Fashion vs. Style: Why things are so boring

I’m going to quote a line from my book here…

Fashion is an art form whose nature is to grasp the emotions of the moment and express them in the form of clothing.   Used properly, one says, “there is a fashion for hats made out of silly string”.   Fashion for the masses is generally translated into less artistic forms – but it is still supposed to represent the zeitgeist of a moment in time.

So, then – fashion is a reflection of society.  When society goes through a profound change, so does fashion.   When society is static, so too is fashion.   Fashion designers try to force change, try to create movements… but they throw out ideas like confetti and nothing sticks.

Our society has changed in the last 30 years, but the changes have been gradual.  There hasn’t been a radical moment of switch.  So our clothing has likewise gradually changed, moving between silhouettes in a kind of rhythm, one moment boxy, the next fitted.   The bones of what would be considered a normal outfit have changed not at all.*   We’ve gotten to a point now where there are so many designers throwing so much out that one can wear very nearly what one pleases.  Can I shock you by telling you that it used to matter where your hemlines landed or how tight your pants legs were?   Women have picketed stores for changing the fashions too radically, affecting their pocketbooks – because it used to be a social necessity to dress according to the fashion of the day.

Compare clothing in 1980 to clothing of today.


Compare this thirty years to the thirty years between 1900 and 1930.


You absolutely could not have switched these outfits without being arrested or assumed to be in costume.   But the clothes from 1980?  A bit of tailoring and a trip to the makeup counter and you could wear the *same outfit* and be utterly unremarkable.   That’s a boon for those of us who prefer to invest in good clothing and to develop a style based on the available fashions, but for those who are in the business of creating fashion, it must be maddening.

When will we see the next big change in fashion?  When we see the next big change in society.   What will that look like?  I don’t know.  Fashion, after all, is a reflection.  You’d have to know the future to predict what we’ll be wearing.

My advice is to enjoy the show that fashion offers, to get an idea of the gestalt and to see what’s sticking this season, but don’t get worked up about it.  Accessorize with the item of the moment to get that extra edge to your look, and keep your basics basic – and perfectly suited to you.  The lack of a change in Fashion gives Style the upper hand, and I for one am going to enjoy it while it lasts.


*I had a moment the other day, watching a young lady walk down the street, dressed to rebel.  Combat boots, jeans, tank all in black with a red & black flannel tied around her hips.  I felt so sorry for her… trying to rebel when she’s wearing the same uniform that girls wore to my junior high.  Shocking she was not.

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