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Rockin’ Retro, Taking a Closer Look 70s, 80s and 90s Vintage Jewellery and Fashions for Second Hand September

Last week, we dug up some of the most significant twentieth-century jewellery movements, this week, it’s all about the cool ’70s 80’s and ’90s jewellery and fashions.

To celebrate Second-Hand September, a movement started by charity Oxfam last year and commencing this year, we have decided to dedicate this blog post to this movement. Buying second hand and vintage fashion is incredibly important to help fight against climate change, and the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s had an array of gorgeous groundbreaking fashion as well as accessories to match. 

Just in the UK alone, every year the amount of clothing that is sent to landfill weighs as much as the Empire State building in New York! Simply buying second hand and adopting an eco-conscious mindful mindset when shopping can reduce this. 

Will you take the Second Hand September pledge? 

 Source - Oxfam

Each decade brought something new and exciting in fashion, music and art. From the disco dancefloors of the 1970s and 80s to the explosion of 90s streetwear, fashion and vintage jewellery was used to express identity and creativity. 

Although fine jewellery still was sought after, created and bought by the wealthy and famous, most jewellery was mass-produced and available to all price points, meaning that it was easy for all backgrounds to own and wear jewellery. Plus, the explosion of coloured television in the ’70s and streamed fashion catwalks in the 90s meant that both shops and individuals could easily copy and emulate the designer’s or celebrities' looks. 

Despite each cutting-edge decade, there were many staple pieces like Gold hoops and Gold chains that were consistently fashionable throughout. These pieces remain to be timeless classics today and a staple in every person’s wardrobe. 

Already inspired? Take a look at our antique Gold chains here!

From Psychedelic Patterns to Puka Shells and Mood Rings 1970s Jewellery and Fashions

The 1970s is globally portrayed as a pivotal time of change. With a postwar economic boom and an increase in socially progressive values from the Civil Rights Movement and the Second Wave Feminist movement, the 1970s is often romanticised as an era of free love and self-expression. In America, this time was coined as the “Me” decade, essentially in 2020 terms, time to treat yourself!

Against the backdrop of the 1960s counterculture movement, the 1970s saw further progression against social taboos. In the Vogue article below, the term "New Freedom" encapsulates this vibe of self-fulfilment and rejection of old conservative values.

"A New Freedom" Vogue March 1979, Source - Vogue

From the Rolling Stones to Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, the 1970s music scene was vast and legendary, creating a rock and roll culture that inevitably trickled into jewellery. Bright, colourful and sparkling Gold jewellery was favoured with 1970s fashion of colourful suits, flares, laissez-faire shirts and clashing bright psychedelic patterns. This only catapulted with the rise of disco music in the mid-1970s with ABBA, the Bee Gees and Village People. There was also the art-rock music which included the likes of Queen and Pink Floyd. 

Plus, the 1970s was the first time that colour television was available in the west, allowing people to see and instantly visualise colour on the silver screen. This was momentous for fashion, as you could easily emulate the clothes that your favourite celebrities wore from the choice of colours to the patterns and fabrics. 

Source - Cookbook of Fashion

Because of this, outfits and trends were largely influenced by these popular music groups and celebrities. Notably, Indian patterns like paisley were fashionable, as well as loose clothes that fitted in with the ease of hippy and free-love living. From bell-bottomed wide-leg trousers to mini skirts and platform boots, these statement looks have firmly imprinted itself onto cultural expression. 

Cher in the 1970s, Source - Pinterest

 

1970s Cher in Bob Mackie, Source - Pinterest

The free love hippy movement meant that jewellery wise, there was a big trend for those made from natural and organic materials including puka shells, coconut, amber, and wood. Puka shell necklaces were especially popular as the shell’s natural grooves and contours instantly brought an edgy touch to an outfit. 

1970s Vogue Editorial, Source - Pinterest

A memorable style of novelty jewellery that was all the rage in the 1970s were mood rings, a style of ring that you can both easily and cheaply find today. Mood rings contained liquid crystal that had a thermocratic element which would change colour depending on the temperature of your body. This colour change was interpreted as the “mood” you were in, from anger to lust and jealousy. This idea of knowing and being aware of your emotions also aligned with the free love hippy movements, a change to the stoic stiff upper lip of former generations. 

1975 Mood Ring Advertisement, Source - Retrospace

Interestingly it was in the 1970s that birthstones first became really popular! This came alongside the boom and bust of new wave crystal healing, where jewellery was purchased for its innate talismanic qualities as well as its beauty. Although the first birthstone chart was released in 1912 and has origins within the Bible and ancient zodiac, it was during the 1970s that it became the cultural phenomenon that we recognise today. You can read our full Lillicoco University Birthstone Guide here. 

Two styles of 1970s jewellery that continues to be popular are chokers and big hoop earrings. Chokers also had a resurgence in the 1990s, which we will explore later. Massive hoop earrings were all the rage for those hitting the dance floor, as they swung against your earlobes in time to the music, and the bigger the hoop the better! You could even find hoops that would reach your shoulders! 

Promotional Photograph for the Sonny and Cher Show 1970, Source - Harpers Bazaar 

Of course, during the 1970s there were a surplus of long Gold jewellery, including long Gold beaded necklaces, tassels, big chains, and gold chain belts. The style was curvaceous with coloured plastic elements as during this time - plastic was fantastic!

From Mobile Phones to Flashy Faux Gold 1980s Jewellery Fashion and Technologies

The 1980s were also a pivotal time for social progression with huge advances in technology as well as manufacturing industries booming within Thailand, Mexico, South Korea and China. There was also an increase of environmental awareness as the effects of global warming became known within scientific communities. The 1980s was also a time of huge global population growth, known today as the “baby boomers”. 

Technology-wise, there was a big increase in video and arcade gaming, as well as the first creation of the personal computer. This culminated in the first few instances of internet culture and computing as a leisure activity. There was also the rise of walkmans and boomboxes, so people could easily take music with them onto the streets, and the first commercially available mobile phone was released to the masses.

Musically, there was a massive mourning of John Lennon who was murdered in 1980. Yet, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. After the invention of coloured television in the 1970s, the 1980s saw a stratospheric rise of vibrant and colourful music videos which became a huge cultural phenomenon. This was due to MTV, one of the world’s most famous music channels, being released in the United States. 

1981 Footage of MTV's first ever broadcast, Source - The Verge

The rise of Pop artists like Micheal Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Whitney Houston were huge for the music industry. There was also the rise of glam rock and hard rock like Metallica, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne and Aerosmith, and there was a huge sense of club culture with electronic dance music emerging in Detroit. 

The 1980s were also a big time for teen flicks in the film industry, as well as James Bond movies that sold a bachelor lifestyle. All of these cultural developments fed into 1980s fashion in a big way, as like in the 1970s, people wanted to be glamorous, live their best lives and follow in the fashionable footsteps of their favourite celebrities.

1980s fashion was a continuation of the 1970s styles, with big oversized tailoring and loose-fit clothing. Significant clothing and beauty trends included multi-coloured dyed hair, neon clothing, huge shoulder pads and sleeves (how could we forget!), leather aviator jackets, skinny jeans, acid-washed denim, Rayban aviator sunglasses, preppy polo shirts, brasseries and jelly shoes.

1987 Dolly Parton, Source - Huffington Post

Jewellery wise, there was a huge demand for cross necklaces. This was due to Madonna’s Like a Virgin music video, which was a huge inspiration for young women across the world, as well as the expression of a woman's sexual freedom. 

1980s Madonna, Source - Elle

Fashion in the 1980s placed a huge emphasis on expensive designer labels in both clothes and accessories. Like in the 1970s, shiny costume jewellery was everywhere, the perfect complement to the aforementioned shoulder pads and bouffant hairstyles, giving you a desired larger than life appearance. Faux Gold was the one must-have for every jewellery box, whether in chains, hoop earrings, belts or rings. Clothes were covered in sequins, diamonds and shiny plastic-based fabrics, which led to flashy and brash 1980s sparkling jewellery. 

Montgomery Ward Prom Dress Advertisement, c.1982, Source - Ragstock

Alternatively, there was also a  rise in minimalist dressing, counteracting against the perverse in-your-face neon aesthetic. Faux fur coats, velvet blazers and trench coats were popular amongst men and women, as well as high-waisted loose trousers and the straight leg tailoring. Not to mention, more women were joining the workforce which created the ultimate power dressing aesthetic, which would be colour blocked tailoring, and hyper-masculinised suits.

Source - Pinterest

During the 1980s young women’s mini skirts got even shorter, these would be accessorised with thin heels and narrow multicoloured belts. 

Like the 1970s, plastic was still seen as fantastic, so there was a big rage for plastic jewellery. There was also an advent for unisex jewellery like earrings and jelly bangles. As power dressing and emphasising one’s wealth and status was paramount, designer jewellery was still very popular, especially in Diamonds and Pearls as they showed a woman’s wealth. Pearls were widely worn by Princess Diana, one of the best style and jewellery influencers of the day. 

Prince Diana c.1981, Source - Vogue

Sneaker culture was also huge in the 1980s, and this continued into the 1990s. Nike and Adidas were becoming household names, and streetwear and sneaker culture were associated with the rap and hip hop scene, attributed to African American and Black British artists.  A key 1980s figure in this was Dapper Dan, a Harlem designer that redesigned traditional luxury brands and made them accessible to groups who usually wouldn't be associated with them. This included deconstructing Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger. Thus luxury jewellery styles were emulated too. 

Dapper Dan's most influential client Alberto Martinez wearing one of his reworked Gucci jackets, Source - GQ

On the other side of this, there was also a rise in preppy fashion which was inspired by the 1950s ivy league fashion. This was a classic and conservative style of dress which revolved around classically American brands like Ralph Lauren, and Lacoste. This was clothes like the classic Oxford shirt, oversized cricket jumper and argyle knit. In British fashion, this was incorporated within pearl collar necklaces, Burberry mackintoshes, padded headbands and tweed clothing, known as Sloane Rangers and was associated with the wealthy British upper classes. 

Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana wearing classic "Sloane Ranger" fashion, Source - Tatler

From Cloning to 1990s Jewellery and Clothing, The Explosion of Y2K and Grunge

The 90’s are one of the most memorable fashion decades in the west, known as a time of multiculturalism and rapid advancement of technology. The 90s saw major scientific innovations like the first cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep, the opening of the Eurostar connecting France and England, and the development of the World Wide Web! Due to the rise of the internet’s stardom, fashion easily became more homogenous as ideas, photographs and trends could be widely circulated. 

Culturally, the 1990s saw the rise of the rave, hip hop, grunge and counterculture scenes. Mid to late 1990s chick flicks like Clueless also saw the emergence of the “Valley Girl” stereotype, which was popularised as a stereotypical woman who would love the over-consumption of clothes, lived a lavish lifestyle and possessed ditzy traits. This trickled into the early 2000’s with the tabloid and media obsession with Paris Hilton and other heiresses. The valley girl stereotype meant that flashy rhinestone and Swarovski crystal costume jewellery were in vogue. This took the form of kitschy bedazzled butterfly clips, barrettes, tiaras, and chokers that were worn by everyone who wanted to be anyone. 

Still from Clueless, Source - Vanity Fair

Paris Hilton's Famous 21st Birthday look, Source - Vogue

Musically, the 90s were as huge as the 70s and 80s with the likes of Brit pop, teen pop, gangsta rap, contemporary R&B, and electronic dance music. One of the most well-known 90’s music artists were the Spice Girls, a pillar in the girlband scene. This created a broad and inspiring sense of “girl power” amongst young women, giving them the confidence to wear whatever they like and express themselves in new ways. Television wise, everyone was obsessed with sitcoms, as spending the evening with your family in front of the television became the norm. The most notable of these are Friends, SATC, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, That 70’s Show and Frasier. 


Throughout the 1990s, the fashion world was dominated by supermodel culture. Not only did this make fashion more influential, but it also promoted a harmful idealistic body image of being super thin. Notably, there were the Big Six including Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patiz, and Kate Moss. The emergence of tabloid culture and development of editorial fashion photography meant that these models were plastered all over magazines, wearing a range of famous designers. It suddenly became imperative for young men and women to be wearing the latest fashions and trends, many of which these models were wearing. 

Linda Evangelista, Source - CR Fashion Book

With this in mind, 90s fashion became slicker and more individualistic. The grunge look led to the re-emergence of chokers, Doc Martens, chunky Silver jewellery, cross pendants, fishnet tights and plaid shirts. 

There was also a rebellion against traditional modes of fashion with slouchy casual styles. Many opted for distressed oversized denim, high waisted baggy jeans, cargo shorts, baseball caps, oversized sweatshirts and loose-fitting t-shirts to make a stand against the form-fitting, sinched in styles of the 1980s. Jewellery wise, people opted for slouchy minimal chains like snake chains and curb link chains and understated rather than overstated designs. 

Vintage 1990s Calvin Klein Jeans Advertisement, Source - Pinterest 

One of the styles that is widely synonymous with the 1990s is Y2K. These were tighter, shorter, metallic and more futuristic styles of clothing, in anticipation of a new millennium. This accorded with the aforementioned “Valley Girl” stereotype. 

Like in the 1980s, there was a leaning towards neon and bold geometric clothing. Typical patterns would be zigzags, lightning bolts, diamonds, lozenges, rectangles and squares. This was splashed all over sportswear which was worn both casually and when exercising. Because of this boom in athleisure, semi-precious metals were preferred when wearing jewellery, or no jewellery at all!

Alternatively, the 90s were huge for minimalism, with oversized sleek coats, tiny slip dresses and thin slingback heels. 

1990s Kate Moss, Source - Pinterest

 Despite this leaning towards grunge and casual wear, there was also still an essence of glamour in the 1990s. For instance, high-shine fabrics like satin, sequins, micro-fibres, vinyl and silk were popular amongst women and were adopted especially for clubwear. With this in mind, evening jewellery like fringe necklaces, diamante collars, hair barrettes, and tennis bracelets were the perfect complement. 

1999 Versace, Source - Glamour

Like in former eras, jewellery was shaped by the subcultures. For instance, as gangsta rap and R&B became more popular, people wanted the glitzy and oversized look that came along with it, from huge chains to “iced out” (heavily embellished with rhinestones) medallions. A style of jewellery that was very popular was hoop earrings once again, which found an affinity with R&B music. Another style of jewellery that was associated with the 90s and R&B was nameplate jewellery, which became an integral part of Black culture. 

Generally, 90s jewellery was cheap and cheerful, largely crafted from widely available materials and brash and bold. This was mirrored in both high end and high street, with designers like Versace and Chanel leading the way for 1990s jewellery styles. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading! If you liked this blog, why not read some of these below?

Three Key Twentieth Century Jewellery Movements

Time to Bring Back the Brooch

What Would the SATC Characters Wear From Lillicoco?

Molly Chatterton

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