Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is Nothing New?

In every issue of the fashion magazine InStyle, there is an article detailing the latest buzz-worthy see-it-everywhere get-on-it-now trend, from gingham to boudoir. In the corner of this two-page article there is a small column, aptly titled "Is Nothing New?" Here the author offers three or so representations of the latest trend through history. I believe it was last summer that the most ubiquitous look was safari, popularized by the spring/summer runways. And under "Is Nothing New?" was a young Lauren Hutton wearing her usual endearing gap-toothed grin along with a safari blouse. And Yves Saint Laurent's collection a couple decades back, in which he popularized the safari jacket.
Now I want to ask our readers this question: is really nothing in fashion new? It seems that so often fashion is really just a recycling of looks of the past, perhaps with a slightly more modern twist. Everything has been seen before, and is now reborn again. Every other month fashion columns shout: "Eighties revival! Crop tops and acid-wash jeans are all the rage - again!" "Woodstock returns - fringed vests and patchouli are back!"
This love of the fashion past is reflected in the nation's obsession with the fashion of Mad Men, the show on AMC about an advertisement agency in the early 60's. Watchers drool over Betty Draper's bright red lipstick and perfect hot-roller curls, falling in love with the look of the era. Meanwhile, fashion writers chronicle their adoration of Joan Holloway's shiny pumps and her modestly-cut yet form-fitting shell dresses, touting her style as "the look of understated sex appeal." It seems that in fashion, everything before is better.
I am now holding the latest issue of Marie Claire, for lack of anything better to read. On the cover is Dakota Fanning pronouncing that she is "not a little girl anymore." Around her picture are eye-catching headlines: 293 ways to update your look. The shocking latest crime against women: honor killings have come to America. New diet plan - eat your way skinny. Under all of these features is the same theme - that since this magazine is new, its articles are all about new information, new ideas, new horrors, new discoveries. Dakota Fanning is newly adult, here is how you update your style, this is the latest kind of crime, this is the newest diet.
I begin to flip through the glossy pages. First ad: Guess models, scandalous as usual, with a retro twist: the female model wears a voluminous bouffant-style wig, and the male model is a reincarnation of Elvis, all slicked-back hair and 50's charm. Ah, and a psychadelic Ray-Ban ad boasts peace signs, "NO War!" pins, and groovy colors. Oh, and there's Beyoncé wearing Old-Hollywood earrings for a L'Oreal promo. This fashion magazine brags of spanking, 100% new content - and delivers quite the opposite.
Which begs the question: is that such a bad thing?
Technology has transformed our world into something very different than that of the twenties - or even the eighties for that matter. Computers weigh 0.00009 ounces and phones do the impossible. Meanwhile, fashion seems to be a lone time warp in our modern world.
On one hand, it is perhaps frustrating that, no, not that much of what we wear is really new. But it also seems somehow right that fashion pays homage to the past so often. After all, what other institution does the same?
It is fact that we live very modernized, forwards-looking lifestyles. But the one thing that seems to keep peering into the past is fashion. The world of fashion is incredibly unique because of its nostalgia, its profound respect for times long-gone. It is, in many ways, dutiful, vowing to remember the past. With every collection that throws us back a few decades, designers salute their predecessors. When we go bananas over retro trends, we acknowledge how much we have to learn from those who came before us - from those who didn't live in a get-it-now, insta-satisfaction environment.
There is a certain comfort in the preservation of those days in our clothes. Yet more importantly, the reason history is taught in schools is so that we do not let memories we can learn from simply fade away. And every time we slap on a Depression-era newsboy cap or a pair of Wayfarers, we remind ourselves of exactly this. We announce to ourselves and to the world that we will never forget.
Is this a laughably romanticized view of the catty, often superficial, profit-based world of fashion? Let us know; we want to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, if fashion's your thing, check out this great video of Ralph Lauren's Spring/Summer 2010 show:
I stumbled upon it shopping online a while back and fell in love with both the clothes (much of it was, predictably, inspired by the late '30's) and the corresponding music (the amazing "Ramblin' Man" by Hank Williams and the solemn "Where They Never Saw Your Name" by Eilen Jewell, both of which I have happily added to my iTunes library). We'd love to hear your favorite collections of this year or years past, and know your ideas about fashion in general.
Additionally, let us know what topics you want to hear about. We're open to new ideas and discussions.

- Meredith


  1. stunner shades

  2. I completely agree. no one in fashion can predict 'new' trends- they are, in fact, just choosing what they think will come back from the old trends. it seems that these days there are no trends that haven't been done, so everyone is reverting back to their favorite old time trend. ten years ago, no one would have been caught dead in a cut off shirt and legwarmers, but recently the 80's have made their revival. who knows what will come next.. perhaps next year we will be walking the streets in poodle skirts and pearl necklaces!