Evolution of High School Fashion

by Ashley Simmons
BHS News

Mesmerizing shoes, alluring accessories, charming dresses—these are all the same necessities of a typical high school girl, but over the course of time each entity has significantly evolved. Every high school student wants to fit in and learn their true identity, so clothing and expression through fashion can help facilitate these common desires. With changing societies, fashion equally changes to coincide with new advancements or significant events. Students readily alter and adapt their style to fit in with societal norms. Starting in the 1900s and moving into current times, it is evident that cultural and societal events influence the progression of high school fashion.

The early 1900s were marked by long skirts and high cut tops to reflect a more conservative style. School girl uniform style clothing dominated this time, and this was predominantly the only stylistic option. There was one specific style that almost every person wore, thus reflecting a stricter society with limited choice, especially for women. Following the women’s rights movement in the 1920s, fashion began to drastically change into a more risqué and unique style. This era marked the progression into a more diverse and defining style that especially manifested itself in high school teenagers.

Following, the notorious 90s grunge stage, fashion took a more futuristic turn in the early 2000s. This time period, also known as the “Y2K” era, boomed with electronic inspired clothing with metallic silvers and blacks as a result of new technological advancements such as the iPod. There was a greater focus on labels, brands, and logos; the common sentiment was you are not “cool” unless you wear the popular brand names. Conformity basically dictated acceptance. Labels were a quintessential signifier of wealth and status—you were not just buying a new bag, you were buying a brand name. These luxury labels became more accessible with the phenomenon of “fast fashion”—mass production flourished and allowed everyone to obtain demanded products such as Uggs or anything Abercrombie & Fitch.

The early 2000s incited the influence of celebrity fashion; if Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera was wearing it, you had to have it. Advancements in society during the early 2000s caused a revolution in fashion, especially in high school. The well-known quote from Mean Girls, “On Wednesdays we wear pink”, definitely rang true in countless high schools; to fit in one had to abide by the changing styles that were set in place by technological advancements or influential celebrities. Dissenters were regarded as outcasts.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

Now in current times it is difficult to put a name to the styles we can see when you step inside a traditional high school. A multitude of diverse trends flood the halls—it appears as if there is no one set style anyone. You have preppy, grunge, casual, boho, and many more stylistic options that are not only accepted, but embraced in schools. There is a stronger emphasis on personal style rather than conformity or labels. This more expressive style reflects a more accepting and diverse society. Social media is on the rise, and this is a portal for many high school students to be exposed to countless new fashion trends and designs. With legalization of gay marriage along with greater appreciation of diverse religions, races, and cultures, society is clearly becoming more tolerant of others who are regarded as different. Society is advancing, and so is fashion; high school students especially feel more comfortable expressing themselves in their own unique way without facing contempt because now diversity is strongly encouraged and embraced.

Ashley Simmons is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition