Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Personal Style: Borrowing From Every Fashion Era

Fashion history: looking chic from feather-adorned hats and lace gloves to leather jackets and torn jeans.

Mainstream fashion will have us believe that we should strive to wear the latest trend, or else be seen as hopelessly out of style.  I've always thought this was nonsensical, since the reason a style usually becomes a trend is because it is based on a lovely design aesthetic that resonates with many people.  Of course, there are obvious exceptions.  (I'm looking at you, most of 1980s fashion.)  But when magazines and blogs begin to tell you to put away your chunky heels in favor of stilettos (or vice versa) there is no actual reason for it.  I've never understood bemoaning the fact that something you love has "gone out of style."  If it's something you love, it's your style...

For example:

I enjoy playing along with current trends, but I'll admit I shamelessly steal from past ones.  And, rule-breaker that I am, I mix them up in the same outfit.  It's fun to be the only one wearing 1970s-style flares in a group of skinny jeans, and I'm not opposed to topping those flares with a tailored 1940s jacket.  

 I'm not trying to be different for the sake of being different, but to embrace all of the things that I find beautiful to wear, instead of relying on the giant Fall and Spring editions of Vogue for the final word on what is currently accepted as fashionable.  Also, after decades of experimentation, I know what looks good on my body and what doesn't, and I'm going to dress accordingly.

When my roommate and I first moved to Los Angeles, we were fresh out of college.  Each of us had been involved in theatre as well as dance, and we loved fashion and costume history.   We settled into a 1920s walkup on the same street as the old Charlie Chaplin studios.  Maybe it was the history and romance of the place with its original glass doorknobs and sweeping staircase, but we both became drawn to 1920s-inspired pastel-colored floral dresses.  These were not "in style" in an era of black spandex and denim, but we found a few dresses at a thrift store on Melrose Avenue,  promptly chopped the hems into mini skirts and ended up with something that looked kind of like a design collaboration between Daisy Buchanan and Mary Quant.   Let me just say this: wearing pale, diaphanous dresses in LA venues filled with people wearing skin-tight black was a surefire way to stand out.  

Were we trying to get attention?  Sure!  But the bigger lesson for me was the fact that I could rely on my own sense of style, and wear something I thought was pretty, rather than try to fit in with an arbitrary style rule. 

I love to borrow from many of the trends of the last century:  

Come on, when you watch Titanic, don't you love the 1900s embroidery and lace?:

And don't you think all that 1920s beadwork shouldn't only have been worn by rebellious flappers?

There is almost nothing better for most body types than a classic 1930s-40s A-line cut in a dress, especially updated with modern knits and prints:

Or, one that looks truly vintage:

Some days I want to channel my inner Joanie from Mad Men in a 1950s wiggle dress:

And I think my happy place is 60s/70s boho hippie chic:


I'm hard-pressed to find anything I love about the 1980s, but a good leather fringe jacket almost makes up for parachute pants and day-glo:

I adore a classic 1990s flannel shirt, slip dress or Doc Martens:

The 2000s gave us a great reason to remember pointed toe heels with the design inspiration of Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik:

See what I mean?  Why on earth would I decide I'm only wearing what they say to wear for this season?

One of my favorite books on fashion history is 100 Years of Fashion by Cally Blackman.

This gorgeous volume is like one, giant collection of the best of every fashion magazine you've ever read.  The photographs include fashion from society, uniforms, sportswear, streetwear and couture.  It's a great book to for inspiration, as well as liberation from the idea that being "in style" means following someone else's rules.

Special thanks to Amazon Fashion for the dizzying selection of clothing, shoes and accessories for lovers of every era!

Video by Mode.

Want to leave a comment about your personal style!  I'd love to hear about it!  Head over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum to start a conversation!