Thursday, October 9, 2008
Acid wash wasn’t haute couture in 1988– but it was hot.
Back then, I was a middle-school fashionista (or so I thought), pegging my acid-wash jeans– the ones torn at the knees, and then washed and dried until they accumulated the perfect length of fringe around the holes– and tucking them into my socks (sometimes two pairs of socks, layered), worn with black Converse high tops (or white Keds, no laces). A long T-shirt and big hair completed the look.
Denim jackets were a good look, too, especially when worn with matching jeans. I still feel pangs of jealousy, deep in my gut, when I remember my best friend’s brown leather aviator jacket. I desperately wanted one, but my parents deemed it “too expensive,” words that made no sense to my 12-year-old brain.
At the time, my mom also didn’t understand why I’d spend $60 on a pair of jeans and then cut holes in them. Twenty years later, I’ve learned my lesson. If I’m going to spend a lot of money on jeans, I leave the scissor work to the designers. This, of course, completely justifies the $200-plus price tag on distressed denim, which is what any fashion maven worth her weight in Taverniti Sos will be wearing this fall.
“BECAUSE SHE LOVES EXPERIMENTATIONS, THE COLOR RAN THE GAMUT FROM CONSERVATIVE NEUTRALS AND ALWAYS-IN BLACK TO SCREAMING HOT PINK AND ELECTRIC BLUES.”
Monterey’s not Paris or Milan but, even in ’88, it had its couture moments– well, kind of. We can safely assume Weekly ads and photos represent the pinnacle of style, and that style is permed hair, big bangs (on men and women), high-waisted pegged pants and lots of layers. And as with hair and jewelry, bigger is better when it comes to eyeglasses. Unless the fashionable frames cover most of one’s face, they aren’t going their job.
A personal favorite is an ad for Donlé, which, in 1988, sold natural fiber clothing in The Crossroads. The blond model (think Elizabeth Shue in Cocktail) wears her pants pegged, and rolled up above her ankles, with a matching military- or safari-inspired short-sleeve, collared shirt, very utilitarian.
Another exciting discovery: Pier 1 Imports used to sell clothing– not just any clothing, but “Gypsy Life.” In the ad, six women and one man link arms and skip or jump across the page wearing big smiles (and big hair), long hemlines, ethnic jewelry and huge plaids and prints. “Gypsy has arrived at Pier 1 Imports,” it says. “Imported men’s and women’s wear from India and Indonesia, Gypsy comes in casual and evening designs that are both comfortable and contemporary.” They are also wide in the shoulders, which brings us to another retro fashion fave: shoulder pads.
Shoulder pads seem to be sewn into everything in 1988, from long, oversized coats and dresses to fitted blouses and the ever-popular boyfriend blazer and menswear-inspired cardigan. And why shouldn’t they be? Don’t women deserve to look like linebackers? Plus, the broad-shouldered blouse tucked into high-waisted, belted pants tapered in at the ankles makes for such a symmetrical silhouette: two upside-down triangles stacked on top of each other. Sometimes– when accompanied by the edgy, ’80s pixie cut hairdo– three triangles: bangs and flat-top hair to chin triangle, shoulders to waist triangle and hips to ankles triangle.
In January 1988, Big Sur designer La Verne McLeod “wove together” fashion and art at an “international” fashion show at a Carmel Highlands home. McLeod’s “versatile, comfortable line of natural garments” included woven scarfs, cocoon sweaters, roomy color-block dresses and loose jackets. “Because she loves experimentations, the color ran the gamut from conservative neutrals and always-in black to screaming hot pink and electric blues.”
That same year, Guess, Esprit and Benetton labels hung in my closet. Had I actually been a real-life fashionista (and older, living somewhere other than Salem, Ore., with sizeable wealth or maxed-out credit cards) I would have preferred Chanel (then revitalized by Karl Lagerfield), Giorgio Armani, Emanuel Ungaro and Donna Karan. So says the New York Times, which deemed these designers “fashion ups”– as in “The Ups and Downs”– of 1988.
Apparently the Times crystal ball saw clearly in 1988, too. Writer Carrie Donovan named Isaac Mizrahi and Marc Jacobs as the young, “enormously gifted” new designers to watch. Now the two are household names; Mizrahi, with his couture and Target lines, and TV and film appearances, is a fashion empire.
And in a sad coincidence, the Times named Yves Saint Laurent as the revival story of ’88. “Yves Saint Laurent, often and properly acknowledged as the greatest designer in the world, is emerging from a long slumber,” Donovan wrote. “In 1988, the snap seems to have returned. In the seemingly little things– the width of a belt, the shape of a jacket, the flare and fit of a skirt, the choice of accessories– a youthful proportion has re-emerged.” On June 1, 2008, following a long illness, the genius couturier Yves Saint Laurent died at his Paris home.
I wonder what the greatest designer in the world would have thought of the greatest jeans in the world. They were Guess, skin-tight, with ankle zippers, black with white tiger stripes. They were mine 20 years ago. They were awesome.