Color Blocking Through the Decades

Color Blocking Through the Decades

Color blocking has made a drop this season, showing up on everything from sweatshirts and sweaters to joggers and tees. With the bold, graphic statement that a good piece of color blocked clothing makes, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing it everywhere. Though it’s über popular now, color blocking has been around for a heck of a long time! We’ve rounded up dress patterns from every decade since the ’40s to give you a taste of how long it’s been trending.


Color blocking was first introduced to the modern fashion world in 1946, debuting on the stage of Yves St. Laurent for his Fall/Winter show. It was based after the famous paintings of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, showcasing blue, red, and yellow squares and bold black lines. While it wouldn’t fully catch on for some time, patterns such as this one by Simplicity show a dress made with a front body of contrasting pink and white blocks.


In the ’50s, the golden decade of televisions with bunny ear antennas and I Love Lucy incarnates (or so we’re told), popular styles revolved around modesty and classic cuts. With structural shapes and typically muted colors, the color block example here shows a bright block of white down the middle of an otherwise black dress.


Heading into what could be called the glory days of color blocking, the ’60s saw a movement away from the more reserved, muted clothing of the ’50s and into mini dresses and bright colors. A good example is the punchy shift dress shown here, which utilizes two pieces of bright, contrasting fabric and a long diagonal across the front.


Still reeling from the Summer of Love, the ’70s saw the mod color blocking of the ’60s transform into something a little more free-spirited. Shown here in a dress with a tied waist and flowing skirt, slightly more playful colors are chosen and placed as a playful V shape to define the waist and accentuate the neckline. At this point in time, blocks of color were often mixed with floral and geometric prints to really fit the hippie vibe of the decade. Towards the end of the ’70s, however, we see the brighter graphics and voluminous shoulders of the ’80s crop up with the enviable body of extra hold hairspray.


The ’80s saw an influx of neon colors, metallic sheens, and exaggerated shapes informed heavily by the glam rock of the decade. This pattern by Simplicity shows just that, with a dipping, color blocked V shape and high slit. Potentially a little more in-your-face than the ’70s, the ’80s were about show, baby. With blocks of color carrying through the arms, oversized sleeves, and a pearly white body, this pattern boasts it all in one beautiful package.


Finally, the ’90s! Everyone’s favorite decade. Color blocking was still going strong, with remnants from the ’80s including oversized cuts and bright colors now strongly informed by the golden era of hip-hop. However, with grunge taking another reign in the music world, popular colors became slightly more muted and silhouettes were toned down. Denim was also more popular than ever, especially the ripped and acid-washed varieties, and helped to break up the extreme fashion conditions of the decade prior.