During the late twentieth century, fashions began to criss-cross international boundaries with rapidity. Popular Western styles were adopted all over the world, and many designers from outside of the West had a profound impact on fashion. Synthetic materials such as Lycra, Spandex, and viscose became widely-used, and fashion, after two decades of looking to the future, once again turned to the past for inspiration.
The society of the 1980s no longer criticized itself as consumerist, but was, instead, interested in 'the spectacle'. The self-conscious image of the decade was very good for the fashion industry, which had never been quite so à la mode. Fashion shows were transfigured into media-saturated spectaculars and frequently televised, taking high priority in the social calendar. Appearance was related to performance, which was of supreme importance to a whole generation of young urban professionals, whose desire to look the part related to a craving for power. The way in which men and women associated with the latest styles was no more a matter of passive submission but one of active choice. As fashion once again looked to the past, baroque evening dress and long gowns made a reappearance. The astonishing multiplicity of trends that bloomed during the '80s were curtailed by the economic recession that set in at the beginning of the 1990s, largely destroying the optimistic mood that is so advantageous to the fashion industry.