POSTED ON JANUARY 23, 2008:
Tacky is Back
Noooo. Is this decade of fashion worse than the '80s?
Warrior Trend in '08. You can look forward to the continuation of gladiator sandals. I personally prefer the ones that go up to the knee.
I finally had my first real shopping excursion of 2008. It might be early, but I've already been dabbling in a store here and a store there. But it wasn't serious shopping. I couldn't wholeheartedly shop among people returning holiday items, in stores still in a ramshackle state of 2007 rejects. I wasn't going for the castoff sale items from last year; I was in it for the 2008 goods, the full-priced, state-of-the-art new things intended for warmer spring months. I spent the weekend scouring every nook and cranny this town has to offer and I discovered quite a thing.
Nothing was continuous. One store had spring wear that resembled a baby shower for an upcoming little girl's birth. Pastel pink was everywhere. Another store's spring line meant the return of nautical and tropical wear. Part South Pacific, part summer at Cape Cod, everything resembled the kind of garb you would find on the crewmembers of a cruise ship. And still another store displayed clothing made from the thick cotton used for sweatpants, yet fashioned into typical day-to-day wear. High fashion designers had chosen the looks for spring 2008 back in fall 2007. I didn't know what they were per say, but shouldn't the stores have those congruent things in mind?
Walking through the mall, I realized that nothing was connecting. Typically, the stores run like a game of connect the dots with each store selling similar colors, shapes, styles and particular trends. Each has its own take on these items, but there seems to be an overall theme. But there was nothing like that at all. How it is that the year has just begun and already there's no sense of direction?
History Repeats Itself
I'm certainly not advocating that all stores sell the same garments. Clearly there needs to be a plethora of choices because there are people who want to dress in pastel pinks and people who want to look like they work for a Caribbean cruise line. It's 2008, and this decade is closing in on us. The 2000s, or '00s or whatever you're supposed to call them, are winding down, and, as far as fashion goes, we've only established this generation as topsy turvy. Has our passion for cheap, easily discarded clothing and trend hopping made us into the ADD-addled tacky decade?
Do the 1980s need to hand over their title to this generation? Indeed, the 1980s and early 1990s fashions were fantastically tacky. The difference? They were consistently tacky. Today, you see things and can distinctively acknowledge them to be typical '80s fashions. Really, you can do that with any decade of the 20th century. The 1980s were a collective generation; the fashion trends didn't waver but floated on a consistent line of bright colors, leggings, fluffy mini skirts and colorful high top Reeboks. Free association with fashion equates the 1920s with the flapper. The war years created looks straddling masculinity and femininity as women worked for the war and in the homes.
The 1960s, on the other hand, began the dividing line. There were the Camelot Kennedy years of fashion where the wholesome 1950s continued, but as the decade progressed with more heated topics in our divided nation, so did the fashion trends with the counter culture and the looks now associated with hippies. The 1970s worked in the same manner, with the first half of the decade continuing in the free love fashions and the latter half being something shinier, brought on by the exposure to disco balls. But no matter that those two generations had two distinct fashion revolutions. The point is that they had one. Looking back years from now, what will this fashion decade say to me?
Your Heart on Your Sleeve
Perhaps the 2000s will be like the 1990s, another decade that had moments of bizarre randomness. It was a period that began with Hammer pants and somehow ended on gals wearing tiny and tight things. A generation that began not caring about fashion and creating their own look modeled after rock gods suddenly became fashionable. The 1990s had the makings of a non-cohesive generation if it weren't for grunge. While the rest of the years might have been a haphazard haze of sagging jeans, the return of the capri pant and a bombardment of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger logos, for a short time the nation came together with boys in their flannel and girls in baby doll dresses emulating their king and queen of grunge.
So in that case, music was the maker. The 1960s had political turmoil to guide the nation's fashion upheaval. Well, we have both of those now, so where's the sweeping fashion movement? Our good friends at Wikipedia say that "emo" fashion is today's trend, given to us by sad, sappy bands that hate being referred to as the "e" word. Well that is one person's opinion, but not mine. I don't want to look back on these years as the decade that gave us boys in tight jeans and guy liner. And the larger events of these eight years haven't struck a cord when it comes to what we wear. Sure, there was a time when we rallied around the red, white and blue thing, but even that didn't head into fashions, mostly just on flags in front of houses.
I sit here now and I think. I rack my brain back to eight years ago and I start sorting through the things we have worn then, now and in-between. I think of how 2000 began with low, low rise jeans and cropped tops and how eight years later we praise the high waisted jean and how any top that hits at the waist feels unnatural. We've embraced sky-high heels and ballet flats; we've loved our boot cut and our skinny jeans. Men wore the baggiest of tees and jeans, but near decades' end loved body skimming button downs and tight jeans, too. Boys could be ultra clean cut or uber shaggy. Too lazy to make our own rules, we now borrow from the '80s. Growing up in the mall saturated culture of the 1980s and 1990s, we shop often and cheaply, aware that these trends are so fleeting that there's no point in investing. I knew the other realms of our world--music, movies, technology, etc.--were on the edges of their seat, always ready to accommodate our short attention spans, but I didn't realize our fashion was included.
But, before giving up hope, I had one last resource to offer some guidance. While the fashion that we're exposed to regularly might not connect, fashion magazines always spot the next (connecting) dot. Flipping through half a dozen of the latest fashion magazines, I did not regain hope but found the answer to my problem. This isn't the lost generation; it's the tacky generation.
Take what's in store for the upcoming months of 2008. You can look forward to the continuation of gladiator sandals. Not aware of this tiny little trend from last spring? They are the shoes you spotted on Russell Crowe in the film of the same name. I personally prefer the ones that go up to the knee. Let's see, what else? Well, if ancient Roman inspiration isn't your idea of great footwear, you could always go with patent leather pumps. Or a patent leather purse. Now, I'd be lying if I said I absolutely hated them. In fact, I'm sure I'll end up with one or the other, but I'll still feel weird. I mean really, they're shiny and more plastic-like than they are leathery. Let's agree that something tacky is something shiny and made of plastic.
And I've saved the best for last. It really hits the nail on the head. This truly is the Tacky 2000s because tie-dye is trying to make a comeback. I don't know that it could make a true comeback since its original turn wasn't so much of a "hey" day as it was a meek "hi" day. Yes, some design houses are still trying to keep the respect they've amassed during the years by making dip-dyed items (one color that fades from light to dark) but really, it's only one dye color dip away from being straight off the back of a Deadhead. And that would be fine if everything else had a Deadhead tie-in, but they don't. It's all random, it's all (mostly) tacky and it's all we've got.
Well, for now, here's to hoping for something to remember us by in the next two years.
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