What happens if ‘the trend’ becomes a fad, and that too, a fad whose time has passed? Global confusion? Chaos? The earth veering off orbit? Close, but not exactly. That’s what fashion designers might have you believe. The rest of us would miss the apocalypse.
That’s not to say that nothing is happening. Something is. The Zero Decade (of the ‘zips’), now about to end, has suffered an identity crisis. We have seen nothing and everything by way of fashion. We have seen garb and garbled garb. The splintering of subcultures, the collapse of homogenisation, and above all, the rise of individuality. Elements of everything from punk to disco, stuff from the roaring 20s to the swinging 60s. The bubblegum pop of the 80s. Even the furious 40s. And cliché after cliché. It’s been a strange decade in others ways too. Even those who had sworn enmity hung together in the closet in solidarity unseen for 100 years.
It’s all old, but it’s all ‘in’. Take a look around. With only days left to go, the zips have seen everything from turbans from the 1920s and capes no one claims ownership of, to free-flowing balloon skirts and breath-staking corsets, all being bandied about as the hot new ‘trend’—before they slumped under their own weight, as faddish as anything else before it. If the minis that Mary Quant peddled and The Shrimp that once made waves are still being advocated, the maxi dress craze set off by the disco divas is seeing a revival thanks to Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and their ilk.
But the threads of the neo-hippies aren’t the only way to go. The sleek-and-slim cut is right up there too. Hot pants, Audrey Hepburn’s skinny denims and Katharine Hepburn’s high-waist, wide-bottomed pants are still finding wearers. So also leotards, those bodylicious favourites. For contrast, try the loose drop-crotch dhoti/MC Hammer pants—which, incidentally, are also finding favour among the ladies.
It’s made things easier for fashion designers—who no longer need to make dog-ears of history pages, desperately seeking to make something that is out of something that was...with their own ‘interpretation’, of course.
Even the bob haircuts of Priyanka Chopra, Katie Holmes and Posh Spice were just blips, to be read as stark reminders of the Louise Brooks era. For a while, women in male attire threatened to become the fashion movement of the zips. It was led by Kate Moss.
That was it, proclaimed the fashion mavens: this would be the decade of the woman going Butch, with her stealing the entire male wardrobe save the Y-fronts. Should it not be a trend when Kate Moss pledges her unwavering support? The lady in oversized jeans (and nothing else) went from skinny to heroin chic to just plain simple chic, all in the last decade, starting it off by rocking the boyfriend waistcoat with hot pants. The boyfriend shirt and boyfriend pants became so popular, it threatened to disgorge the female wardrobe. The effects were more or less spontaneous.
Katie Holmes suddenly started showing up with pants so oversized that she had to turn them up at the bottom. Her homelessness might have given the boyfriend denims—ripped and gashed—a touch of authenticity, but Rachel Bilson and Reese Witherspoon’s carefully orchestrated chic made it a real style statement. The woman was the new man, and the oversized shirt, the new maxi. She would do as she very well pleased, and make it look suave.
Tragically, this ‘trend’ too was found to be ripped straight from the 80s, back when women gleefully bummed shirts off their dads to wear with miniskirts and broad belts. As the designer Surily Goel insists, “Butch isn’t all the woman’s going. She’s also the girlie girl with dresses, kurtis and leggings...” True, the fashionable Indian woman has been wearing kurtis—ranging from knee kissing and ankle kissing to shirt length—with loose Patiala salwars and tights a la churidar, even as her very own salwar kameezs teasingly totter between Indian and Indo-Western.
The butch girl wanted it all. She had her ripped laddered stockings come bouncing back, even as she gave in to bad ass leather jackets and leggings on occasion. She made the mid-riff the ‘it’ thing, but not without forcing fashion to backtrack and endorse curves once again. So, where does that leave fashion? Skinny is still in, but you’ll be publicly flogged for saying that. The new girl was rebelling against the very idea of being held in compartments.
Defying definition was the Big Idea.
The question, though, as the zips draw to an end, is still the same: whatever happened to the trend? Designer Tarun Tahiliani believes the world is simply moving too damned fast for it. “The movements that inspired distinct ‘decades’ happened when the world moved a lot slower. As a result, things were much more uniform,” he elaborates, “But as we move towards a more multicultural society, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to define a larger all-pervasive trend of movement.” So if you think Michaele Salahi’s appearance at the White House in a pink lehenga-choli—surely the most graceful gatecrash ever—would set the stage for a sizzling new global trend, think again.
Rather than hope for a reprieve from trendlessness, learn to appreciate the new kaleidoscope, changing by the nanosecond, as it were. Before it all turns into a breathless blur, Ritu Kumar offers a seductively sane word for fashion this Zero Decade: ‘individuality’.
Can this be a bad thing? It might sound blasphemous to Andy Warhol, that god of pop art who once suggested we all wear silver make-up during the day and dress like clones. But it isn’t. Varun Bahl goes so far as to dub the zips “the best decade of contemporary fashion yet”.
That’s saying something. So, is individuality it, then? The trend of the decade? Maybe. Except, it’s been done. They did it back in the 40s, when designers were following rather more trivial pursuits—like fighting a war.