The 80s Are Happening and I Am Surprisingly Inclined; Let's Discuss
Last year, I fell in love with a Stella McCartney dress with big sleeves and a nipped waist. I didn't buy it. I figured it was a passing thing, and I let it go.
In January, a strange urge overcame me leading to the purchase of a lamé top. I didn't make much of it. Then the hankering for sleeves came back, and this time, it hit hard. To be clear, this wasn't specifically about shoulder pads as much as it was a decisive and swift need for significant, pronounced upper arm/bicep augmentation. This was puzzling, to say the least. By the time the fall collections were unfolding, the 80s were looming large, and their return brought about a most disturbing question; one that I have quietly parked in the recesses of my mind until now, when I've mustered enough courage to face it. Have I warmed to the fashion of the 1980s, a decade which I've up to now considered a black mark in the evolution of modern fashion?
Because the 80s are happening, and I'm not running in the other direction. Quite the opposite, I want in.
then and now, photographic evidence of the 80s' return
copious animal print
oversized coats + copious animal print
Now that we're clear on the parameters of the time warp in which we now find ourselves, you can see why I just want some puffy sleeves, a billowy dress, and a swipe of colorful eye shadow. Obviously!
BUT, in the interest of sartorial responsibility, I will delay gratification and not allow myself to recklessly succumb to the 1980s until I do some soul searching. Because these kinds of instances—moments when you go from feeling repulsed by something to feeling attracted to it...to wanting to wear it on your person—are fascinating occurrences in the relationship we have with our clothes. And they deserve to be better understood.
I want to get clear on what motivates my urge to get dressed. In working to decouple style from consumption over the last couple of years, in starting to see what it means to dress for myself, I've been trying to understand the outside forces that act on me through a sort of osmosis, shaping my fashion wants and preferences without my even realizing it. I am undoubtedly influenced by trends, this I can declare unequivocally. But, why? How? I operate in a tightly-managed fashion bubble—how are trends still getting in?! What even are trends in the first place? Are they organic; the net sum of our thinking in a certain society at a certain moment in time? Are they pushed upon us by an industry plotting to sell us more clothes?
Big questions. And the truth is, I don't know. The nature of fashion is kinetic. It wouldn't be fashion if it didn't always change. It is change that makes fashion so interesting to begin with. It's change that makes it so powerful.
Maybe my warming to the 1980s just means I've changed, I'm willing to see things in a different way. Maybe that's why it's so welcome. Perhaps we want to see ourselves as creatures who can change, even though, the truth is, I think we're fundamentally stubborn. Or, maybe the churning of trends is a means of allaying aesthetic ennui? After all, as Diana Vreeland puts it, the eye has to travel. So, after straight lines and slim cuts, the eye revels in seeing something different. Big sleeves and billowy dresses! Of course! Yet again, maybe when things come around a second time, it's an invitation to see the fashion of then in a different light now. Maybe it all wasn't so tacky and over the top after all? Maybe these are ideas worth revisiting.
This brings me to my final question, which stems from a statement made by the great Azzedine Alaïa. Speaking to Women's Wear Daily, he said:
And I don’t think really new ideas can come out every two months. It’s not possible. That’s why now there is a lot of vintage. There’s too much vintage — in all the houses, it’s too much. We don’t have good ideas every day, it’s not possible. Nobody has new ideas every day. When you have one in the year, that’s already good.
So I ask, maybe fashion has to change, maybe it has to morph constantly, but why do we end up revisiting ideas of the past? Why are we handed the 1980s in 2018 as if these ideas are fresh—as if this is real change? If fashion is meant to constantly push the boundaries of our thinking, how does it serve us moving forward to be always, in some way, looking back?