31 August 2011

Fashion and the Economy (Part 2)

We left off at shoulder pads...
So it was the 80s, things were good, people were living large and spending cash like it was going outta style.  Then came 1987 and the stock market crashed and crashed hard. Spirits were down, the dow was down, the glitz fell out of fashion. Gone were the huge jewels and sequins that bedazzled an entire era. What remained, however, were the huge silhouettes (Armani's claim to fame). In fact, they began to serve as somewhat of an urban armor, shielding us against the rough economic climate and defending us from uncertain and tense times.

There is a very interesting thing that happens culturally in that we tend to insulate ourselves emotionally with clothing and pad out our silhouettes as a way to protect us and ward off others. Take, for example, East coast and West coast gang rivalries in the 90s. Urban neighborhoods became war zones. Suddenly young urban men found themselves taking drastic steps just to make it day to day. Fashion manifestation:

Dangerous and threatening environment = huge oversized sweatshirts, often hooded, and baggy pants. The thought process being that one looks much more intimidating and menacing with the added bulk. Result: People leave you alone. Of course this style later gets adopted by mainstream culture, at which point it takes on a whole new meaning.

At any rate, we move into the 90s and the economy evens out. Hell, Bill Clinton even presided over one of the most economically prosperous times in history. We were $237 billion in the black! You'd think this would result in fashion that was frivolous and happy. Instead, the opposite happened. We had minimalism (Calvin Klein anyone?) and grunge, of all things. There seems to be a counter-intuitive reaction to rebel against the prevailing climate. If you're rich, it's cool to look homeless, when things are bad, we tend towards frivolity and excess.

Fast forward to today. The economy is once again in toilet and fashion (predictably?) has taken a turn back towards the 80s. Again, kind of an armor meant to shield us against the daily grind and financial uncertainty. Gone are the soft, floating peasanty looks of the 90s. Remember when everyone was wearing a prairie skirt? Fashion plates like Kim K, Beyonce and Lady Gaga and rocking the padded shoulder look.

At least this time around the silhouette is fierce but much  more feminine. The hips are also accentuated Peplums are huge (just look at Victoria Beckham's dresses), forcing a curvy look. Spikes and studs and hardware are becoming increasingly popular as an accessory, either on their own or on clothing. Weapons of the present day.

And all of this only leaves me with one question: the women are all spiked out and ready to take on the world, so what in the hell is up with guys in skinny jeans and slim tees that only accentuate their androgyny and lack of muscle? Culturally relevant somehow, but I've yet to figure it out.

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