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5 Decades of Women’s Professional Style

5 Decades of Women’s Professional Style

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women’s business professional style


Travel back in time as Laflore Paris explores the evolution of women’s professional style in the workplace over the past 50 years. Over the last 5 decades, women have disrupted male-dominated industries, and continuously redefined fashion in the workplace with huge fashion moments like shoulder pads and big curls.

Women’s professional style progressed with the influence of female empowerment as more women climbed the ranks. Though women’s business attire started out with male-influenced pantsuits, fashionable workwear quickly progressed to include more form-fitting pencil skirts, wrap dresses, and even well-tailored denim. Particularly with the rise of the remote workplace, even clothing normally considered casual wear became normal in a professional setting.

Take a look back with us at the history of women’s business attire and discover which workwear trends were in style — plus what continues to influence many women’s professional wardrobes today.


1970s
↓ 1970s

Bold colors dominated fashion inside and outside the workplace during the 1970s. It was a time when it became more acceptable for women to wear pants, and also for more women to begin their professional careers. Work clothes during this time period were generally influenced by men’s style, with a touch of femininity.

Pantsuits were all the rage in women’s professional style, along with loose button-downs, tie-neck blouses and fitted blazers. Professional women’s attire also included wrap dresses, big hats, flat shoes, and trench dresses and coats. Many women would also opt for eyeglasses for a more sophisticated look.

diane von furstenberg
Noteworthy Designer:

Diane von Furstenberg

In 1974 Belgian fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg introduced the knitted jersey wrap dress that became a popular staple in professional wardrobes (and in closets across the world) that endures to this day.

1980s
↓ 1980s

Business attire in the 1980s began to calm in color as women opted for a more neutral look with boxy pantsuits. “Power dressing” became a popular style among women in the workplace, particularly those who were ascending to management and executive positions. When we think back to iconic fashion moments of the ‘80s, it’s no surprise that shoulder pads and larger sleeves immediately come to mind. Not all female professionals opted for menswear styling, feminine options like dresses with belts, pleated skirts and ankle pants with tights were popular both inside and outside the office.

donna karan
Noteworthy Designer:

Donna Karan

In 1985 Donna Karan launched Donna Karan New York (DKNY) with the women's collection “Seven Easy Pieces” — a collection of interchangeable items that create an entire wardrobe for any occasion, what we call a capsule wardrobe today.

liz claiborne

Liz Claiborne

In 1986 Liz Claiborne became the first woman to be recognized as the chair and CEO of a Fortune 500 company – Liz Claiborne Inc., a stylish and affordable line of clothing that can be mixed and matched for professional women.





1990s
↓ 1990s

The 1990s were a turning point for women’s fashion in the workplace, with sleeker suits and outfits becoming a big trend for a more feminine-focused influence on the professional dress code. For the first time, shorter skirts and plunging necklines became more acceptable for women’s everyday work attire, along with sleeveless shirts and boat neck dresses.

1990s feminine professional style

One of our favorite trends from ‘90s was the rise of the pencil skirt — a pivotal moment in women’s fashion. Casual Fridays also became a thing, eventually bringing with it a more laissez-faire trend into the workplace that sticks around through the 2000s and 2010s.

2000s
↓ 2000s
2000s relaxed professional dress code

Business casual attire gained huge popularity in the 2000s era for women’s office clothing, as women’s professional clothing became more relaxed. Professional women also started opting for more form-fitting suits with a minimal look, and Casual Fridays introduced jeans into professional workplace fashion for both women and men.

2010s
↓ 2010s

In the 2010s the dress code for female professionals was even more casual in the workplace, with jeans being loosely included into the definition of business casual attire. Accessories became a focus in redefining the “business casual” look — with a cute pair of heels and a matching purse backpack combo going a long way in creating a put-together look. A more eco-conscious approach began making waves in women’s professional style as well, with more women discovering vegan accessories and options.

2010s business casual attire
Predictions for Professional Style in the 2020s
2020s work from home workwear

The coronavirus pandemic turned remote work into a necessity rather than a luxury for the first time as the entire world went digital overnight. For women’s fashion in the workplace that meant even more relaxed attire while maintaining a stylish appearance while working from home. Along with this huge shift, many companies have pivoted to remote-first work, or introduced hybrid work environments, which is likely to further the acceptance of casual wear in the office. Whether working from home, or in the office, a relaxed, but polished appearance is key, but statement pantsuits, classic blazers, or chic, sustainable button-down with functional yet fashionable accessories won’t go out of style any time soon.

Women’s professional style is also seeing a pivotal moment in sustainable fashion as the world is beginning to recognize the need for reducing our carbon footprint. The rise in women shopping for convertible backpack purse options and vegan purses are trends we’re hoping will stick around throughout the rest of the 2020s and beyond.

laflore vegan purses


Women’s professional style is also seeing a pivotal moment in sustainable fashion as the world is beginning to recognize the need for reducing our carbon footprint. The rise in women shopping for convertible backpack purse options and vegan purses are trends we’re hoping will stick around throughout the rest of the 2020s and beyond.

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