Back to the Future... Again.

The cyclical nature of trends by Rosemary Brodhurst-Brown - MA Fashion Journalism, LCF

It occurred to me the other day I was admiring something I’ve seen before. A 1980’s mock 50’s print dress with a cheeky little sweetheart neckline. Being greeted with this particular frock on an unknown bystander sent me surfing on a wave of nostalgia, I usually feel one tenth of this feeling when I spot a vintage gem in Beyond Retro, or East End Thrift store. But not today. It was only later that day that it dawned on me, I’d seen the dress before, not recently, oh no, more like twenty years ago on the back of my mother in the late 80’s, it was one of her never-going-to-die M&S frocks she just adored.

This recycled clothing malarkey has been going on for an age now; vintage is no longer a dirty word, but a necessity in giving your wardrobe genuine kudos in dedication or homage to your ‘look’. Buying these dedications/badges of fashion honour to the past is no longer a fashion sport, with the chase slowing with old age, vintage shopping is now second nature, with the help of a whole industry of vintage shops, charity shops dropping on, and the vintage buyers old reliable, eBay.

With the passing of another decade, naturally, it does bring on a wistful look back at trends gone by. It was when we were unloading the millennium bug stockpile that the Electroclash look came in, with 80’s hipsters displaying overt attitude and sparks of sci-fi. Only eleven years had passed since the actual end of the 80’s, with the line between vintage/retro becoming even thinner. The 80’s revival ultimately hit its tipping point; our polka dot earrings and 80’s frocks were put back away into the treasure trove of time.

2008 saw 90’s style subtly creeping back in - the Hervé Léger bandage dress, which is still doing the red carpet rounds on celebrities worldwide. The end of the 00’s (I’m not getting into ‘teenies’ or ‘tweenies’ debate), also saw a muted grunge revival come and go.

It’s only now, with this everlasting, ever confusing Back to the Future renaissance that these trends are overtly influencing our crop of fresh new designers. Louise Gray, House of Holland and Felder Felder are all incorporating the 90’s aesthetic into their collections. Even most recently Selfridges proclaimed ‘The 90’s are Vintage’ – hosting a retail dedication to the decade, showcasing pieces from Rellik and Beyond Retro. Savvy eBay sellers are also joining in on the action – with there currently being 213 items listed as both 90’s and vintage. ‘We’ve definitely had an up-surge in clients requesting clothes from the early 90’s – it’s no longer about tea dresses and flannel shirts, our buyers are looking for the original bodycon look and high-waisted velvet shorts’ says Teresa Ferreira – East End Thrift Store, London.

The real issue here is the limitations that are being encouraged by the frequent celebration of the past. Firstly, when the 90’s are officially ‘over’ – what will be next? The 00’s passed a mish-mash of cultural trends, but not specifically clothing trends. And secondly, designers like Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano are celebrated for paying homage to historical styles, but with the history ever dwindling, where will inspiration now come from next?

Images: Louise Gray
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