Something that cannot be denied is that fashion is inherently cyclical, always going back to its roots and recreating itself. Currently, it seems that the decade of choice for retro fashion is the ’70s, with the latest fashion shows displaying the big hats, satin blouses and the infamous bell-bottom jeans. However the ‘80s and ‘90s appeared to have equal influence on modern style, with another item that was once ridiculed, the shoulder pad, now coming back into fashion. Such an idea runs contrary to the way we think about retro trends – with one decade indisputably exerting more influence than others – but it can also serve as a good starting point for considering just why certain clothing items can come into style at certain times.
There is no one theory for how long it takes a fashion to become retro and to make its leap back into current clothing lines. The amount of time can vary from 20 to 40 years , and even these timeframes are not infallible. To some extent, nostalgia for past decades will always exist in the present, creating one obstacle that fashion theorists grapple with. As such, there are some who believe that rules for when something will come back into style simply cannot be made, that fashion cycles are too capricious to be fully explained or predicted. However, other fashion analysts take a different approach to the equation: that there was, at some point or another, a definite pattern to recycling trends, but today’s trends render that approach obsolete, melding multiple different periods together and making it impossible to predict how any one trend will manifest itself.
“We now live in a fast-paced consumer society,” Andrew Groves, course director of fashion at the University of Westminster, said. “Pictures of what’s on the catwalks of London Fashion Week today will be on the internet today. Everything is absorbed quicker and we want it quicker. Looks hit the high street much faster.”
As such, the amount of time it takes for something to come into style—and to go out of it—is much shorter, allowing for the potential for new trends to emerge at the drop of a hat without previous thought as to whether they should be in fashion or not.
Perhaps the most charted hypothesis of how long it takes an object to become desirable again is that of fashion historian James Laver, who theorized in 1937 that “a trend does not start to look appealing until 50 years after its time.” This would come close to validating ‘70s-inspired movements very soon. The prominence of succeeding decades can be attributed solely to the fast-paced atmosphere of today’s fashion world. In addition, the way we are wearing clothes now is not necessarily the same as the way we wore them then; going back to the shoulder pad example, the new generation sees them as an aesthetic of sharpness to be applied across the board rather than limited to the suits of the ‘80s. New generations bring new ways of looking at the old that turn them into not just nostalgia, but trends in their own right, a part of both the past and the present.
Photo courtesy of stylewile.com