Monday, June 2, 2014
Hello, Dolly: Dressing for the Decades
In my world, paper dolls are having a moment. First there were those holiday horses, and now I have a troop of twentieth (and some twenty-first!) century trendsetters, which I also received as a gift (hey, even I don't buy myself paper dolls). I have another paper doll book somewhere (it may be international-themed), about which I'll happily blog should it ever surface. But for now it's all about the styles of the times and -- ahem -- the timeless styles.
Flipping through the glossy pages of Sticker Fashionista Vintage Style, I was hard-pressed to pick my favorite fashion era. Was I most drawn to the prim and pretty parasols of the early 1900s, or was the structured, starlet-inspired glamour of the 1940s more of my thing? Then there were the mod and boho silhouettes of the 1960s and the outrageous rock opera opulence of the 1980s. At first, I was tempted to say, the farther back the better; give me a time when women were women and there was no such thing as too much lace. Yet as much as I loved the idea of an epoch in which wearing a dress was an everyday occurrence, I couldn't deny that turn-of-the-century style was a little constricting (and I don't just mean the corsets). Back then, women didn't have a whole lot of wiggle room in terms of colors, patterns, embellishments, and accessories - not to mention footwear (we've all seen pictures of those horrid buckled booties). And let's not forget that to be too showy was to risk being regarded as (at best) racy and (at worst) as a lady of the night. This sort of straight and narrow sartorial approach seemed to rule the runways (and walkways) until the 1960s, that shining beacon of anything goes. That was when things really took off with tie-dye and feathers and psychedelic patterns, go-go and flower child aesthetics running amok in different directions. Still, my clotheshorse heart belongs to the 1980s, an inevitability I blame on Jem and Madonna and Prince. The ruffly, one-shouldered, white-and-black polka dot dress pictured above gets my vote for top frock, even if I did dilute its power by teaming it with that Lady Gaga-inspired cherry headband filched from the 2000s section.
Speaking of which, a very cool part of Vintage Style is its last couple of pages, in which you're invited to create the looks of today by mixing and matching pieces from the 100+ years worth on offer in the preceding pages. I didn't photograph my efforts because they weren't all that great, an outcome that I wholeheartedly attribute to the slim pickings that remained by the time I got to the end of the book (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). But the premise got me thinking about how weird it is that you can't pin down the trends of the times when you're actually in them. When I was a preteen watching everyone run around in sunflower-print slip dresses, denim vests, flannel shirts, and overalls, I didn't think, they're part of a minimalist neo-hippie fashion movement that resulted in response to the excess of the 1980s. I just thought, those are the cool kids, and that's what they wear. (I, on the other hand, was still rocking stretch pants and oversized sweaters like the ones favored by the mom on "The Goldbergs," as well as some pretty rad large-and-in-charge hair accessories from Claire's Boutique. I still think about my old resin strawberry-shaped clip, which was so big that it sometimes fell off my head. I wish I still had it, in no small part because I have a lot more hair now.)
I wonder which of today's wardrobe staples will have made their mark by the time we're looking at them through the lens of the future. More importantly, I wonder what we'll be wearing while we're laughing at them.