The Retro Revolution

They say the only constant is change, but sometimes change is so consistent you have to blink to see the difference.  To quote the French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr,

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Ever left a place and returned years later to find that not much about the surrounding is different? New people may have replaced the old familiar faces that are imprinted in your mind, new buildings and structures and ideas may have been adopted, but the general feel, atmosphere, the skeletal structure has remained intact. You look around you and you’re taken back by the surreal familiarity of it all, while still nostalgically aware that the colours have lost their hue, it’s like you’re looking at a faded photograph.

F. Scott Fitzgerald not only knew this feeling all too well, he also was gifted with the ability to capture it in words: 

“Life is a journey, not to a destination but a transformation.”

I’m not exactly sure who said that but what matters most is the truth in it. We’re on a journey, and everything that we encounter has an impact on us, whether we realise it or not. The same can be said about fashion and the clothes we wear.

In her book The Thoughtful Dresser, Linda Grant talks about the power clothes and fashion has on influencing our identities and how it reflects the different stages of our lives. She says that one could literally write an autobiography using the different styles of clothes worn through every stage of life. At every age, we embark on a new stretch of the journey accompanied by fashion, our faithful friend. The clothes we choose are social indicators of who we are and where we place ourselves in relation to the world around us. Whether we choose to fit in or stand out, clothes are bonded at the seams with ideology and we pick and choose what and who we want to embody by what we wear.

The other day in my Writing and Editing class, we were tasked with writing an overview of the year we were born and find a way to fit ourselves somewhere in the equation, because in this journey of life everything has a cause and effect, no matter how insignificantly seeming it is.

So I typed ‘1995’ into the Google search bar (because I’m that ancient you know,) and attempted to over-analyze this idea of predestination based on my subliminal reception to the outer forces at play around the time  I was welcomed into this world.  Could the global events and historical context surrounding my birth, really have that much of a significance on how I turned out as a person, and the course of life I ultimately chose as a result?

At first glance, the whole idea seemed like a somewhat horoscope-type reading of my fate. But interestingly enough, amongst other things I discovered that Amazon sold its first book the year I was born, and seeing I dream of one day being a published writer, perhaps I could see it as a sign that I too will someday sell a book. Or am I reading way too far into everything?

But then I modified my search slightly and typed in ‘fashion in 1995’ and what eventually popped onto my screen, was a classic case of déjà vu. Turns out while my mother was working out hard at the gym to lose her baby bump, the rest of the world was standing in solidarity with her, skipping the fries and piling on salads in order to fit into the ‘latest trend’: crop tops. And slip dresses, velvet, chokers, platform shoes and nude lips.

Ring a bell? Because I’m pretty sure, just the other day I saw a picture of Kendall Jenner rocking a metallic slip dress, with a matching choker. And let’s take a minute to pay a tribute to the tiniest excuse for a t-shirt in history: the crop top. It features everywhere these days. It will take you from the beach to the bar; the gym to a girl’s night out; it’s even made its way onto the red carpet countless times in recent years.

Trust me, IT girl and super model Gigi Hadid, backed by the biggest and the best fashion houses, has got plenty to lose by wearing clothes that are ‘outdated’, so when I see her constantly showing off her killer abs in crop tops, I’m going to instantly assume that this itsy bitsy insignificant piece of cloth must still be pretty significant after all.

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Let’s take a moment to salute the slip dress, for surviving 21 years and finding its way back, not only into the fashion pages but more importantly back onto the streets where it is accessible to everyone and can be dressed up and down in the most creative ways. Recently, I too set off in search of my very own slip dress to wear over a plain t-shirt, and I still remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I finally found the one (that victorious moment holds another story altogether, but I’ll save it for another day.)

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Platform shoes and nude or brown hued lips are also all the rage these days, just in case you somehow managed to miss them screaming out at you from across the street, shop windows, or even the pages of magazines. (If this is the case, then you must be deaf).

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So it would appear my life in fashion has gone full circle (I guess that means I should be content to die now?) I’m back to where it all began; back to where my life all started. The 1990’s makes a comeback, but this time around I can actually fit into the clothes.

Yet amongst these trends, there are still the few that twenty-one years have failed to make my heart grow fond of. Crop tops, unfortunately, feature high on that list. While I don’t despise the item and admire it on others, it remains one style that has just failed to find a place in my wardrobe.  There was a stage when I was around nine or ten that everyone my age was wearing them, and so based on that premise, I too wanted one. I begged and pleaded with my mother to let me wear them, however being the classy, elegant women she is, and trying oh so very hard to turn her daughter into a ‘lady’ (trust me it was mission impossible those days,) there was no way she was going to have me baring my stomach, even in the name of a floral print. And so the desire passed, and shortly after so did the trend, for a while at least…

Fashion evolves and revolves, like waves crashing onto the shore and then retreating temporarily back into the deep blue. Through all the ebbs and flows of life, there’s one thing we can be certain of: The waves always return to the shore. And amidst this recurring cycle, sometimes we find ourselves revisiting home, watching new faces come and go in crop tops and dungarees, and those psychedelic hippy pants that speak to my eighteen-year-old hippie self. It is then that we realize, that amidst all these ‘constants’, it is us who have changed. Fashion evolves, but so does our style, it’s all part of the journey.

As the late fashion designer Yves Saint Lauren said:

“Fashion fades, but style is eternal.”

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