7/23/12

Fads #21: There Is No Fashion


"Today, there is no fashion, really. There are just . . . choices. Women dress today to reveal their personalities. They used to reveal the designer's personality. Until the 70s, women listened to designers. Now women want to do it their own way. There are no boundaries. And without boundaries, there is no fashion." 
- by Oscar de la Renta in 2002
I've said this same thing on Retrospace for years - each decade has a very distinctive, recognizable fashion identity.  However, as the 90s wore on, it started to become apparent that hallmark styles were becoming extinct.  Sure, you had an easily identifiable "grunge" look for a few years - but, overall, fashion as we knew was going extinct.




We mock the seventies look, but at least it had a look.  Maybe it's because we got lazy, or maybe it's just as Mr. de la Renta said: there ceased to be boundaries.  For instance, in 1971, if you were a female of high school age, you wore a miniskirt.  There was no room for divergence from the fashion of the day.  You had to do it.

The same goes for men.  In 1976 you did NOT wear your hair even close to a crew cut - you wore it grown out PERIOD.  To do otherwise was simply not up for discussion.


Nowadays, I guess, people have no boundaries - they don't have to follow a certain fashion etiquette.  Thus, you lose that uniformity and subsequently you lose that identifiable "look" that went with each decade.  For instance, I can easily tell from a photograph (with people in it, of course) whether it is from 1971 or 1978.  I promise you, I'll never get it wrong.

In contrast, I can't tell whether a photograph is from 1997 or 2012 - a full 15 years apart!  (Yet, think of the fashions of 1970 versus the fashions fifteen years later in 1985.... holy crap, what a difference!)

A perfect example: All women knew you DID NOT wear white shoes after Labor Day - this hard and fast rule lasted into the 1990s.  In the 1960s, you didn't wear white clothes period.  Now, no women give a flying shit.


And please don't argue the point and say we have, today, certain styles that do get popular - for instance, "skinny jeans".  But that's not the point - I'm not saying that things don't get popular.  The point is that the rules have disappeared.

One more example: In 1979, you could wear bell bottoms completely free of embarrassment.  By 1982, a mere three years later, you would be publicly mocked and ostracized. In stark contrast, I could easily walk into a mall today and see everything from skinny jeans, to bell bottoms, to flare legged, to straight legged, to Capri length, to low rise..... you get the point. In fact, I could literally wear the same wardrobe I wore in college (I graduated college over 20 years ago) and get away with it..... and actually look quite nice.

What the hell happened to our collective mindset? I think Oscar de la Renta said it perfectly.  We don't have rules anymore.  We lost the boundaries.

THE END


31 comments:

  1. What defines us now are hair styles (females mainly). You can tell if a picture was taken in the 90's or 2000's just by how the hair was styled..... Choppy Aniston look, super straight, jumbo curl waves, etc etc.

    Clothes though.... T-shirts and jeans for everyone. Literally, everyone.

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    1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      Where have you been? Because where I'm at very few women style their hair. They just wear it straight and greasy or so filled with product you're not sure if it's real hair or a plastic Halloween wig.

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  2. neko nekoJuly 24, 2012

    WONDERFUL post!

    You wrote: "In fact, I could literally wear the same wardrobe I wore in college (I graduated college over 20 years ago) and get away with it..... and actually look quite nice." This is so very true. It also applies to clothing from 30, 40, or 50 years ago (and even farther back than that).

    There seems to be no definitive style these days, only rehashed combinations from previous decades: a near-total lack of fashion and design, with no identifiable "thumbprint" for 21st-century clothing ... merely a random but increasingly thorough harvesting (or outright theft) of old styles and ideas. (On the other hand, the things one sees on the runway today! Increasingly surreal, totally unwearable.)

    I wore a lot of vintage (1920s-1960s) clothing during the late 1970s; it was definitely a big part of fashion then, but it was a separate style, not incorporated into the fashion of the times.

    Since I'm a "saver" when it comes to clothing, I still have quite a few things I wore when I was younger: items from my 1970s wardrobe, a few pieces from my youth in the late 60s, and the aforementioned "vintage" finds. All of these are eminently wearable today, and my closet is constantly being raided by my daughters.

    Moreover, a particular chain of jewelry/accessories boutiques, which first opened when I was a teenager and got a LOT of my business, sells (or is it resells?) items classed as "trendy" and "new," but which are near-to-exact copies of their 1976 stock. Many's the time I've walked into one of their boutiques in 2012 while WEARING the same items that I bought from them in 1977 (but they cost a lot less back then, and were of much better quality).

    On the bright side: It's cheap and easy to be dressed to kill when you have a wardrobe of old clothes, and if you can fit into them, then you are REALLY ahead of the game.

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  3. Men are fortunate in that "style", defined how you will, rarely changes. For example I had three fine suits made for me when I was stationed in Europe (Britain and Germany) from 1986 to 1989, a grey vested, a light blue single breasted and dark blue double breasted. I wore those suits to job interviews in 1992 and 1998, my oldest son wore the dark blue double breasted to interviews in 2009. They still look great and are "in style".

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  4. well written article, mate! i was thinking the same thing about fashion in the last two decades as well!

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  5. "In fact, I could literally wear the same wardrobe I wore in college (I graduated college over 20 years ago) and get away with it..... and actually look quite nice."

    As I read this, I looked down at what I was wearing and thought, "This is exactly like something I would've worn in college!" Good taste never goes out of style, I guess! :)

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    1. AnonymousJuly 24, 2012

      The current style seems to be a unisex desire to bare the calf: capris and such for women and long baggy shorts for men. Depressingly, it strikes me as a kind of default peasant costume for centuries of a future Dark Ages.

      Delete
  6. This post is funny, and to an extent very true. I can tell the difference between fashion from the late '90s and now. There are subtle differences, but they are there. Nevertheless, you are completely correct in saying the rules no longer apply. The rules are: there are no rules. In a way it's very freeing. You can dress how you please without fear of being made fun of (too much at least.) In another way it's very sad. Without standard, "agreed upon" rules, we have lost our uniformity as a society. I think it's indicative of a greater self-centeredness in people today. We exist solely to please ourselves and thumb our nose towards everybody else's ideas.

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  7. AnonymousJuly 24, 2012

    Perhaps though it's easier to identify a style with a period with hindsight. I am sure that in 30 years time people will look at photos of the early 21st century and find fashion details that, to their eyes, immediately look dated.

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    1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      Anonymous has it exactly right. The late 90's/early 2000's are just too recent for us to have a truly objective eye. Give it another couple of decades or so and I guarantee you'll be able to pick out traits linking it to the period.

      And as with music, I think some of it just has to do with getting older. Music all sounding the same, fashions not adhering to what we're used to seeing, etc. - we don't give the same attention to the same details at 20 than we do at say, 50.

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    2. I definitely agree, and there's a period during the late 90s-early 2000s where women's fashion is immediately identifiable--lip liner, low-cut jeans, belly-baring/"hippie" tops, etc.

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  8. i remember my girlfriend doing the "pencil test" in the 70's to see if she could go braless. this meant putting a pencil under a breast - if it did not fall out it was o.k. to go braless. i wouldn't mind seeing that fashion made a comeback

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    1. AnonymousJuly 24, 2012

      I knew a girl back then who made the same test with a typewriter.

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    2. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      Wrong way. If the pencil falls then you can go braless. If it doesn't fall that means you need to see a plastic surgeon cause your boobs droop.

      Delete
  9. I think society, as far as fashion goes, just doesn't know where to go. (its the future. Where's my plastic moongirl dress with the jetpack attachment, huh?!) It seems like we're rooting through the closet, trying to find what old fad we can spice up. You did see some of that in the 1990s (remember when all that hippie, tie-dyed stuff had a bit of a resurgence?)
    Plain and simple, this decade has no real identity of its own. You said you could walk down the street in clothes you wore 20 years ago, I'm sure you could walk down the street dressed an nineteenth-century carnival barker and people who would just shake their heads and call you a hipster under their breath.

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  10. I wonder now, how much the rise of fashion tribes (goth, skater, steampunk) since the 90's is indicative of people's hunger to find an identifiable uniform to attach themselves to.

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  11. Yep, I agree - despite various trends, we haven't had an identifiable "fashion period" since the 80s.

    I think a lot of it has to do with all the casual clothing we wear everywhere, even at work, nice restaurants, etc. I think in past decades, when there were a lot of places where you couldn't get away with jeans, shorts, T-shirts, etc., the fact that people had to dress up a bit (or a lot) encouraged fashion and certain styles to develop.

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  12. The same applies to pop music. Today's kids listen to everything since, and incuding, the Beatles and the Stones. The types of rock and rap that started in the mid-80s (25 years ago!) are still fully active.

    Nothing like that was possible in the '60s. You couldn't find 25-year-old records in a store, let alone hear them on the radio. Our parents wanted to hear mid-30s music, but they were out of luck unless they had carefully preserved a record collection.

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    1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      You're absolutely, totally right.

      Delete
  13. If fashion is dead, I say good riddance. Show me its grave so I can relieve myself on its tombstone.

    Fashion has always been about dividing people, the worthy from the unworthy; it has never been about actually being attractive, much less about looking presentable and decent.

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    1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      Right on! This article has a negative vibe to it, but who cares if there's no fashion any more? How many kids got picked on in school because they weren't wearing the "latest fashion?"

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    2. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

      You're so wrong. We need fashion. Thanks to there being no fashion you've got women who are 300 pounds wearing tube tops and short shorts and claiming that they look "confident and sexy" when they look like 50 pounds of cream corn in a 5 pound bag. (And I say that as a fat woman myself.) We've got men who wear the waist of their pants around their knees, showing off their dirty boxer shorts. Teenage girls dressing like cheap sluts. And I can't even find a decent nightgown with real sleeves - not those stupid cap sleeves or those ones that slash inward towards the armpits, both bunch in the pits through the night and wake me up.

      So yes, bring back fashion!

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    3. AnonymousJuly 26, 2012

      I happen to like cream corn.

      Delete
  14. Maybe it's just that I live in California, but I definitely wouldn't say that fashion has disappeared. I just graduated high school, and on the contrary, I think it's making a MAJOR comeback. Although it's diffused across different subcultures, there are trends that are unmistakably different from ten years ago—particularly in girls' fashion, but certainly in guys' as well.

    During winter, leggings/stockings are pretty big for girls, and are often coupled with loose-knit sweaters. Pea coats are pretty big among both genders, and are often paired with "infinity scarves" on girls. (I never knew what they were called until I looked them up just now. Do an image search if you aren't familiar with them.) These are trends that span a wide variety of different subcultures; everyone from hipster intellectuals to cheerleaders can be found wearing them.

    Among guys, fashion isn't quite as big, but that's not to say that it's dead—far from it. Like with girls, there's a spillover from "indie" fashion across many different groups. Toms shoes and cutoff jeans are big (neither of which I'm very fond of), but I know a lot of guys who wear semi-dressy shirts, which is a nice trend. Ray-Ban Wayfarers are popular as well, and among both genders. There's greater attention being paid to hair than just a few years ago; many guys style their hair a bit retro, like they're from the first half of the 20th century. This is common ground for everyone from sports guys to metalheads. Short beards aren't uncommon if they're well-maintained, but were pretty much unheard of just four years ago, when I was a freshman.

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  15. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

    4th pic from Top. Reese Witherspoons Mum ;)
    Uncanny.

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  16. I'm seventeen, and fashion is certainly not dead. There's a photo of me two years ago that is...DATED! Two years ago! Greater attention is being paid in the last few years, Gunnar is correct. You all sound like negative nancys (nancies???) which isn't surprising! :)

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    1. I told my step-daughter there is no way in hell she is getting my Maiden shirt.

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  17. AnonymousJuly 28, 2012

    Fashion is still around, it's just that some fashions (like the khaki shorts and blue polo shirt I'm wearing right now) are taking longer to die. The 1960s and 70s were a time for liberal baby-boomers to experiment. Some ideas worked, some didn't. Some clothes from 1992 can be worn today, some can't (skinny ties, shoulder pads on women, black people with ornate or "block" Afro haircuts). Me, I take care of my clothes, and am glad I don't have to pitch half my wardrobe and go clothes shopping every four years.

    I know we're talking about clothes, but it's worth a complaint against the hideous fashion of TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS. Yuk. So many otherwise attractive girls walk around with metal hanging not only from their ears but their lips, tongues, eyebrows, cheeks, neck and God know where else. It's also time for face, neck, and hand tattoos to die already. One small tattoo on a woman's back or ass is sexy, but there is no question, none, that people with large, visible tattoos will look like freaks when they're 45.

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  18. I agree that it feels like the fashions aren't changing quickly, but if I go watch TV shows that are a few or several years old, I can sense that things are different (although I can't always put my finger on what all has changed). I think lipstick applications have changed, for one thing.

    I was given some clothes recently that had been in storage for 5-10 years, and the women's jeans were a LOT fuller through the thighs than jeans from the past couple of years. More floral patterns, too (reminiscent of some of the clothes worn by Elaine on Seinfield and Andie McDowell in movie roles), and denim jumpers (I remember when they were cool for homeschooling mothers).

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  19. Frank BoothOctober 20, 2012

    Fashion is like everything else. The various markets for everything have fragmented. The dominant culture, if there even is one, is so weak that it's hard to even identify it. From the 60s through the 80s there were cultural phenomena that EVERYBODY almost was interested in. But that got steadily weaker. The first big thing I remember was Beatlemania. I was about 8. Even if people hated it, they were still hyper aware of it. Now we simply have a bunch of subcultures. You see it with cars. In the 50s and 60s most people were terribly interested in what the new cars would look like and the Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth dealers would get most of the attention. You would hear all the adults saying things like, "What do think of the new Plymouth Fury?" The first break in that unanimity came with the introduction of the compacts and intermediates in the early 60s. But still, for the longest time, the standard American sedan and hardtop were something everyone at least knew about. Now it's all niche marketing for everything. Good, bad, indifferent? Don't care. Just noticed.

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