As anyone else who spent some time in the 1990’s can tell you, it was a dark time for fashion. Small pools existed such as the Gap and the Limited which clung rebelliously to the dregs of 1980’s mania by coating their shapeless, oversized silhouettes with denial in the form of colorblocking in subdued shades of teal and purple in precisely the wrong hues and covering insipid baby T’s in tired, sallow floral patterns that were just large enough to be perceived but not large enough to make a statement. The rest was plunged into relentless darkness. Popular media would have you believe that 90’s fashion was all edgy fishnets, badass trenchcoats, pretty dresses with combat boots, short schoolgirl skirts with bared, toned bellies and ankh earrings.
In the real world, in the backwoods sprawl of rural Pennsylvania, the 1990’s meant Champion sweatshirts. Seas of dingy flannel. Grunge. Dirt. As much brown, maroon, and taupe as you could choke down. The standard wardrobe was a rotating combination of gigantic band t-shirt, incredibly ill-fitting pants (jeans were in the awkward growing-out phase between the high waist of the 80’s and the obscenely low rise of the early aughts) and whatever atrocity your part-time waitress position at the diner could afford you from Hot Topic and the army surplus store. Imagine my horror when Teen Vogue recently announced Grunge was coming back.
The whole “retro” thing is a reliable recurrence in the fashion industry. The 80’s re-did the 50’s, the 90’s made a halfhearted attempt at bringing back the 70’s, 2000-2005… let’s never speak of those years again, shall we not? To my perception, fashion has spent the past few years in a rehabilitative state, looking over its shoulder in embarrassment and chagrin, apologizing to those it has offended, taking deep breaths, lifting itself up, reaching towards the heavens, finding balance and integrity, and quietly trying to be better and do the right thing. And what it has done is amazing.
We’re seeing “retro” in a way it’s never manifested before, as a unified composite of only the best elements from each era. It’s like a pizza made entirely out of first bites. We now have, at one time, access to the gorgeous, full-skirted hourglass sundresses from the 50’s.
The bright, bold colors of the 80’s, tamed with some of the earthiness of the 90’s.
Colorblocking has resurfaced in a big way, but it’s the way Andy Warhol would have done it.
Denim is appearing in washes you haven’t seen since mama took your Kodachrome away and the necklaces come in long, sweeping strands that graze across your abdomen as you swish down the street in your ankle-length bohemian skirt.
You can accessorize with vintage gold tennis bracelets or with chunky beaded cuffs in the colors of a desert sunset.
Pants? You can have, with the exception of the 2000-2005 muffin-top horror we dare not speak of, anything you want. High waist? Yes. Mid rise? Yes. Tapered? Yes. Straight leg? Yes. Skinny? Sure, why not. Bellbottoms. Tailored. Slouchy. Denim. Black, blue, tan, and every other color of the rainbow. Yes. Anything you want, you got it. Yes.
You can mix and match eras or go full-on Studio 54, and every look and combination is so nostalgic yet so charmingly authentic and fresh you look like you just walked out of a Polaroid.
I may be running into the realm of exaggeration here because my view is admittedly limited; I very rarely shop anywhere but my workplace so my opinion is formed almost solely by Teen Vogue, National Geographic, and what I see in Queen of Hearts and Modern Love every day. And what I see is a wardrobe beyond belief, a glorious costume closet from which women can outfit themselves in shades of the past that have been thoroughly and sagely informed by the wisdom of experience. Our current selection for Spring seems almost indescribable, but “impeccably curated” springs to mind. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to find yourself in the midst of a renaissance and it’s even more precious when you’re aware of it. Ladies, it’s time to exhale. This is Camelot.