It’s the end of 2019 and at 34, I’ve never looked younger. Not in terms of my face, hair, or actual being – I feel roughly 1,000 and consider each undereye bag a badge of honour – but my clothing suggests that I’m smack-dab in my teens, that it’s somewhere between 1997 and 2002, and Gap hoodies, Roots jogging pants and Fila sneakers are appropriate attire for just about anything. Provided they’re capped off with a spritz of Clinique Happy and an oversized puffer vest.
Fortunately, according to the mainstream fashion trends of the last year or so, my fashion choices are just fine. More specifically, the 2010s have made defining style by decades a futile exercise since we’re seemingly stuck in an endless loop. Everything has been done before and everything is nostalgic. Instead of forging ahead and experimenting with newness, we’ve amalgamated everything we’ve ever loved, updated where necessary – I now like my Adidas sneakers with a little back support, thank you – and then marched into the future, our incarnations with us.
Fashion has always drawn from the past to reflect current tastes and values. The mid-to-late nineties repurposed trends from the 1960s and 1970s – shout-out to plaid flares, platform sandals and baby doll dresses! – in the same way we’re doing now. The 1994 CK One campaign championed diversity and gender fluidity more than 20 years after artists such as David Bowie, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop experimented with androgyny and gender in punk. And yet, today both gender and diversity are still big talking points in terms of representation in mainstream campaigns and catwalk shows.
Even when it comes to visuals, recycling and repurposing are commonplace. The go-to Instagram aesthetic – for brands and for the rest of us – has morphed into a mix of sixties mod, eighties garishness and nineties minimalism. What may have been dismissed as archaic or embarrassing may not have actually been so. Ask anyone psyched about the upcoming Lizzie McGuire reboot, or consider the mania surrounding Jennifer Aniston’s Friends-centric post on Instagram. Or look at younger millennials and generation Z: One scroll through the 35mm hashtag on Instagram and you’ll see a reclamation of film and its glorious faults instead of the glorification of filters, digital altering or merely capturing the perfect shot. It’s as though the push to upgrade and update throughout the 2000s made waiting for one-hour development seem quaint and romantic.
It may also explain the reintroduction of instant and disposable cameras. Take a walk through Urban Outfitters to witness the abundance of Instax, Polaroid and Fujifilm cameras. It is as glorious as it is shocking, particularly as they exist next to walls of Tamagotchis and shelves of Caboodles; pieces that defined a particular, millennial sect of the nineties before being ousted by digital tech.
Ultimately, if you take a walk through almost any store, it feels more and more like the year we’re in doesn’t matter. Wear a mid-nineties slip dress with a Y2K-era puffer. Forfeit Sorels for the less-practical Docs. Decorate your apartment as if it was Monica Geller’s (here’s looking at you, Pottery Barn Friends collection) or as Janeane Garofalo’s in Reality Bites. Trends are over and seasons are done. A specific era can no longer define an object or aesthetic. We’ve finally evolved past it and there’s a freedom to realizing we don’t need to limit our tastes that way anymore.
Trends and cradling era-centric ideologies limit us and they suck the joy out of life. When we think about fashion in seasons or years, of what’s in and what’s out, we strip away the parts of ourselves that grew as a result of being influenced by iconic predecessors, by movements and by what made us feel our best. Some of you probably really liked Tamagotchis, and I love that for you! But as decades increasingly blend together, it gives those who create more space to play in. Instead of defining collections by seasons, designers can define their work by their own tastes and let us decide how to treat their visions, as if it were a collaboration. Instead of Flip or Flop ensuring our homes remain faux-sixties minimalist or contain the appropriate amount of throw pillows, we can roll into IKEA for the cheap floral chair that’s seemingly plucked from the set of America’s Funniest Home Videos, a tribute to the living room you grew up lounging in. Or, more importantly, instead of treating representation as a novel idea designers deserve kudos for honouring, we remind ourselves and those around us that representation has always mattered, that some brands have understood that from the onset and that when you see Rihanna stack her Savage x Fenty lingerie line campaign with a cast of diverse folks whose sizes vary, she isn’t reinventing the wheel, she’s consciously continuing to do the necessary work needed to ensure inclusivity in a largely prejudicial industry.
Ultimately, and somewhat ironically, abandoning a fixation on time and seasonality is exactly what we need to do to keep moving forward. It is the blank space we need to morph into the versions of ourselves that are happiest and healthiest, and it leaves room for us to grow, something we all need to do. Let’s just hope that 2020 and beyond finally runs with this, that instead of us clinging to what we’re told to like, we like what we want. The year doesn’t matter, when it’s whatever year we want it to be.
It is also a roundabout way of defending my dedication to leisurewear or to a perfume I love just as much as Clinique Happy. I recently scrolled through a slideshow on which trends to leave behind as the year closes and saw a handful of my favourite things with suggestions on what to replace them with. I closed the web page immediately out of boredom. I’m a thousand years old and it’s 1998.