In fashion sometimes, everything old is new again. But with a few nips and tucks on those vintage styles. To see a timeline of these designs on Asian women, check out Fashion Through The Years, a series that highlights what she wore in Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Hong Kong from the 1920s to the 2010s. This project is a collaboration between Star Media Group, Viet Nam News, China Daily and The Daily Star, members of the Asia News Network (ANN).
Star Media Group spotlights the evolution of two popular Malay styles, baju kurung and baju kebaya, from the 1950s to the 2010s.
Baju kurung comprises a sarung or long skirt with a long sleeved blouse. In the ’50s, women would pair the blouse with a sarung made from kain songket (a handwoven textured fabric with gold or silver threads), and complete the look with red lips and jewellery. Back then, baju kurung was worn for main events, but nowadays it’s become a daily attire in its simpler form.
The ’60s saw the kebaya become a hit. Typically, the figure-hugging dress is tailored to fit a woman. The kebaya (worn with a corset underneath) was also paired with a sarung made from kain songket or batik. At the height of its popularity, almost every Malaysian actresses of the era wore the dress on screen.
In the ’70s, a new look was served with thicker fabrics, chokers and scarves. A decade later, women favoured a looser, more colourful version of the baju kurung, with shoulder pads for that ’80s style. In the ’90s, the kebaya made a comeback, with added beads and sequins for that extra bling.
In the 2000s, French lace and silk were the go-to materials for the kebaya and baju kurung, and a fusion of traditional and modern styles emerged, like the peplum kebaya.
Viet Nam News highlights 90 years of everyday trends and traditional long dresses (áo dài in Vietnamese) favoured by the women of north Vietnam.
In the early 20th century (áo mớ ba), the original áo dài included a bra, a blouse, a long blouse and a long robe. The dress was made of cotton, and the belt was made of linen, sometimes silk. Women wrapped their hair in turbans, wore flat hats made from bamboo or palm leaves, and slippers. They also blackened their teeth, which was considered beautiful at the time.
In the 1930s, Vietnam became a French colony and Western influences seeped in, transforming the áo dài. Painter Cát Tường (1912-1946), or Le Mur, redesigned the dress with a tighter fit, adding larger collars, puffy shoulders and wavy sleeves to create a fusion outfit (áo dài Le Mur). The long dress was made of silk and voile, and was paired with white silk trousers.
By the ’40s, velvet áo dài was a big trend among Hanoian women. Designed with two panels in front and at the back, the dress had straight sleeves, a high neck, and was worn with white silk trousers. This style has endured through the years, and the áo dài worn today has pretty much stayed true to this look.
But from the ’60s to ’70s, as fashion influences filtered in from China, Hong Kong, Germany and Russia, Vietnamese women also favoured simpler blouses with black satin trousers. The ’90s heralded more European styles and two distinct looks emerged. In the daily-wear corner, high-rise jeans, white T-shirts and denim jackets were all the rage. Meanwhile, black velvet dresses and a hard mesh for curves were the must-haves in the party-wear section.
For the new millennium, Vietnamese women have veered towards a variety of new fabrics and colours. Casual styles include crepe blouses and woollen skirts with Latin-styled ruffles, whereas the formal-wear look involves black organza dresses and Latin-styled ruffles for a softer curve.
The Daily Star shows us Bengali style, starting with fashion in the British Raj in the 1940s. Women’s looks were largely influenced by the West, which included hairstyles with pin rolls and finger waves. Both women and men wore the khadi, while the draping of the saree added pleats around the navel, and the anchal was worn on the left, a choice that was considered elegant.
In the ’50s, Bangladesh became part of Pakistan and the women followed trends set by Bollywood actresses like Nargis, who loved high-necked silk blouses and pure chiffon sarees. Meanwhile, society ladies chose a combination of Victorian and Mughal styles that included lehengas, embroidered gowns and long frilled skirts. Then in the ’60s, women donned sleeveless blouses with chiffon sarees, body hugging shalwar-kurtis, and the draping of the saree changed from the right to the left anchal.
A decade later, the global fashion movement steered Bengali women towards psychedelic prints, vibrant colours and shiny materials with bold designs. Ten years after that, they were wearing polka dots in all sizes and colours. In the ’90s, the long kameez was back in style as the Mughal and Anarkalis looks returned.
As the 2000s dawned, the saree became a more celebratory attire as the everyday woman opted for jeans, slacks, tops and shirts. In the 2010s, casual kurtis, pants and dhotis took over. And though sarees are back on trend, the blouses have been altered for a more fusion look, redesigned with jacket blouses, net blouses and halter necks to highlight the look.
1950s: The look was still traditional with the qipao widely worn but with increasingly Western touches. It was a look that was immortalised in the popular movie, The World of Suzie Wong, with teased and curly hair, winged eyeliner and statement eyebrows.
1960s: The swinging sixties brought the Mary Quant look or the London mod look with the trademark miniskirt, geometric prints, topped with ponytail with bangs and hair bump, headbands and colourful accessories and Twiggy-inspired eyelashes.
1970s: The one piece dress became popular as fashionable Hong Kong girls continued to follow trends from the West. The lingering hippie style of the 60s finally gave way in the mid-70s to the minimalist look with double loose braids, bright eye colours, natural-looking eyebrow and sneakers.
1980s: Think Dynasty, Madonna and Princess Diana! This was the decade of big statements that brought in three-piece suits with big shoulder pads, big hair and electro foil fabrics.
1990s: From big and flashy, this decade returned to the minimalist grunge look with casual and chic as the buzzwords.T-shirts, jeans and hoodies were the preferred wear finished with straight long hair, often tied into a high ponytail The make-up? Clean and simple.
2000s: This was the era of the “mash-up” where globalisation became the big deal which saw the fusion of all sorts of styles from around the world. Among the many sought-after looks was the baby-doll dress matched with natural make-up and loose, wavy hair.
2010s: From globalisation to global warming and cool comfort was what mattered. Street wear was casual with trendy tees over denim shorts with plaid shirts tied at the waist. Smart devices like headphones and other wearables became the accessories!