Friday, December 9, 2011

American Heritage/Personal Identity Essay: A Fashion Blast from the Past

Recently, I had to write a 750 word paper on any aspect of history. I wrote about the current trends of today and how they reflect those of the 70s. Upon receiving a 94% on it, I felt pretty good about myself. I wanted to bring out the inner arrogant, obnoxious know-it-all you sat next to in class back in the day and boast about my grade/paper... So here it is. I've added pictures at the end to make it a little more interesting. Enjoy.. just like my professor did. ;)
Jordan Santos
American Heritage/Personal Identity Essay:
A Fashion Blast from the Past

            Mini skirts. Leather sandals. Cigarette-legged or frayed jeans. Maxi dresses. High-waisted bottoms. Chunky knit sweaters. Fur jackets. Tribal print. Fringe. Worn-looking shirts. Headbands. Crop tops. These are the kinds of things you would find in my closet or any fashion-forward girl’s closet, as a matter of fact. These items are all the rage right now, worn by any trend-watching fashionistas to the fashion icons we call celebrities. While many think that these new, hot clothing pieces are the latest trends- they’re wrong. These items women consider never-before-seen and innovative are actually garments that were popular before most of us rocking these threads have been born. They originated in the 70s, the time of the ever-so-chic hippie and the hardcore punker.
            I identify myself as a human. A Filipino-American. A Christian. A Southern California local. A woman. Most of all, I consider myself a fashion enthusiast of the highest degree. Ever since I came out of the womb, I adored fashion- clothing, accessories, models, purses, shoes, everything! At the age of 5, I would throw temper tantrums so extreme, bystanders thought I was getting kidnapped by a middle-aged stranger. In reality, I was just very upset that my dad would not take me into Claire’s, the pre-teen accessory store, to buy me earrings. At the age of 10, I started drawing my own clothes, pricing and naming each one. At the age of 14, I began using the internet to look at fashion websites, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and Christian Dior. So frequent were these website visits that you would think it was my day job. At the age of 16, I began subscribing to Vogue, Seventeen, and InStyle magazines to be up-to-date on the latest trends. At the age of 17, I was voted “Best Dressed” in my senior class, which was, sadly and proudly, the highest achievement I had experienced thus far. At the age of 20, currently, I got hired as an intern at a fashion PR firm in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue, known for its boutiques and vintage shops. Fashion is a part of me, just as my heritage, religion, and region is.
            That being said, it is no surprise that I supplement this self-understanding with some historical backing. As I have previously noted, you can find me walking to my next class, shopping at the nearby mall, or socializing at a happening party, club, or bar donned in the latest trends. While the obvious questions that may come to mind to an observer is: “Where in the world did she get those distressed denim jeans?” or “Where can I buy those high-waisted tribal print shorts?”, I encourage that everyone should replace them with more thought-provoking and historical questions such as: “When and where did these types of clothing originate?”
            While these trends originated in the 1960s, they actually popularized and became more widespread in the 1970s. The largest influence on this natural look that consisted of worn-looking clothing, distressed fabrics, headbands, tribal prints, furs and fringe, among many others, was the hippie counterculture that began in the mid-1960s in the United States (Welters 494). During this period, negative events in American history, such as the Vietnam War and the prejudice of blacks, American Indians, and women were occurring. Hippies, the young generation of this time, were rebelling against these movements. It contrasted highly with the previous generation-the stale uniformity of the 1950s, with the images of cookie-cutter homes in suburbs and housewives. The youth began to act out against this prosperous culture of consumerism and standardization and instead humbling their would-be polished looks into ones that made them look deprived and living in poverty by shopping at second-hand stores. They reflected their self-sufficient image in how they felt towards the government- that they could only take care of themselves since the US administration couldn’t (Welter 494). “The clothes are earthy and sensual. They express an affinity with nature… not the colors of the machine…” (Reich 252), which opposed the plastic, non-natural neon colors of the early 60s. They were individuals-and could not be molded into something mass manufactured, like the clothing made in the factories.
            The feminist movement of the 70s also was a factor in this kind of dress. Women began blaming the fashion and beauty industry for women’s oppression (Peiss 260) and wanted to cease the way fashion was used for men in portraying women as sexual objects. In response, feminists began to do away with the complicated, hardened with hairspray, hairstyles, leaving it very long, parted in the middle, shaggy, or cut short. Overly tight clothing and loud make-up were done away with, with loose fitting t-shirts and ethnic inspired prints replacing them. The popularization of the tribal prints goes hand in hand with the spreading trend of headbands, fringed leather, and precious stones such as turquoise and coral. These trends were influenced by the opposition to the unfair treatment of Native Americans (500 Welters).
            While this image of self-imposed poverty may sound uncivilized and grotesque, it was actually more presentable and fashionable than one would think. It soon was seen in the most popular fashion magazines, such as Vogue. In the 1967 edition of Vogue, they deemed California, the origin of many of these trends, as the “go” state, which meant cool (Vogue 128-31). In the 1969 edition, they featured pictures from the Woodstock Festival that December, noting on its fashion and what everyone was wearing (Vogue 194-201).
             This image is further supported in a Woodstock video of Country Joe McDonald’s “F-U-C-K Cheer”/ “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die”. What was “in” in the fashion world was obvious. Everywhere, people were wearing printed or leather headbands on their long, natural hair, flowy tops in earthy tones, and crop and bandeau tops, while singing along lyrics about the Vietnam War: “1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, we’re going to Viet Nam.” (Woodstock ’69). The Charlie’s Angels Season 1 Trailer, a popular TV show in the 70s, also showcased many of the trends. They sported high-waisted shorts, vests, lace-up tank tops, and many crop tops (Charlie’s Angels Season 1 Trailer). My Auntie Emma, who lived in the 70s, affirmed my findings when she talked about what she wore back in the day. According to her, “everyone in the 70s was all about the not-trying, very un-put together look. A lot of my friends wore those bell bottoms with the peasant blouses and headbands, while others dressed more punk, influenced by Andy Warhol and the Ramones. They wore lots of Doc martens and ripped clothes. Mostly, style back then was a statement to society. The youth didn’t want to conform to parents or the government. They just wanted to express themselves even though most of the time they didn’t know what the heck they were expressing.”
            Pick up any fashion magazine and you will see today’s celebrities dressed as if they had just come from protesting for birth control or rocking out to The Beatles’ concert. Vanessa Hudgens, on the trend-watch section, along with Ashley Tisdale, are both wearing distressed high-waisted denim shorts, designed by MINKPINK. Whitney Port and Khloe Kardashian contain their bedhead with a braided, knit headband on the way to the grocery store. InStyle magazine headlines that Nicole Richie is coming out with her newest jewelry line, which showcase silver metalwork and turquoise stones. While the world around us may think that these stars are unique and creative in how they wear and design clothes and jewelry, you and I, and whoever else lived or studied fashion in the 1970s will know that they actually committed the best form of flattery-imitation. As for me, I will credit the hippies and the punkers of that decade in creating this natural and “just rolled out of bed” look. Not only will I walk away from typing this paper donned in my cropped chunky knit sweater and torn-up denim jeans, adorned with a long-stranded coral stone necklace, with my hair parted in the middle, but I will walk away wearing something more important- the knowledge and history of where they all originated.

headbands in the 70s.
headbands now, worn by Ashlee Simpson & Vanessa Hudgens.
fringe in the 70s, worn by Jimi Hendrix.
Fringe worn now, by Vanessa Hudgens.
layered necklaces worn in the 70s.
layered necklaces worn now, by Blake Lively.

 Works Cited

Charlie's Angels Season 1 Trailer. Perf. Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett.
YouTube, 2009. Website.

Peiss, Kathy Lee. Hope in a Jar: the Making of America's Beauty Culture. New York:
Metropolitan, 1998. Print.

Reich, Charles A. The Greening of America. New York: Random House, 1970. Print.

San Antonio, Emma. "Style in the 70s." Telephone interview. 14 Nov. 2011.

Vogue. "'All Nature Is But Art': Woodstock Music and Art Fair." Vogue 1 Dec. 1969:
194-201. Web.

Vogue. "The State of Go: California." Vogue 15 Aug. 1967: 128-31. Web.

Welters, Linda. "The Natural Look: American Style in the 1970s." Fashion Theory 12.4
(2008): 489-510. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.

Woodstock '69 :: Country Joe McDonald's "F-U-C-K Cheer" / "I Feel Like I'm Fixing To
Die" Perf. Country Joe McDonald. YouTube, 2009.

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