Fashion Flashbacks

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"Fashion is an underestimated social force. It functions effectively not only as an economic colossus but also to engineer social practices" (Finklestein). Fashion is more than its definition as a style of dress that is popular during a certain time or era. We can learn a lot about our culture by looking at current fashion trends because they show the relationships of consumer tastes, social habits, and eras in history. If we can define the reasons behind certain fashion trends, we can analyze a part of pop culture. To study the meanings of today's mainstream fashion, it is most beneficial to look at the feminine side of fashion because it gives the clearest indications of the fashion eras that are being repeated. Women in America have been repeating fashion eras for almost as long as there have been clothes. Today, everywhere you look there are echoes of fashion's history. Fashions from the sixties, seventies and eighties make up a majority of what is currently in style at the present. The denim miniskirts, thick belts, quarter-sleeved shirts, and off-the-shoulder tops that can now be found in every teen-targeted store in America are from the eighties; the majority of jeans being sold today are the boot-cut or flare styles of the sixties and seventies; and the explosion of boots and cable-knit sweaters stems from their original popularity in the sixties. It is easy to see that we are repeating eras of fashion. The question is, of course, why? Why, in 2005, are Americans wearing clothes that were first popular in the sixties, seventies and eighties? Why not wear something totally new? We know that a seemingly endless and inevitable cycle of fashion is partially to blame. However, there are a few factors that can explain what has brought the fashion cycle to where it is today: the strategies of designers, the influence of the media, consumer needs, and current national moods. Most fashion experts and designers, sociologists, and historians agree that fashion is in a continually changing loop, repeating modified versions of styles that have already come and gone. The idea that fashion trends follow a cyclical phase structure is not new; sociologists first recognized it over fifty years ago. There are numerous explanations for how and why the loop itself works. It is now widely believed that fashion repeats itself around every twenty to thirty years. Following this rule explains why 2005 has largely been a fashion flashback to the 1970s and 1980s. Some experts say that fashion cycles have evolved to become so short that nowadays the sixties, seventies, and eighties fashions go in an out every couple of years, forming micro-cycles. So the tradition of recycling fashion trends has influenced what we are wearing now, but why are we stuck in this loop? One of the strongest forces fueling the loop is conversion. Designers and retailers continually, and effectively, persuade the public that their ideas are everything that a stylish wardrobe requires. Next season, the same designers convince everyone to give up their allegiance to the old designs and spend their money on the latest collections. The public can only buy what is made; if every store is selling flare jeans, people will have to buy them. So, a large part of why trends of the past are repeating today is because designers choose to make it so. Many times this is because a designer has rediscovered or reinvented an old style, and other designers follow suit. It has been said that designers have the constant desire to bring back successful styles of the past and renew them to make them current. Designers tend to repeat eras that had major breakthroughs in fashion or were particularly memorable. This can offer some explanation as to why the seventies and eighties are so dominant in 2005's repeats. These two decades are among the most well-known in terms of fashion. Is there anyone who wouldn't recognize bell bottoms (today's flare or boot-cut) as staples of the seventies?...
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