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Jul 12, 2011

4 Great Things About Fashion Today!

Is Thom Browne a genius or what?  This fall, I am adding fringe to my lampshade.

Friends, sometimes I think we dwell too much on fashions of the past here at MPB, and in ways both subtle and not-so-subtle, write off the present.  It's easy to criticize what's wrong with fashion today: the excessive trendiness, the sameness of so much of it, the constant focus on cost-cutting (sew it cheaply!), the endless re-hashing of vintage styles.

So let's take some time today and remind ourselves of what's good -- or at least, what I think is good, no, great about fashion and style today.  If there are things I've missed, I expect you to add them below!

1) Dressy is backI've been critical of the whole Mad Men fashion phenomenon, but isn't it great that we have these kinds of tailored, sophisticated options available to us today?  How much longer do we really want to wear saggy jeans and t-shirts?

Which leads us to...

2) Today, you can wear what you want to wear!

Express your inner flapper!  This is easy to take for granted.  In decades past, when styles were dictated by a few major designers and most fashionable people followed the rules slavishly, there were very few options.  As a result, people tended to dress the same.  If the season called for tailored suits and hemlines 18 inches from the ground, guess what:

If you were an Forties co-ed...

How lovely these 50's models look.  But how would you like to have to recreate these looks every day?

Here's a bunch of casual New York Forties kids, and that is my Dad in the lower right hand corner, no joke.  Is it me or do they all look...the same?  Conformity -- at least on the outside -- ruled.

3.  Fashion today is accessible to (nearly) all.

Thanks to the internet, the proliferation of thrift stores (and people's creative take on thrift store looks), and globalization, there is simply more available, in more places, and to more people. It's not just about having the money.

You don't need to live near an Anthropologie or J. Crew to get these looks.  With sufficient funds of course, you can order the clothes online (provided you have a computer and an address or PO box).  But you can also assemble a similar look at any of the dozens of stores that are selling the exact same look elsewhere.

Kmart, anyone?

4. Comfort is king.

It's easy to forget -- though so many of you keep reminding me -- how much work it used to be to make yourself presentable in the past.  OK, slightly more than presentable, but still.

Today, you can wear your Nylies if you choose to, but you don't have to.  You are allowed to bounce and bulge.

Truly, for both men and women, you can make comfort a priority and still look good enough for work (looks below from J. Crew). 

Are there more options for people who are young, thin, and flat-chested?  Yes!  But wasn't this always the case?

I think it's easy to look at an old photo and think, How glamorous, how well-groomed, how Grace Kelly-like!  You can still dress like Grace today if you care to.

The beauty is that tomorrow, you can dress like Britney.  And no one will care.

Honestly, in 100 degree summer heat, which appeals to you more?

Friends, in closing, what have I missed?  What's great -- or at least better -- about fashion today?

Do you ever get dressed in the morning and think, Thank goodness I don't have to put on ____________ (constricting, welt-producing undergarment of yore)?

To quote composer/lyricist Jerry Herman -- and I often do -- The best of times is NOW.

Thoughts, please!


  1. Other than a pair of seersucker trousers (from Banana, I know, I should sew my own!) and some "around the house" cotton gauchos, I have sworn off trousers in this heat. No jeans til September. At least. Dresses, skirts with tanktops and tees, whatever, but I am not putting denim on again until it's regularly closer to 70.

  2. Great post! I love all the options we have in the NOW! And I really like seeing everyone in sewing blogland put their own spin on those options.

  3. I agree that fashion today is very liberating in that you are not locked in to a limited range of looks. I'm sticking with sundresses, shorts, tees, and short skirts until the thermometer stops hitting 90+ every day.

  4. I, too, am all about variety and personal choice. The idea of slavishly following trends has always annoyed me---if something is comfortable, well-fitting, and looks great one year, I hate the thought that it is somehow wrong the next year. Obviously our tastes will change over time (if nothing else, as our lifestyles or our bodies change), but I think it should be driven from within, not dictated from without.

    I know my mother definitely does not miss being required to wear wool stockings with garters in the winter as she had to as a child. On the other hand, my Grandmother gave up her girdle quite reluctantly in the 60s... I wonder if she would go back to it if she felt "allowed" by fashion?

    On another front, watching my pre-teen daughter explore her "own style", which is sharply diagonal to the prevailing style of most of the girls at her school, is quite interesting. She has the personality and character to make it work for her with relatively little hassle, but I do have to wonder how a less charismatic kid would do in her situation.

  5. Yes! I like not having to jump on a bandwagon! While it's fun to know what the current fashion trends in hemlines, colors and footwear are, it's so great to know it's not a really big deal if you just want to hang on to a style that you like.
    As far as what I wear in 90+ weather, I've put aside so many planned projects to whip up more lightweight skirts. I don't know how guys in the workplace do it - having to wear long trousers and heavy shoes in this heat!

  6. I'm incredibly grateful that hosiery and heels are no longer "expected," at least in the Southwest.

  7. I think it's appropriate to give credit to all of the aging 'hippies' out there, who rather loudly (color & fashion-wise, that is) made a statement about individual fashion. Although there was certainly 'a look' - tie-dye, fringed leather, lots of color, patched jeans - there was room for a whole lot of creativity, and I think the late 60's early 70's really paved the way for individual expression reaching a wider audience.

    I was never what one would call a slave/follower of fashion, but I certainly remember being thankful for the freedom to wear whatever I wanted during that time!

    That said, I do believe we have even MORE options now, and if you want to exercise a totally unique option, you are less likely to get the disapproving looks that might once have been the norm. Ultra-conservative &/or small town communities notwithstanding....

  8. My mom grew up in Alabama & Florida in the 1950s & tells me ruefully of going to school in prim dresses w/crinolines & nylon stockings, wearing matching hats & gloves to church, all in sweltering heat & humidity, no such thing as air conditioning. UGH. She hated it.

    I love that I work at a casual office where I can wear jeans & T-shirts one day, then a fitted dress, hose, & heels the next. I have freedom, choice, & opportunity in fashion that didn't exist a mere generation ago! I can express my creativity & I can be comfortable & I can suit my own budget & skills in fashion. Thank goodness :-)

  9. I vividly remember sitting on my grandmother's bed as a child, watching her put on a long-line girdle, stockings with garters, etc. She had at least 3 layers in some places before even putting on her outside clothes! As much as the process fascinated me, I have always been grateful that this sort of dressing is no longer expected.

    I agree that fashion is more accessible now, but I disagree on one point -- while people can and do wear whatever they want, I think we actually have fewer options since the 1990s/2000s. I have dramatically decreased shopping in the last year because everything is the same silhouette and it's all unflattering. I used to need to avoid certain stores because their look wouldn't fit me; now I need to avoid most of them.

  10. Well, Peter, I think the thing I like most about today is that you can wear just about anything and not be horribly "out" of fashion. I love LONG skirts and girly, lacy blouses (except for in this 100 degree heat). Even if I decide to dress like that, I'm not going to get stared at walking down the street - which I love. I would have liked to dress like that 20 yrs. ago, but it would have caused traffic accidents! So yippee for the more lax fashion rules of the day!

  11. In the summer of 1978, while working as a "Kelly Girl" in a small casual office (fill in typist), the (male) supervisor asked me on my 4th day why I always dressed up for them. My response was, "It's not for you, Bill, it's for me." I'm not sure he got it. I still dress "for me" and "For my Dearly Beloved."

    And as long as a visitor's clothing isn't offensive to me (no pants falling off your butts, please), they can wear what they like. I won't even tell them that's a gawdawful outfit!

  12. Isn’t it wonderful that current fashion gives me the freedom to wear a current style one day and retro the next if I want to?

    I can be classic and conservative one day and boho the next.

    Isn’t it wonderful that I can dress for the weather and not some ridiculous dress code? When I was a kid, girls had to wear skirts no matter how cold the temperature and no matter how high the snow was. My mother would buy me the heaviest tights she could find, but My. Legs. Froze. Some girls tried to wear pants to school and then changed to skirts as soon as they got inside the building. That was not acceptable.

    When I started working, I remember having to wear pantyhose on the hottest of days. Bare legs were not acceptable. Some days I thought I would pass out.

    Fashion had rules for everything. If you liked long skirts, but short skirts were in style, too bad. No long skirts for you. I remember when hemlines got shorter and I raised the hems of all my skirts. The next year, hemlines came down again. Today I wear a length that either suites my body or suites my mood. I have no idea if the trend today is supposed to be longer or shorter and I don’t even care.

    Heels were high, or low, or in the middle; thick and chunky or thin and spiky. You had to wear what fashion dictated that year.

    I no longer have to worry if my clothes are more than a year or two old. If I like it, it’s in decent condition and it fits, I’ll continue to wear an item until it’s ridiculously out of date (most of my clothes are “classic” styles) or it falls off my body – whichever comes first.

    I love today’s fabrics. Hooray for washable everything. Hooray for clothes that don’t wrinkle as soon as I sit. Hooray for the end of nightly ironing. If I want a retro look, I do it with a modern fabric. Some of my dresses can be wadded up in a ball and thrown in a bag and still look great when I take them out.

    That said, I find quality is an issue today. The cheapest, cheapie clothes that I bought in the 80s or 90s that were made overseas were of far better quality than the stuff in “accessible” stores today. The clothes look good when new, but wash them once and they look like crap.

  13. I am glad for more comfort--never shed a tear when the girdle, stockings, pantyhose, and bras went out the window. But I am a little wistful for the elegance. Comfortable and incredibly sloppy seem to have a fine line between them, with or without heat. I saw a woman at the grocery store who looked like she just rolled out of bed--uncombed, unwashed, no underwear of any supportive kind at all in spite of a generously endowed figure. It wasn't pretty. Is dressing out of consideration for others, or more for oneself? Did conformity happen because the stores didn't carry more choices? In poverty-stricken chapters of my life, my wardrobe was way behind the newest thing, since I couldn't afford to replace every thing; that's when I started to care more about quality and to sew more carefully for quality that keeps showing. That counts undergarments; as much as I enjoy removing my underwire bra, I appreciate that most people do make some effort to control sweaty (and droopy and bulging) nature. Comfort is at least in part what you are used to, eh? Charlotte in Canada

  14. I think we have material for another blog post, Charlotte! ;)

  15. I must admit that I have never lived in a time where fashion truly dictated what I can and can't wear. I do like the freedom of being able to wear a skirt and heels one day and then a pair of jeans the next if I so choose.

    However, I am still in college right now, and I am required to dress up for all of my business classes. Most of the people in these classes (myself included) are going into accounting and financial planning, not exactly two professions known for outrageous dressing. So, even if fashion itself doesn't dictate what I wear there are other factors that do. Of course I can wear what I please when I am not in class. When I graduate in a year, and hopefully obtain employment, it wouldn't do my career any good to be seen dressed like a slob by a client, even outside of the office. I personally think that perhaps my generation "needs" to be dictated by fashion a bit more, or at least dictated by something in what is acceptable to wear in professional situations.

    So, I agree, fashion doesn't dictate what you wear anymore, but it shouldn't really be a free for all out there either. An example, while you're free to roam your nearest grocery store in your tatty cartoon character PJs, it isn't necessarily a wise idea to exercise your complete freedom of choice.

  16. When brazilian summer comes, I feel so glad I can go out wearing sandals and a very light and short cotton dress, and can't imagine wearing what most men who need to look neat do, shoes, pants and a shirt!

  17. ~ * ♥ * ~

    I one hundred percent agree with you Peter; that's why I'll never say that I was born in the wrong era. I love the freedom to wear tracky dacks if I want too {which isn't very often, but once in a while when I am sick they are so nice & comfy!} and I love my iPhone, I couldn't live without the internet & my computer now, so yay for 2011!

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  18. I love no restrictions. I wear light and don't care what goes togehter clothing in the desert heat.

    I remember my victorian grandmother who use to model corsets would wear in the hot Perth summer in Western Australia (I use to live there) her girdle, usually a chiffon dress with a brooch, white gloves, hat and umbrella to shield the sun off her face. If I was going out with her I would be dressed suitably, but not restricted but looked well dressed.

    Today I have on no shoes, my husband's shorts, and an old tank top. She would be appalled.


  19. Having a personal style is great, and the choice to follow (or not follow) fashion is wonderful too.

    But wearing inappropriate for the occasion, slovenly, sloppy and/or ratty clothing more suited to mucking out a horse stall is quite another matter :)

    I think when it comes down to comfort or style, many choose the former, not realizing it doesn't have to be comfort VS. style, or that it is possible to incorporate both.


  20. Great post! I have wondered for a while if you really can wear whatever you want nowadays, or if I am just old enough to be out of the land of trendy. There are certainly fashions and styles among my peer group, but it is nothing like junior high and high school where there was THE thing (generally based on a brand) and you had to have it or suffer social death. I went through many social deaths as I generally could not afford or was not allowed to wear THE thing. (Examples from my life: Girbaud jeans in HS, Dooney & Burke bag in HS, flourescent everything in elem., those Dove shorts in early early elem., scrunchy socks in jr high, etc.)

    Anyone have insight into the land of high schoolers?

  21. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to everything you've said. Especially #2.

    In the summer or 2007, I suddenly got it into my head that I wanted a long skirt. Not just mid-calf or ankle-length, but a serious maxi skirt. And not one of those sloppy, gauzy, hippie long skirts from an import shop, either--I wanted something that actually fit, in a beautiful fabric, with a certain type of bold, large-scale graphic pattern.

    I could see this skirt in my mind's eye, but I couldn't find one in stores. So I shopped around until I found an acceptable fabric, adapted a pattern from my stash, and sewed it myself.

    That summer, I suspect I was the only non-Muslim woman in Seattle wearing a maxi skirt. I never saw anyone wearing anything quite like it until last summer, when maxi dresses started to come back. But nobody thought it odd. I got tons of compliments. Other women would chase me up the street just to ask where I'd bought it. Men were intrigued.

    Had I worn that skirt out on the streets in 1981, or 1991, people would have asked, "Why the hell is she wearing that?" Even by 2001, when the tyranny of fashion tastemakers was as good as dead, it still would have been considered a little bit weird. But now? No.

    And I've made other garments that were out of synch with what was in the stores, just because I wanted them, and experienced the same thing. These days, I can wear whatever I want, and not only does nobody think badly of it, but very often people want whatever it is I'm wearing.

    Better yet, I don't have to do all my own sewing anymore. I can buy pretty much any garment I want online, regardless of whether it's in fashion. Last summer, I wanted traditional espadrilles, the kind actually made in Spain--thank you, Google! I can have jeans made to measure. And if I want a sweater, in a specific color and fiber content, with certain stitch patterns? I know there's someone out there willing to hand-knit it for me.

    And now that there's Spoonflower and Fabric on Demand, I don't have to struggle to find fabric in a specific pattern, in a certain colorway--I can design it myself, get exactly what I want, and order however much yardage I need whenever I need it.

    I get to be my own fashion designer. I never have to settle for what's in stores ever again, and the rest of the world is finally cool with it. How freaking awesome is that? For someone like me, whose sartorial desires have always been far out-of-step with what's in stores (and who has never fit into any fashion subculture), this is the Golden Age.

  22. You obviously don't live in a small town.

  23. Thank goodness I don't have to put on ____________ PANTYHOSE !!!!

  24. The thing that really strikes me about those photos is the hairstyles. Those things took a huge amount of work! I wouldn't even know where to start getting my hair to do anything like that, whereas I could throw on vintage style dress and look halfway decent immediately. Thats the big fashion difference between then and now for me.

  25. With all the freedom of being able to dress "how you want" *(and I think that is a good thing) has come a most slovenly, unkempt, and downright dirty (as in unwashed)general appearance of our population in public. How about dressing for "self-respect?" Our standards of dress in public belie a general lack of self-respect and consequently respect for others who have to witness all the dirty hair, too big cleavages, bulging midriffs, hairy armpits, and butt cracks.

  26. HA HA! If Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Harry Truman were alive today, these guys will suffer heart attacks if they were to see an entire generation in tattered blue jeans, dirty sneakers, broken t shirts, no haircut and no shave! When I go out in a blue blazer, grey pant, good dark shoes, good blue shirt and a serious necktie [plus I also have my haircuts, and shave daily] they people STARED at me like if I was some "Alien" from outerspace. Of course I live in a medium size city in northcenter USA. But seeing so many so badly "dressed" makes me wonder if we have gone crazy.

  27. I bet many people today don't own good shoes, and no neckties and no dresses. I bet many don't know how to tie a necktie. That I am certain.


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