Fashion color trends date back to the 1800s when French textile mills created fold out books with swatch color cards. These cards became an essential tool for the textile industry, and later
became a popular method in North America. The color trends came from the Parisian couture houses which set the standards for trends every season. Everyone flocked to Paris for the latest in fashion, but that came to a screeching halt during the First World War. The world was at a stand still and the Americans could no longer obtain the swatch cards since the British prevented them from entering Europe. They had to rely on their own resources and established The Textile Color Card Association.

As America’s first professional color forecaster, Margaret Hayden Rorke served as the head of the association for almost forty years. The Textile Color Card Association released their Standard American Color Cards which were valid for two to three years. From 1929 to the 40s, Rorke enlisted the help of fellow American, Bettina Bedwell, to send her color trend reports to compare to her own forecasts. Rorke used these reports to heighten the association’s position as a predominant leader in color forecasting.

Interestingly, societal factors had a big role in color forecasters determining color trends, and there are notable color palettes which emerged throughout the decades, and each color palette is symbolic of the eras’ history.



The Roaring 20s fashion was embellished with decorative jewelry, ribbon, and embroidery, on muted, pastel, and bold colors with gold trim, and later bright patterns. The time was influenced by luxury and adventure.

The 30s was tainted by the despair and misfortune of the Great Depression, therefore, the color palette was accentuated by brighter colors and patterns, while plum, dark green, navy, and brown became popular as well.

In the 40s, the world was consumed by the second World War, and the color trends were based on military khaki and muted blues, giving a sense of unison for the workers back home and the soldiers at war.

The 50s marked a time of economic prosperity and new beginnings. The cheerful morale was reflected with a bright color palette with pastels and bright yellows and reds.

In the 60s, the mod period introduced geometric shapes and logos, with natural earthy hues and bright colors reflected in clothing, decor, and automobiles. The fashion was inspired by British rock and roll, Pop art and the hippie movement.

The 70s slowly deviated from the deep earthy tones and launched into bright colors reflective of disco and punk culture. Standing out was in fashion and everything was accentuated.

The 80s economic boom resulted in bold colors, which often complimented black and white clothing pieces. The 80s did not shy away from color!
In 1986, Pantone established its Color InstituteTM and became a leader in color and trend forecasting, and the go to for designers and brands. Later in 1988, they set new standards for textile, design, and home industries.

In the 90s, grunge promoted authenticity and self expression, and rejected fashion status quo, stating that each person is unique. While some fashion was muted and simplistic, in contrast, some part of the 90s included bright jewel tones like bright purples, hot reds, greens, and blues. In 1999, Pantone launched the first Colour of the Year and have released a new color every year since.
Cerulean Blue was the color of the new millennium and was accompanied by other colors in fashion throughout the seasons.

The 2000s color palette was rich with bright colors inspired by pop culture and innovation. Hot pink was all the rage, along with bright orange, green, yellow, and blue.

The 2010s brought us to a whimsical and happy color palette. Millennial pink made its debut, and pastels and bright colors resurfaced to make a statement. This period marks an era of nostalgia
and colors from previous eras made a comeback. In 2016, Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue became Pantone’s colors of the year to reflect the societal movement for gender equality and fluidity.

FALL/WINTER 2019/2020
The Fall and Winter color palette is similar to the 60s and 70s color palettes with earthy green, orange and brown hues, and bright reds and pinks. These colors are meant to exude confidence and boldness for the wearer.

The Spring color trends recycled colors from the 80s with bright and contrasting hues, while summer color trends recycled the color palette of the 90s with some softer hues, and stronger colors.
The spring and summer trends were based on stability and creativity. The palette includes pops of color with traditional colors to create a sense of ease and includes Pantone’s colour of the year;
Classic Blue.

It is interesting to note how the color trends blend into each other throughout the decades, and how some color trends are recycled based on societal factors. Pantone’s Fall/Winter 2020/2021 color palette was selected based on consumers’ desire for longevity and versatility. Consumers want colors that will make a statement and that will allow them to wear their pieces for a few seasons.


Posted on 15 September 2020 in Recent News

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