Paris makes more than the law, it makes the fashion
—Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, vol. 3 chapter XI
Would it be accurate to say that prior to the 20th century, very few people had the luxury of worrying about fashion? The impression I get when I read an old novel is that back in “the day” the rich (and the middle class, when there was one) were the only segment of society who weren’t struggling merely to survive and were able to fritter away their time pursuing the latest fashions.
In today’s unprecedented affluence, we have the luxury of falling into the cycle of fashion: ever in need of something new to stimulate our minds and our senses, we are not only willing to put up with frequent change in styles and trends, but we actually welcome it. Just what the girls (and the fashion-minded guys out there) always wanted: an excuse to buy new clothes. But with all of this desire for something novel to entertain us, it seems that the best we can do is rehash the clothes and accessories and hairstyles of the past into a short-lived fashion du jour.
Take, for example, the “comebacks” that the 1970’s and 1980’s have seen in the last ten years or so. Really, as much as I might be inclined to condemn this preoccupation with style as “frittering,” I also think that some parts of those decades’ wardrobes were just plain sweet. But I am a traditionalist; I’d rather see a comeback of some ’30’s and ’40’s stuff. And you know what, I think we do see a bit of that. I would honestly rather wear some nice slacks and a collared shirt to school. I just feel better when I dress a little bit nice!
But anyway, tonight some friends of mine threw an ’80’s dance party, complete with the music, the clothes, and the sweetly-ghetto Namco video game system. Nothing like a round of Galaga to bring back the good ol’ days. I suggested that we campaign to get Congress to make July or August be National Eighties Heritage Month. Why not take some time to acknowledge the great debt we owe to those poor souls who suffered through the side pony-tails, the short shorts and the midriff shirts, the big hair, the nasty, heavy makeup, the big striped tube socks and the fat old baseball caps to bring about a decade or two where we can be free from the oppression of fashion illogic. And then, whenever (if ever?) David Bowie dies, we’ll make his birthday into a holiday as well.
Long live the eighties! But don’t let them live for too long—we need to get on to the next big fashion…the nineties?