Just over a century ago, American society in the 1920s freed itself from the pains and traumas of World War I by drinking from an endless well of opulence. Prohibition has backfired: instead, there were large parties behind speakeasy doors. Fashion has also undergone a huge change. Constricting corsets, the hallmark of the Edwardian style for women, were suddenly eliminated from their midsection; the meager work clothes were stowed away in the trunks and an era of fashionable glamor arrived that would hopefully achieve a sense of bliss that had been lost in previous years.
An emphasis on simplicity has emerged that has never been seen before. While previously women basked in glitz and glamor by wearing opulent fabrics, crystal accessories and strings of pearls, they soon shed all of that in favor of the comfort of flowing, soft silhouettes. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel modeled the little black dress and, although it was simple, the style exuded sensuality and charm. At that time, her boss was exciting, liberating, and most importantly, new.
This novelty in clothing, just like any other important moment of fashion invention or reinvention, symbolized a change in trend. The dress itself ushered in new ideas on how women should and could dress. Nearly 40 years later, Halston’s new pillbox hat designed for Jackie Kennedy, which she wore when JFK was inaugurated as president, ultimately had the same effect. The novelty in fashion excites consumers and has the power to push the culture and its looks forward.
When COVID-19 violently changed our lives nearly two years ago (how awful is it to read it?), I remember feeling hope that a sense of glamor would make a comeback. That some genius, perhaps like Christian Dior, would come up with the 21st century version of the “New Look”, aroused by feelings of doom and despair. While there are still a few labels of the moment that draw on Surrealism (including Thom Browne’s trompe l’oeil abs and Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture), much of what we’ve seen in fashion seems to be quite the opposite of the new. . All we have seen is the repetition of some ghosts from the past of fashion which, probably, are neither beautiful nor interesting. They aren’t even variations or twists added to past trends. Instead, they are exact replicas resold in a new period of time.
This trend began with Gen-Z’s obsession with early 2000s fashion kitsch: the era of slip-on dresses over jeans, butterfly clasps and small bags came back into fashion around 2019. Then, the throwback trends have become more literal. Only in early 2022, conversations about “teenage core”, “kidcore” and even “gothcore” (when I read it, I was immediately taken back to the days of Hot Topic) have proliferated both online and IRL. More recently, there has been a call for the return of “indie” fashion, a trend that spoiled the early 2010s with baggy beanies, cardigans and low metallic braided belts. As fashion consumers, have we lost all inspiration to move forward towards something new? Has the pain of COVID-19 banned the pursuit of fantasy? Perhaps the moment we are currently living in is the era of fashion copy, where the only thing progressive or new is the conversations surrounding fashion NFTs, sweatpants, and the metaverse.
Paying homage to a bygone era is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, it is in the DNA of fashion. “As we’ve become a stronger visual society, it’s easier to recycle styles,” says Allison Pfingst, Fordham University Fashion Studies program director and fashion historian. w. “Gen-Z is also very interested in thrift shopping. It is intentional and cool to save now, whereas in the 60s and 70s it was considered counterculture. Regardless of whether it’s actually sustainable to consume that much it’s a conversation for another time. “
But Pfingst theorizes that this deep desire to look back on past trends is evasion in a different form. While you consider these flamboyant trends referring to the early 2000s as “an absolute nightmare”, there is more than meets the eye going on here. “In this fashion era, we are constantly looking back to simpler times. Nostalgia is our fantasy and we are romanticizing life when it was easier and devoid of technology, “he says. According to Pfingst, the chosen trends reflect those feelings with great accuracy.” The Paris Hilton fashion era, cell phones covered of rhinestones, there is something youthful about that time. We have been locked up for so long and, in a sense, looking back, rather than forward, indicates how many of us have lost our youth. “
How can fashion look ahead when young people, the age group in which fashion often finds its muses, have missed a crucial moment in their life? Many of them have not had the opportunity to experience school dances and to dress strangely in real life, and, instead, have been forced to experience relentless adolescent angst with not too many social outlets, aside from the parties portrayed in the shows they they are looking like Euphoria. If so, maybe the news in fashion can wait a while. Maybe it is Should wait a moment. As many moments in their life have been forcibly taken away from their hands, perhaps the fashion styles that reflect these stolen times are their last chance to really experience them.
Also, the effects of becoming a more visually driven society make the desire of the past easier. Put a lengthy quarantine and social media as a response mechanism, and it’s no wonder that images of Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Missy Elliott end up scattered all over the designers’ moodboards. Nostalgia can travel much faster on Instagram and Tik-Tok, where influencers of all kinds are rushing to repost.
This experience does not exclude those who grew up as part of a different generation. The early 2000s marked a time in each of our lives when problems were small (even if they seemed big at the time). The problems weren’t about bills, surviving a pandemic or fighting corrupt political systems, but mostly about the cute fifth term kid or the surf spot you and your friends headed to after school. They were simple. While the trends of the fashion copy era aren’t new, they are doing the same job that fashion did in the 1920s and 1960s: allowing us to live in an era that brought us immense joy.