Monday, December 16, 2013

Classic Clothing is a Myth

There are two things I want you to get out of this post.

1. Classic is a CONCEPT & not an item of clothing. 
2. In the long term, nothing is classic.
3. Clothes date faster than accessories.

The little black dress in the 80s was classic. 
We look at that same dress now & cringe. It looks dated.

The tailored ladies suit in the 80s was viewed as classic. 
So was its sister suit in the 90s. In 2013, we cringe at both of these looks.

Just because you had a classic dress or a classic suit back then, does not mean it will look classic now. 

So how long does a classic last?

The answer is easy. It depends. 

Pre the internet, fashion completely changed it's silhouette every 7 years. Which meant if you were wearing something older than 5+ years you were starting to border on looking dated. Dated means older & not flattered. Dated means not moving on the the times. Dated means stale.

Is that the image you want to project?

Post the internet, the cycle is shorter, I'd estimate around 5 years.. 

Using a tailored jacket as an example: 

In this post we are looking at blazers since the 1980s and showing how what was classic then, isnt now. 

The 80s

The hallmark of an 80s suit was massive shoulder pads, big armholes and either a cinched waist or a very long straight cut side jacket. Look at all the following jackets - they were classic in the 80s and we never batted an eye lid wearing them. 

Alexis Carrington in Dynasty personified the 80s power jacket.
Frenemy Krystal, wore a classic Chanel style jacket, but look at the shoulders?
So wide, that this would be ridiculed in 2013.  

The long sides, the oversize shoulder pads.

Big shoulders. Cinched waist. Collarless was also huge in the 80s.

From Designing Women late 80s/early 90s.
Notice how the suit is becoming more streamlined but the shoulders remain large -
look at how her left shoulder is puffing up. 

Classic 80s

Oversize and straight sides.

and again

Working Girl - post the make over. 

Samantha channelling the 80s

and again
Here's the rub. Every single one of these 80s jackets was regarded as classic back in the 80s. 

Wear them in the present & you'll be looked at with interest. 
Is that the interest you want to be bringing to yourself?

Scroll forward to the 90s...

The cinched look disappeared & jackets became long, very long. The shoulder pads have come down considerably, but the armoholes were still large and the shoulder seam was still extended past the edge of your shoulder.

If you put any of these jackets on today, you will look dated.

Is that the image you want to project? 

US Vogue - notice the excess shoulder room?

Dolly, 1991, in a Chanel style - notice the big shoulder/arm hole?

Caroline in the City, 1995, with extended shoulder seams.

Christy in the 90s.

This is main line Armani in the 90s & Armani does nothing in extremes.
Yet look at the shoulder seams - extended. 

Long jacket, hides the figure, big armholes.

Look at the puffiness around the shoulders due to the excess 
room and the extended shoulder line.

This photos is so beautiful, it almost looks normal.
But the extended shoulders (& the double breasted piped styles) give it away.
Lets move even further to the noughties. 

Tailored jackets became shorter, more fitted and the armholes tight & small. 
Yet they remain "classic".

No, I am not talking about the sculptural Balmain shoulder looks we have seen in recent years - they are hardly representative of office wear in a conservative industry even though I have seen them in the most conservative offices. 

By 2010, Alicia Floreck (The Good Wife) is one of the best examples of what classic jackets now look like:

Interestingly, for the last couple of seasons, the runways have shown incredibly oversized jackets & coats. Have no doubt they will appear in conservative environments but it remains to be seen whether these are called "classic". But then the 80s was classic at the time, so anything's possible. 


Each of these classic jackets was classic in its time. 
Fast forward more than 5+ years, and their "classic-ness"
may be questionable. 

If you want to look questionable, then by all means, keep wearing them. 

Otherwise, assess them, alter them if you love them, otherwise donate them. Away from your life. 

This applies to jackets, pants, skirts (yes, even a pencil skirt), shirts, dresses, coats, accessories, yes, the whole lot. 

Remember the minis of the 90s a la Ally McBeal? They too were classic back then. Now? Not knee length is classic although the runways are trying to push the concept to the midi length. Classic is definitely a moving feast.

That's why classic is a CONCEPT -  the concept of the little black dress is a classic, but any actual LBD may not be a classic especially in the long term. Ditto a tailored suit or a coat or a day dress. Ditto your accessories. 

The ultimate proof of this is that we thought those big shouldered jackets in the 80s were classic. Until the 90s rolled round.

It applies more to some types of items that others, but it still applies. So a simple item (like a pencil skirt) is more likely to remain classic for longer. 

It also applies less to accessories than it does to clothes. 

I am not telling you not to wear your old suits. 
I am reminding you of the image you project when you wear them. 

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