By Natasha Aftandilians
Oscar Wilde once said, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” Well, in the last 50 years there have been plenty of seasonal shifts in style, but there are some trends that never seem to die.
Modern fashion constantly borrows from the past; historical influences can be seen on runways from London to New York. Some people say it’s because of a lack of creativity or originality from designers. I say, if something looked good thirty years ago, why not try it now?
Fads from decades past are making a comeback, with some force: hints of ’70s glamour, ’20s opulence, ’50s femininity and ’60s minimalism are all making appearances on runways and in magazines. Take a look around and you’ll probably see a girl rocking a plaid shirt, cutoffs and combat boots like the ’90s grunge phase never ended and Kurt Cobain never put a bullet in his head. Vintage and secondhand stores are filled with people looking for the perfectly retro pieces to add to their collection. And, as much as our standards about the formality and appropriateness of fashion have radically changed in the last half century (hooray for not having to wear a girdle everyday!), the styles themselves are still popular.
Just take a look at the “Mad Men” craze; early ’60s fashion has never been so popular since the show went on air. Form-fitting dresses for the office; full, flared skirts for going out; and perfectly coiffed bouffant and prim pillbox hats are the standard uniform, with the men sticking to the easy classics — black or gray suit with a skinny black tie (topped off with a hat, of course). It’s easy to imagine the first class of students at UCI enjoying these trends in 1965, walking around campus in their skirts, sweater sets and saddle shoes.
But let’s not forget that in the late ’60s especially, UCI was a far more subversive campus than we know it to be now; KUCI was still just an underground pirate radio station and we used to have a trailer park on campus where people could live in RVs. No doubt the free-flowing bohemian fashion trends clashed with the otherwise straight-laced Irvine image everyone perceives nowadays. Intent on going against the fashions of the past decades in every way, ’60s bohemian and mod fashions were hugely popular: ladies didn’t have to wear so many restrictive undergarments and lads could grow their hair as long as they pleased. Colors and patterns fought each other for attention in tie-dye, paisley and other psychedelia-inspired prints. Mods hiked their skirts up even shorter, taking the path that had been paved for them by the scandalous flappers of the ’20s. Go-go boots, shapeless shift dresses and mini-skirts came over from the trendsetting minds in London and created the new “New Look” of the decade. And to this day we still love long, flowing boho dresses and mini-skirts; heck, even paisley is making a comeback in 2012.
Fashion is constantly being recycled and regurgitated; looks fall in and out of favor among those elites of the chic set, and the rest of us in the real world try to keep up with what’s hot and what’s not. Some things stand the test of time (little black dresses, perfect blue jeans) and others, not so much (leg warmers, the piano-key neck tie … ), but we’re constantly plunging into the archives of history to find inspiration for the next big thing. Maybe designers are natural copycats; if it worked then, why not now? Maybe we’ve run out of “new” ideas; or maybe, we just stick to what we’re most comfortable with. In a business like fashion, sometimes you just have to look backward to go forward.