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Fashionably Late

or, I Was Born Two Decades Too Late and I Haven't Got a Thing to Wear!

By Sonia Pereira

Do you ever feel like you were born into the wrong era? Man, it sucks, don't it?

I mean, I've always dreamed about cat-eye glasses (that actually work and don't just look cool), fancy hairstyles that have to be protected with a plastic bag at night, seamed stockings, vintage tubs of Max Factor creams, corsets and girdles with sexy cuts, swing dresses, and saddle shoes. But who even sells this stuff anymore? And if you can find it, can you find a store that charges less than a trillion smackers for it?

Well, sometimes I feel like I've just had it. Sometimes I just, you know, want to throw in the fashion towel and hang my head in sailor collar shame. Is there something wrong with me? How come I find butt cleavage disgusting and thong underwear besides the point of er... underwear? Why do I hate Jimmy Choos so much? Or find blonde streaked hair really ewww-worthy? And today's swim wear? It's like pieces of cloth for a doll, not a real live curvy woman with breasts, hips, a butt, and legs that don't swivel if you rotate them (but you will get a sock in the eye if you try).

Every time I pick up a fashion magazine (which isn't all that often anymore), I am utterly disappointed. First off, there's the models. Okay, I know, they're supposed to look like hangers so they can show off the designer's clothes more aesthetically or whatever. Yeah, right. But other than being somewhat... how shall I say this whilst remaining PC... exaggerated in proportion of bone and lack of meat, they just seem dead to me. Flat eyes, flat tummies, flat chests, flat asses. Flat expressions. Doesn't it all seem, you know, flat? C'mon, the old-time pin-up girls (though not fashion models per-say) had so much more life and oomph and ahhh. Ya know? And I'm not saying that modern Playboy bunnies fit under my category of ahhh, either. After all, like the webzine Retro Raunch says, "silicone sucks" ass. (That ass part is mine.)

So, there. A simple criticism on my part. I want to be the girl next door while there are no girls next door anymore. Either you're as vavavava-voomey as a woman in Grace magazine or you're as plastic as a porn chick or you're as asexual as a Vogue favorite. Huh. Do you see why clothes are suffering? There's no life to inspire designers! No philosophy that drove the beatniks to wear black turtlenecks and white socks. No romance to propel the glory of car culture hair-dos and bad-girl leopard print bras. No irony to dress up the beach bunny with the pineapple hair. No feigned innocence to bring on the swarms of cool chicks in poodle skirts and ponytails. Man, I miss that kind of ingenuity and flavor. I miss the wide-eyed girls staring at the woman on the screen with the hourglass figure and killer smile. The one you just know is going to live her life any way she wants to because hey, she's got the exactly right wardrobe to do it in. Simple as that. You think Billie coulda looked so damn moody without the Gardenia in her carefully upswept hair? Or that Marilyn could have ever gotten her name in permanent marker on every retro-chick's locker door without that white dress? These were more than props. They were outward signs of identity and of a time when a woman could throw on a pair of jeans and blouse and look fabulous 'cuz she had the glow of perfect hair, lips, and a bullet bra to tell the world, get the fuck outta my way.

Of course, there are major factors concerning the fashions of the past that don't quite seem so nifty today. The pressure to look sexy, the idea that a black woman must straighten her hair to look pretty, etc. But really, who are we kidding? Do women have less pressure to look good today than then? Uh, no way. Can black women dread their hair and become sex symbols in today's world of multicultural sermonizing by the ubiquitous patronizing tones of pop culture? Yeah, sure. Just ask Halle Berry if she'll trade in her perfect pageboy for a more "ethnic" look. A million dollars says she'll laugh in your face (while going on about how women don't have to be blonde and blue-eyed to be stars anymore). Yeah, I know. Everyone's a critic. But when I look at the resurgence of retro culture in magazines like ATOMIC, I just take a breath of fresh air. Sixty years from now no one will know what Sharon Stone wore in Basic Instinct, they'll simply remember her uncrossed legs. But do we remember what Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's and what Dorothy Dandridge wore in Carmen Jones? Damn straight we do.

I, too, want that kind of flirty uber-style in my life. And though I was born a couple of decades too late to remember sipping sodas at the shop in a tight red sweater and folded up dark jeans, I can taste the sexy aura of the snug fabric on my belly. Hell, I can even relish the idea that women were once proud enough of their bodies not to hide their soft bellies from the world. And smart enough to whip a man into shape with a quick tongue and chunky heel. After all, one needs the right uniform for the job. Just stick His Girl Friday into the VCR after watching the typical lame-o movie starring Julia Roberts or some such "powerful" actress. Then ask yourself, who has the best lines? And wardrobe? You'll see what I mean.

Hey, you there in the Nolan Ryan rainbow Astro's jersey, what retro fashion would you bring back? Add comment.


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