DRESS FOR THE DECADES
AW18 references every decade – here’s how to wear the season’s vintage-inspired styles
AW18 IS HEAVY on VINTAGE-INSPIRED LOOKS – SARA McALPINE EXPLORES
the SEASON’S CHRONOLOGICAL MASH-UP. IT’S TIME to PLUCK FROM HISTORY on YOUR OWN TERMS
WHAT’S THE ADAGE ABOUT FINE
W I N E A N D A G E ? It’s that the best ones are vintage, isn’t it? Well, fashion is of the same view – the AW18 catwalks were packed with throwback styles. But now you have the choice to stay sober; indulge with your outfit.
You only have to look at a handful of shows to see a look for every decade, from the Fifties to now: teen-spirited mods at Miu Miu, beatniks at Dior, punks at Versace, club kids at Burberry, and so on… A chapter-by-chapter look at fashion as if plucked from the history books.
But this isn’t quite vintage style. It’s 2018, and we have a whole lot of history behind us. This backward glance is different from previous seasons: Miu Miu’s rebels without a cause weren’t just wearing the bum-freezer coats of Fifties rockers. There was a bit of Eighties acid wash thrown in, the digital prints of the early Noughties and a little Sixties mini dress. Models were styled as greaser girls, embodying the spirit of those who walked: Slick Woods, Adwoa Aboah and Lily McMenamy all stepping out of the neat, tenyear timeframe and channelling their own energy.
Our history with vintage is relatively short. Economic necessity was the traditional catalyst for turning the style clock back (historian Angela McRobbie traces vintage, as a trend, back to the Eighties). But we have a rich cultural past, so it makes sense to tap into the energy and excitement of something that was groundbreaking and provocative when it was new.
‘There’s a difference between being referential and looking back with nostalgia,’ says London-based designer Michael Halpern, known for celebrating the style and spirit of the Sixties and Seventies. ‘It’s more about referencing the state of mind of a time. Focusing on that allows us to create something that feels new, rather than antiquated and too familiar.’
The mood we’re able to tap into with throwback styles is key to AW18’s contemporary bricolage. We’re not just endorsing bell-bottom jumpsuits when we buy into Halpern’s brand of Seventies glamour, we’re buying into the feelgood energy – the hedonism! – of disco. For SS19, Halpern is also paying homage to the sexual liberation of his grandmother’s era, referencing the decade she came of age via accounts from his own mother (so it’s understandable that the mille-feuille messaging gets a bit meta as we move up the timeline).
“THERE’S a DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REFERENTIAL
and LOOKING BACK with NOSTALGIA”
“TO GIVE AUTHENTIC VINTAGE a NEW LEASE
of LIFE, KEEP JEWELLERY CLEAN and
Cultural historian Dick Hebdige adds that ‘styles [pay] tribute to the place in which they were produced’. We’re fashioning an identity, pulling at the strands of our past to speak to our values; it’s like fashion pick’n’mix.
That much was clear at Gucci’s AW18 show, with creative director Alessandro Michele’s characteristic archival alchemy. ‘We are the Frankenstein of our times,’ he said, addressing his own mix of fantasy and feminism, referring to women’s studies professor Donna Haraway and throwing a (fake) baby dragon among Twenties-style bed jackets and NY Yankee caps (peak Eighties). Gucci has been an eclectic mix of references since Michele stepped in, reminding us of the fun in playing with what already exists, remixing it into something new.
As for other brands delivering vintage-inspired looks for AW18, Matchesfashion.com’s editorial fashion director Natalie Brewster recommends Marques’ Almeida, Calvin Klein and Chloé. To give authentic vintage pieces a new lease of life, ‘keep jewellery clean and minimal’, she adds.
Given the political climate, it makes sense to think we’re using our wardrobes as a means of speaking through style, recalling renegades of first-, second-, third- (fourth-?!) wave feminism, ready to retrace those steps. The uniforms of protest referenced at Dior were once signposts for like-minded women, with roots in something that still feels relevant. Whether you’re buying into this season’s chronological mash-up or creating your own with a mix of true vintage, one thing’s for sure: memory is in fashion.