on.

Typical her: Mini shirt dress in a psychedelic pattern, colored tights, and low, chunky heels

Typical him: Slim-fit suit, skinny tie, fedora, and a pointier, more British, dress shoe


With women’s lib encouraging women to ditch the bras and wear what they want, the line between male and female wardrobe standards began to blur in the ’70s. Pants were the norm for women and men were cool with rocking those form-fitting hip-huggers (case in point, the groovy stylings of The Brady Bunch).

Typical her: Bell bottom jeans, sandals or platform shoes, v-neck T-shirt or button down shirt (bras optional)

Typical him: Bell bottom jeans, platform shoes or loafers, chest-baring shirt (probably printed and polyester) with a butterfly collar

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)


Whites and pastels were the go-to colors of the 1980s. Mens clothes got smaller, while women’s practically doubled in size (mostly in the shoulder region) along with their hair. Short shorts for men (a la Clark Griswold’s almost daisy duke khakis from Warner Bros’ National Lampoon’s Vacation), and billowy, oversized shirts for women.

Typical her: White pants or stirrup leggings, large menswear shirt with the sleeves rolled up and modest simple orthopedic sneaks (possibly with layered slouch socks).

Typical him: Booty shorts, polo shirt, low-profile running shoes or loafers sans socks, of course (think Bruce Jenner)

(Image credit: IMDB)


So. Much. Denim. Feminine, flowy dresses (hello rayon!) and loose-fit jeans (or loose fit everything for dudes—like Full House’s hunky Uncle Jessie) were the norm.

Typical her: High-waisted Jordache jeans or maxi skirt, fitted tank or crop top, denim jacket, and velvet headband or hair scrunchy (not optional)

Typical him: Loose-fit, thick, slightly tapered jeans or khakis, work boots, and oversize T-shirts, flannel or bowling shirts

(Image credit: The CW)

Early 2000s:

If there was one thing you could not find in a women’s clothing store in the early 2000s, it was jeans that weren’t dangerously low rise (maybe the fly styles of the cast on The O.C. had something to do with the trend). Also, all pants (mens and womens) were some form of bootcut for the majority of this decade.

Typical her: Bootcut, low-rise jeans, spaghetti strap tank top, and ballet flats or peep-toe wedges

Typical him: Fitted, bootcut jeans, converse or work boots, and button-down plaid shirt or T-shirt

There you have it. Now be glad that in the age of the internet, trends come and go so fast no one can keep up. Hold on to those new mom jeans and rest assured that there’s no way they’ll ever go out of style ever…again.