As a wannabe fashionista, I spent most of my teen years deriding anyone who still wore tapered, non-stretch jeans and giggling at oversized permed hairstyles that many local moms still clung to from their youth in the 1980s. All my jeans were flared. I tamed my then-curly hair with early versions of Conair flat irons (with mixed degrees of success, depending on the weather.) I knew what I liked – and couldn’t comprehend anyone who didn’t covet the same silhouettes and styles I did.
But, as a wannabe fashionista, I was also among the first girls in Winnipeg to start wearing skinny jeans when they made their comeback. I bought my first pair on clearance at Gap. They were more straight than skinny. But they felt so narrow at the time. My tastes changed with the prevailing winds back then. I just wanted to look fabulous, whatever fabulous might mean in a given moment.
I retained just enough of my teenaged feelings about fashion that when mom jeans made their comeback, I was skeptical. After all, they truly all the jeans that my mom wore when I was growing up. A few years ago, I flipped through a photo album from a girls’ trip my mom took with her friends in about 1993 and there they all were looking back at me just as I remembered them, with short, sassy hairstyles and tapered, high-waisted jeans belted at the waist. I borrow pieces from my mom’s closet every once in a while, but usually older ones, going back to the seventies or early eighties. The distinctly androgynous and sometimes deliberately unflattering styles that women wore in my childhood were not ones I ever expected I would want to emulate.
But if I were predictable, I wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.
The more I saw familiar silhouettes from the nineties make appearances in fashion magazines I love and on blogs I read, the more clearly I realised that those styles are not just the ones I couldn’t believe my women were still wearing in the early 2000s. They are also the styles that informed my first ideas about fashion. They are the styles I saw on female news anchors, TV stars and models from the time I understood who those women were. When I was seven, the women I perceived as beautiful and stylish all wore blazers and tapered jeans. They chose flats over heels. Those women are not the style icons that come to mind when I think of people whose sartorial inclinations I admire. But they are there in my memories, in my subconscious conception of what beautiful grown-up women look like.
And so, I have embraced high-waisted, tapered jeans with belts. I can’t remember the last time I wore a heel higher than kitten. I have sported more shades of beige and brown this summer than I have in the last five leading up to it. All of the silhouettes are familiar, but it is sometimes strange and surprising to see myself in them. When I look in the mirror, it sometimes feels, for a moment, like the person reflected back isn’t actually me.
I am used to seeing myself look much more feminine. The early two-thousands, in many ways, brought the beginning of a regression in female liberties. In 1994, Seventeen magazine taught nine-year-old me about safe sex; by 2001, Teen People unashamedly promoted the virtues of abstinence. That regression impacted every area of life, including fashion. Even if I didn’t think I dressed for the male gaze, because that idea seemed absurd to me even at fifteen, the clothes sold in women’s’ stores were once again designed with men in mind. And I, like all unwitting female fashion lovers, played into it.
Even if I didn’t love the silhouettes of nineties fashion… which it turns out I do… I would love the ideals that inspired them. The idea of choosing flattering pieces is one that rubs me the wrong way with increasing force. What is flattering clothing, if not clothing that makes you more appealing to the opposite sex? I dress for myself. And I wish that teenaged me been astute enough to realise that was what all the moms in tapered jeans were doing, too.
#lousvuitton #asos #jonak #madewell #zara