In fashion, everything old is new again

By Barbra and Jim Pappas

With a wealth of fashion history between the two of us, you can well imagine that the subject of fashion is still alive in our daily discussions. Both of us had extensive careers in this world of glamor and glitz, Jim as a buyer and merchandise manager for several stores including Eaton’s and Mannequin and Barbra as a model and fashion co-ordinator for many years. We approach fashion now as observers, and one of our observations lately is that “everything old is new again”. The world demands change in order to create a need for what is new, and we have lived long enough to assess this and perhaps even be amused by it.

In viewing the current fashion scene, we see several influences driving it. One is the current political climate, which seems to have an influence on the hem length of clothing. One is street wear, where trends come from what people are actually wearing. A more lofty influence are the designers who reside in world capitals such as New York, London, Paris and Rome.

So when you take all these together you get a fashion cocktail that plants itself on the psyche of the consumer and becomes the “modern look”.

Certain trends that are visible currently, such as the dropping of hemlines for women, are indicative of the volatile political situation around the world. Longer clothing denotes pessimism and a covering up, and the dropping of women’s hemlines, in response to the instability on the political front, is being seen in all levels of design. The shorter lengths, on the other hand, are shorter still now and, transformed into tunics, are worn over narrow-legged pants of any kind.

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford

Homage to the 1970s is another trend that is arriving on the scene. Many of the young have not experienced that once-familiar broadening of the silhouette at the shoulders to make the waist and hips appear narrower. That fashion was in fact born in the romantic films of the 1940s, brought to the screen by Joan Crawford who wore the look in many of her movies.

That look signified power then, as it does again for a new, young generation of women who hold powerful jobs and want a look that embodies that power.

Another trend from the past is the use of metallic, and that is on the rise as well. Embellishment, once frowned on, is back. Clothing with gold and silver threads – and for a few years now, bead work – is showing at all levels from simple tee shirts to expensive daywear.

The street influences are rampant as well, ranging from “hoodies” to leggings and meant in both cases for warmth and comfort. Here is where the street look intersects with the high fashion look, as the trends are appearing at both ends of the clothing spectrum.

Distressed jeans street style.
Distressed jeans street style.

“Street” has also trended upward to the couture in the random mixing of numerous patterns, and prints of all kinds are showing up at both ends of the spectrum in multiple arrangements, some bizarre beyond belief. The world of couture needs to keep its eyes on the street influences, as women at every level wish to have what is “new” and trending around the world.

A Vogue article of recent weeks offered the view that a woman must have at least four pairs of black pants in her wardrobe: a legging, a leather pant, a classic trouser and a soft wide-legged dance pant. Testimony to this is very evident in our world today, as everyone wears black pants of assorted dimensions and fabrics. These pants fit an assortment of moods and times, go with everything and are the basis of a versatility and style that the wearer can make her own.

We both feel it’s interesting to watch these trends, but one has to distill from it what is relevant to ourselves. We concur that “everything old is new again” and look forward to adapting it to our own lives. Although fashion is a cycle, we can all adopt and adapt any trend that appears and be fashionable today.

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