An aside on retro style

According to US Vogue and UK Elle, there are two fashionable retro themes this season (A/W 2009), the 40s and 80s. Having lived through those times, for me these styles don’t have quite the resonances they’re supposed to.

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Forties and Fabulous


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Party like it’s 1983

Marc Jacobs

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Well, I was a child in the 40s under rationing. Children’s woven clothes were made from the less worn sections of adult cast-offs. Boys wore worn-out mens’ pants with the frayed legs cut off, so strong support braces were needed to hold them up. Too holey knits were unpicked. The usable wool yarn was steamed to get out the kinks, then knitted into stripey sweaters for children. Those thick tough tweed suits had to be hard-wearing, as adults didn’t have enough clothing coupons to replace them very often.

And knees covered please !! I can still remember the shock when a girl at school sat down so you could see her knees. And that was in the mid 50s. When there was no pill and no tights (pantyhose), social rules were very different.

And don’t forget to wear your matching hat, gloves, bag, and shoes, and your corset, suspenders, stockings. Vogue Patterns models didn’t stop wearing hats, and the pill and tights weren’t available, until the mid 60s, which was 20 years later.

In 1983 I was living in central London, but too busy to notice much partying. I did frequently walk past the crowds trying to get into the famous Stringfellows nightclub, and don’t remember them looking much like this season’s Marc Jacobs show. Though that of course may be why they hadn’t got in.

I’m proud to say I did wear a poncho with knee high boots, though not in a bright colour. Come to think of it, I wore that poncho with ankle boots on a weekend visit to New York City in 1984. A tourist pointed at me and said “Oh look, that’s what they’re wearing now”, to which her husband said “hrrmph’. One of the fashion high points of my life 😀

I’ve never been one for fashion extremes, and most of the clothes I wore in the 80s would not look too peculiar now. My work ‘signature’ was a navy cashmere polo (turtle) neck sweater, exactly the same classic as those available now. I still have a red jacket I made – thigh length with shoulder wide lapels. Very current. Sadly it’s got a moth hole, but it’s an interesting cut and I’ve kept it to take off the pattern. My mother lent the original pattern to someone long ago.

But it’s entertaining to see modern re-interpretations. Wear the new designs for fun and interesting shapes. Just don’t think of it as re-creating those times.

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