Miuccia Prada once said, “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” It is no doubt that fashion is a form of individual expression. Singapore might be a young nation, yet the dressing sense in this tiny country has pretty much gone through radical changes.
From western-influenced dressing to Korean street style, we have seen plenty of popular looks that current designers inspiration from such as Depression who focuses their apparels on Japanese street wear. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at how our fashion sense evolved over the past 50 years in Singapore.
We are exposed to the Western culture that was rarely seen in society with the advent of television in this era. This was when Western-style dresses and shirts started to make waves in Singapore. Traditional clothing was then modelled after such designs.
For the ladies, the dresses were usually fastened with a zip at the back and had thin waistlines. Those belonging to a higher social status such as highly educated women from well to do families, wore sleeveless cheongsams to represent both wealth and status.
Loud styles which include collarless jackets and pants that flared over boots were a common sight for men to dress up then. Loose-fitting shirts that are vividly printed and trousers with flares are the go-to for them. Long hair for men was frowned upon due to the association with hippies and drug usage.
The iconic Sarong Kebaya that the female flight attendants of Singapore Airlines are presently dressed in made its mark in the 1970s. The usage of batik prints and colours made this dress iconic and most females often don this dress in this era.
Due to the flamboyance of such look and the conservative mindset of Singaporeans, disco fashion from the Western countries was not really accepted. Instead, jeans culture started to commence and it began to be a part of the look that everybody goes for.
We are exposed to more pop culture with the advancement of technology in the 1980s. Bold styles and colours that were influenced by the fashion sensibilities of stars on television were often emulated by the youth.
The popular fashion of the 1980s saw an increased desire for miniskirts, beaded necklaces and polka dots for the women. Bold accessories coupled with glitter makeup and daring colours started to make waves as this era was all about the bright colours.
Men paid more attention to hairstyles where big bulging hair and meticulously trimmed sideburns are the trends in the 1980s. Some would even adopt the bandana to complement shirt designs with geometric prints and puffed sleeves.
Fashion elevated to a new level in the 1990s where it became more edgier due to the traction gained from international culture.
The trend of miniskirts for ladies continued in this generation and it even paved the way for the men’s equivalent – Bermuda shorts. It was adopted to suit the humid weather here in Singapore and provides men with an alternative to dressing casually.
Gentlemen started to abandon the puffy hairstyles and adopted the centre part. Cargo pants began to enter the fashion scene and bell-bottom jeans were a common sight for many, a throwback from the 70s. Tight-fit tees with big logos of bands and famous icons rule the streets back then.
A typical female look in the 90s included rebonded flat hair with highlight streaks along with statement belts. Taking inspiration from famous pop idols back then, they usually pair their top with a vest or just with a tube top.
Chains attached to wallets can be seen everywhere and that is a common sight among the young adults and teenagers. Chunky sneakers also made its mark then, with Nike SB and Dunk shoes taking over the streets.
Fashion in the 2000s infuses elements of all the past years combined. Cropped tops and oversized tees are trends that are adopted due to celebrities popularising them. You could blame the weather in Singapore as a form of deterrent for us to explore further options such as fur coats and trench coats.
Wristbands for various causes such as Livestrong made its mark, where support for cancer-stricken patients were shown by donning them. The popular yellow band was once considered a fashion accessory for the masses. Surfer brands such as Billabong and Quicksilver also began to make waves in the early 2000s where accessories from such brands were a common sight for many.
Singaporeans also started to embrace the streetwear culture of recent times. Streetwear brands such as Off-White and Champion became a staple for most when they dress. Sneakers have also reached mainstream popularity where everyone owned one by internationally recognised brands.
The classic cut that most males had would be the “Gentlemen Look” where the sides are faded and tapered, with the hair being combed over to one side. In recent times though, riding on the Korean Wave, some have adopted the shaggy hairdo, bangs and a centre part style that looks a little just like the 90s.
It seems as though fashion now incorporates a little from each generation. As they say, fashion never dies. It is indeed true as we see certain trends returning at certain points and it changes how we dress in public. Furthermore, in such a cosmopolitan city like Singapore, there will always be a blend of different cultures. I guess the modernised looks still take influences from the past, and no trend ever truly dies out.
Even though there are plenty of styles for one to adopt, I believe that there is a certain type that appeals most to each individual. As a fan of hard rock, the 90’s will always have a place in my heart and my fashion might be influenced by it. Fashion is indeed a form of self-expression, just be free to explore your own options.
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