The 10 most defining fashion moments of the decade
The unnameable decade is drawing to a close, and the fashion world will never be the same again.
In 2009, it was rare to see a mobile phone on the front row at a catwalk show; now, brands are designing collections and presentations with viral moments in mind, and Instagram influencers are highly sought after on the guest list. On top of that, the golden age of television - and in particular reality TV - changed how we dressed for work and play, while the red carpet reached new levels of excess (and undress), and the British royal family produced its most compelling style icons since Princess Diana. Here, Meadhbh McGrath counts down the 10 moments that shaped the decade in fashion.
Doing it for the 'gram
In late 2010, a new photo-sharing app launched on iOS called Instagram. Ten years later, the social-networking service has utterly transformed the fashion industry. This decade has seen the birth of the influencer, including the likes of Chiara Ferragni (aka The Blonde Salad), Leandra Medine (aka Man Repeller) and Susie Lau (aka Susie Bubble, pictured far right), along with call-out culture accounts such as Diet Prada, Estée Laundry and the short-lived, Irish-based Bloggers Unveiled that acted as online watchdogs for the fashion and beauty industries.
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Like everything in our world, from bathrooms to brunches, traditional fashion shows were engineered to be more social media-friendly: the aisles of Chanel's supermarket set in 2014 were filled with 100,000 Chanel-branded grocery products that attendees could peruse, snap and share to their heart's content. Instagram also gave a new platform to street-style photographers such as Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist), and #OOTD (outfit of the day) posts began to surge. This marked a changing of the guard, as street style became its own cottage industry, with fashionistas striving for the most daring, look-at-me outfits - a shot of Eva Chen in a statement coat walking outside a show could draw more attention than what was on the models inside. The platform also gave rise to viral fashion items: Mansur Gavriel's bucket bag, Gucci's fur-lined mule loafers, Jacquemus's giant straw hat (and later his teeny-tiny mini bag), Balenciaga's Triple S dad trainers and Zara's polka-dot midi dress. It was thanks to Instagram that these pieces took off, and defined much of what we wore (or imitated on a budget) this decade.
Women have long borrowed from menswear but the suit became a fashion phenomenon in the 2010s. As well as a style statement, it became a political statement, too, when Hillary Clinton made it a staple of her campaign wardrobe during the 2016 US presidential election. A movement developed around these 'pantsuits': just as Trump supporters donned red MAGA trucker caps, the suit became a visual symbol of feminist values.
It’s hard to believe everyone got so worked up over Pippa Middleton’s backside at the royal wedding in 2011 — little did we know that a few years later, pop culture would come to be dominated by the colossal bums of the Kardashian-Jenner family. It’s hard to overstate the influence Kim, Kylie and ko have had on fitness, beauty and fashion in the last 10 years.
Much as we were influenced by reality TV, fictional series had a big impact, too. Claire Underwood's power wardrobe in House of Cards had us overhauling our workwear with sharply tailored blazers and shift dresses, and Villanelle's Molly Goddard gown in Killing Eve got us lusting after enormous (and enormously impractical) pink tulle.
Before both of those, however, there was Mad Men's Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks (above). The period drama was never a ratings hit, yet it became a cultural touchstone in the early 2010s, seducing viewers with Janie Bryant's impeccable 1960s costumes, while Joan's hourglass figure reshaped the beauty ideal for women's bodies.
Designers took note: in 2010, Prada and Louis Vuitton enlisted curvier models to showcase 1960s-inspired circle skirts, wool coats and va-va-voom dresses with wasp waists. Soon we were all shopping for fitted sheaths, pencil skirts and plenty of shapewear to sculpt everything into place.
The duchess effect
It started in 2010, when Prince William announced his engagement to long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton. Kate wore a silk-jersey blue wrap dress by Issa London, a little-known label that was so overwhelmed by the subsequent demand that it went into administration just five years later. This is the 'Kate effect' (and later, the 'Duchess effect'), which sees fans rushing to shop anything she wears, resulting in pieces frequently selling out within hours of being photographed.
In 2017, Meghan Markle made her first public appearance with Prince Harry, sparking huge public interest in her sunglasses, her 'Husband' shirt and her infamous ripped jeans. Since then, the 'Meghan effect' has seen smaller brands with a focus on sustainability propelled into fashion's big leagues.
Athleisure runs the world
In the 1920s, it was the flapper dress; in the 1950s, Dior's New Look. The 2010s? Leggings and trainers. The term 'athleisure' actually dates back to the 1970s, but it didn't make its way into everyday use until this decade, though the rise of fashionable activewear had little to do with any activity beyond scrolling on your phone on the couch.
The 2010s saw leggings gradually become an acceptable form of daywear, following much resistance from fashion critics, schools and airlines. The way people dressed in their everyday and professional lives grew increasingly casual, in part due to the sharp rise in freelance and home working, as well as the booming wellness movement, boosted by celebrity fashion lines from the likes of Beyoncé and Kate Hudson.
Trainers, meanwhile, entered the high-fashion lexicon in 2011 when Phoebe Philo, then creative director of Celine, took her post-show bow in a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths (with tailored trousers and her hair tucked into a poloneck, in what would instantly become one of the most influential looks of the decade). In 2014, Chanel paired every piece in its couture collection with trainers, marking a huge step forward for the humble shoe. In the following years, wear-anywhere trainers were inescapable, from classic canvas Supergas to minimalist Axel Arigatos to Balenciaga's monumental Triple S. The pendulum may swing again, but when a trend is this comfortable, it proves very hard to take off.
In summer 2017, a group of extremely toned, extremely tanned young singletons sauntered into a Mallorcan villa and the nation was smitten. Love Island proved to be a reality TV sensation — and a fashion one, too.
The 2010s saw fast fashion get really, really fast, and when Love Island began to partner with fast-fashion retailers (in 2018, Missguided, and in 2019, I Saw It First), it meant viewers could shop contestants’ outfits live on the app. And once the season ended, many contestants landed gigs as brand ambassadors, such as Longford native Maura Higgins (above) signing a contract with Boohoo. Love Island cemented many of the decade’s defining trends: elaborate ‘Instagram brows’, bold make-up designed for selfies and barely-there swimwear, as well as the increasing fitness focus for women and men. It also signalled the return of ‘going out-out’ dressing, though it was a disaster for the environment.
Perhaps the 2020s will see Love Island come over all eco-warrior with a more sustainable fashion strategy…
The big cover up
Along with the thong bikinis, crop tops and minis beloved by reality stars on both sides of the pond, the 2010s saw celebrities take the naked dress to the next level: Rihanna ushered in a new era in a Swarovski crystal-encrusted Adam Selman gown and matching durag at the 2014 CFDA awards, and a year later Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian all wore naked dresses to the Met Gala. Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid regularly sported variations on the form, but later in the decade, fashion took a turn for the modest.
The oversized silhouettes, polo necks, wide-leg trousers and cocoon-like shapes of Phoebe Philo’s Celine had an enduring impact on our wardrobes — much of COS’s output draws from Philo’s vision — while on the red carpet, prairie-style dresses with long sleeves and high necklines have dominated, such as in Ruth
Negga’s 2017 awards-season wardrobe and the omnipresence of luxe Victorian gowns by Susie Cave’s brand The Vampire’s Wife.
Following the Time’s Up blackout at the Golden Globes in 2018, we saw the emergence of a loud, space-taking new look with voluminous gowns by Gucci, Valentino and Marc Jacobs on the likes of Lady Gaga, Tracee Ellis Ross and Sarah Paulson.
Was it a response to #MeToo and Donald Trump’s “grab ’em” comments? An anti-Kardashianisation? A rebuttal to how men dress on the red carpet? Or simply a more comfortable form of expression?
The midi ground
Right at the beginning of the decade, designers as varied as Yves Saint Laurent, Celine, Marc Jacobs and Fendi reached a consensus on hemlines, presenting a series of mid-calf skirts for autumn/winter 2010 that ranged from ladylike tweed to shiny black leather. By 2013, these skirts and dresses were everywhere. Indeed, the ‘midi’ length would become the defining hemline of the decade, and the midi skirt — in satin, pleats or A-line — a wardrobe staple.