The Windrush generation: 70 years of Caribbean fashion

June 22nd 2018 marked the 70 year anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving on British shores. Jamaican-born fashion designer Lorna Holder’s new book, Style In My DNA: 70 years of Caribbean fashion, beautifully captures the fashion and lives of Caribbean people from the 1940s onwards. Below are exclusive images illustrating the trends and styles of Caribbean people over 70 years.



Due to the wartime rationing, women’s clothing was of the Utility style, which was practical and used less fabric. Cinemas were very popular in the Caribbean. The Zoot suit was often worn by Caribbean men, inspired by African-American musicians. It consisted of high waisted, wide-legged trousers, worn with a long jacket.

1948 Jamaicans on board the Empire Windrush copyright Illustrated London News LtdMary Evans1948: Jamaicans on board the Empire Windrush, copyright Illustrated London News Ltd. Mary Evans

Late 1940s: Jamaican wedding, image copyright Beverly Provost OBE

Late 1940s: Caribbean Andrews Uncle Noel Billy copyright Margaret Andrews archives


The rise of synthetic materials proved very popular in the 50’s as clothes were now more crease resistant and easier to look after. Fashion was often influenced by the cinema, as that was one of the few places Caribbean men went for entertainment in the UK.

1950s: wedding guest -Birmingham – dresses with full skirts with crinolines; Man in double breast suit, copyright Tuareg Productions 

Late 1950s: Jamaican studio picture- great grant mother and young uncles, copyright Vida Harris 

London, 1956: West Indians in Southam St., North Kensington


Knitting became a prominent pastime for Caribbean women; this meant lots of garments, including jumpers, cardigans and twin sets, were created. By the late sixties, fashion was becoming less conservative – hot-pants, tight trousers and mini skirts grew in popularity.

Early 1960s: crop pants, copyright Beverly Provost OBE

1960s: zip front cardigan worn with open front shirt, copyright Yvonne Bell

Early 1960s mod outfits: white collar woollen check suit-short sleeve pleated front dress, photographer Esmel May Woma, copyright Tuareg Productions Ltd. Mary Evans 


Student protests and The Civil Rights Movement both in the UK and America had a massive influence on fashion. Activists such as Angela Davis from the Black Panther Party and revolutionist, Che Guevara were often found on t-shirts.

Late 1970s: fitted high waist leather pants bold print scarf, copyright Root Magazine 

Late 1970s: camel tailored jacket full skirt, leather bomber jacket turtle neck sweater- flared trousers, copyright Tuareg Productions Ltd. Mary Evan

Mid 1970s: London Combination of scarves and accessories, copyright Tuareg Productions


By the 1980s, clothes were loose fitted and Kangol hats, trainers and Jheri curls were on trend. Jamaican singer and actress, Grace Jones had a massive influence in fashion with her androgynous style and geometric hair.

Mid 1970s: London Combination of scarves and accessories, copyright Tuareg Productions

1980s: pretty frilly look, copyright Root Magazine lookbook

London, Mid 1980s: Lapaz promotional image -sports look flat top hair cut, copyright Tuareg Productions


Caribbeans were experimenting and spending more money on fashion, beauty and hair. Trousers were often high waisted and circular sunglasses were on trend. Pan-Africanism meant fabrics and garments often from West Africa were worn as a way to reclaim and connect to the continent.

1990s: beatnik lookLate 1990s: Kente cloth -African influence1990s: straight hair weave monochrome fashion

Pre-order Style In My DNA: 70 years of Caribbean fashion here.

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