Fashion Trends

By Kristen Castillo

September 25, 2014 5 min read

Fashion can be so forward-thinking, but then again, it's often heavily influenced by retro looks. That's why styles from 20 years ago or longer are popular once more.

"Fashion trends recycle," says celebrity stylist James Cornwell, who explains that styles inspired by the past are these days made to be more functional while still being true to the original "old-school vibe."

Older fashions were typically well-made, with quality fabrics and stitching.

"Styles from the '60s and '70s were figure-flattering, fashion-forward and had a sense of sex appeal," says Cornwell. "These are easy to interpret into today's trends. Especially in swimwear, retro style is one that keeps getting better the more it's interpreted."

Why Old Is New Again

Though some retro looks are fashionable, it's not always easy to predict what yesteryear styles will be back.

"But one consistency I've noticed is pop culture often determines what, when, where and how something comes into fashion in the marketplace," says James Massey of, a company that tracks auction items worldwide.

He credits the re-emergence of a clothing trend or accessory as being triggered by random events, such as a celebrity's wearing a certain hat, or the popularity of specific TV shows -- for example, '60s-centric "Mad Men" -- and movies such as "The Great Gatsby," which takes place in the 1920s.

These days, many vintage looks are in vogue. Here's a look at some throwback fashions:

--Maxi dresses. These long, flowy dresses, which were first popular in the 1970s, came back into fashion a few years ago to great fanfare. Stars such as Nicole Scherzinger and Jennifer Lopez often wear this boho-chic style.

--Label-consciousness. One consistent trend is the popularity of big-brand labels. According to Massey, women's fashions from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel are always stylish and in demand.

--Eyelets and lace. "Eyelets and lace are timeless, vintage and have made it through the ages," says Cornwell. Look for this feminine style in dresses, shirts and tops.

--Crop tops. They're not for every woman, but crop tops are back. Madonna wore them in the '80s, and Britney Spears wore them in the '90s. Nowadays, celebrities such as singer Gwen Stefani and actress Jennifer Lawrence are making crop tops trendy again. One caveat: The short shirts can expose a lot or a little midriff.

--Colorblocking. Wearing a colorblocked dress or shirt may seem new now, but it's actually a style made famous in the 1960s by designer Yves Saint Laurent. "Today it has a huge influence on fashion," says Cornwell.

--Overalls. Popular in the '90s, denim overalls are back. The comfy look is stylish again, thanks to celebrities such as Nicole Richie and Selena Gomez, who have been photographed wearing the slouchy jean jumpsuits.

--Florals. Sure your grandmother loved floral patterns, but now so do you. The current look is blooming skirts and dresses in pastels and bright shades with modern fits and light fabrics.

--Exposed zippers. They've always been functional, but nowadays zippers are stylish, too. Popular in the '70s and '80s, trendy zippers are back, especially exposed zippers, which are not hidden when the clothing is zipped.

--Skater shoes. In the 1980s, sneakers were king. That's still true today. "Vans slip-on checked shoes were huge in the '80s," says Cornwell, who loves his black and white checkered Vans. "They have certainly come back with a vengeance -- and in many new shapes and forms."

The Next Big Thing?

Some trends don't come back. Cornwell is happy '80s shoulder pads are a thing of the past.

So what's the next big style?

"I think it's really difficult to predict when and where that 'spark' will happen," says Massey, "or how long it's going to last before the next event overshadows it."

That may mean you might want to keep last season's trendy clothes and accessories. You never know when your old look will be stylish again.

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