Pop culture’s nostalgia craze has given rise to some unlikely muses for fall fashion.
Generation X called. They want their style back.
References to the ’80s and ’90s, from high glam and big hair to shoulder pads and mom jeans, were a huge trend in the fall collections. And history is repeating itself not only on the runways but everywhere you look. Roseanne Barr and Murphy Brown are on TV again, Angels in America has returned to Broadway, and Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s video-game-adventure film set in 2045, featured more throwbacks than a Thursday on Instagram.
This raises the question, Why?
“After a long period of minimalism, people want to have a lot more fun with fashion now,” answers designer Alexandre Vauthier. “The ’80s were such extraordinary years of excess spirit, over-the-top fun, and carefree indulgence.”
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Perhaps creative people are romanticizing the era because it was the final moment of relative disconnectivity, before smartphones and social media made it impossible not to notice the whole world going to pot. Or perhaps designers, fearing charges of cultural appropriation if they take ideas from, say, Africa or Asia, have no safe place to turn to these days except the past.
Matthew Adams Dolan, a bright new talent, has cited ’80s preppies and ’90s activewear ads as catalysts for his designs, which are recontextualized with unusual proportions and unconventional model castings. “In the era of Reaganism, that Waspy aesthetic was so linked to the visual codes of affluence and elitism,” he says. “Referencing the past, and disrupting it, is a comment on what it means to be an American now, especially in this political climate.”
One more reason might just be wishful thinking, as the ’90s also marked the dawn of the modern luxury boom, a sharp contrast with the strangled retail climate of today. Of course, some things are better left in the past. You might cringe to learn that scrunchies are having a renaissance or that Levi’s has named recent styles of jeans after Brenda Walsh and Donna Martin, characters on Beverly Hills, 90210.
“Like many big designers of this generation, I too grew up in the ’80s,” says Roopal Patel, the fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “Some things are so cool, and some things are like, Ewww.”
For more stories like this, pick up the June issue of InStyle, on newsstands and for digital download now.