Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Re-Imagining the Seventies

Pastiche is a scary word to art/design/fashion/architecture historian and designer alike. It's a concept that may be somewhat alien to many. I mean, when we were re-appropriating the nineties, it was as simple as donning our flannels and chokers - or was it?

Subconsciously, we change re-emerging trends of yore the moment they become comfortable in our wardrobes once more. Otherwise, they read as a costume. They go from fashion-forward to farcical. We change styles to suit our lives - which are not the lives of the past. Or maybe we weren't even born yet when the clothes were first worn, so they don't mean the same things. The point is, it is not the past, so everything we touch is tinged by present or intended future. To try and ape this lost mind-space, experience and feelings is to do everyone a disservice. It stagnates possible growth or change or development. It treats us as fools. Because we, as humans, are not objective creatures and cannot report a full version of the past. Things mirror and embody the time and place that produces them. They are a physical history. And so, they must not be made in false accounts of history.

The seventies we see on runways and ad campaigns is not the of the past but of 2014-2015. It is ours to make relevant again. It is an entire decade to pick and choose from. And political and cultural associations of the past attached to garments can also be re-examined and made germane once more.

One could very well design a completely personalised version of the period that resonates with someone who did no see it the first time around.

But how is our seventies new, fresh?

It is pared back, for one. We seem better at preventing (for the most part) repeats of the sartorial mistakes of the past - if not others. Bows and lace appear but maybe in lesser quantities or on a smaller scale or one at a time. Hair is a sleeker, healthier version of its former self - though teased into similar styles. Make-up is less heavy-handed. There seems like an overall increased sense of intent, planning, coherent styling. And then there's that wonderful thing about hindsight - the ability to pick and choose, avoid or embrace. Prints or fabrics of the past can be revived via contemporary silhouettes. Utterly dodgy trends can be wilfully forgotten.

Saint Laurent SS15 presents us with one vision - of slinky rock and roll sex-pots in teeny shiny dresses or breath-taking babes in androgynous tailoring. Sleek hair and combining multiple points of reference avoided presenting a cast of Studio 54 rejects. Miu Miu showed something a little more proper - pattern clashing homeliness and fur-collared coats with boxy handbags. Fresh materials and contemporary styling (think barely-there bandeaux with high-waisted skirts, tamed by long over-coats) gave old silhouettes and concepts new life. And Valentino gave us something of lost innocence in colour-blocked pretty pastels, sweet crochets and flowing, high-necked gowns worthy of prom scenes in teen movies set in the seventies.

Punk seems absent thus far in this reborn vision of the decade but who knows what the future might hold? It's not a period I'm normally drawn to but I'm enamoured with how it's been interpreted this time around. Which just goes to show that it's been made relevant to me and my life - exactly what I've been saying any trend needs to do if it is to endure.

(1&2- Saint Laurent, 3&4 - Miu Miu, 5-7 - Valentino. Images via

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