THE LOOK AGAIN
Fashion fads come and go. It’s just that sometimes when they go, it feels like a weight has been lifted. No matter how old you are, looking back through photos from the time in your life when you were trying to be cool can be funny — or painful. Here’s why.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Victorian era was drawing to a close — and so, too, thankfully, was the era of the corset. For centuries, women used corsets to crush their bodies into the then-idealized hourglass figure. It was common for little girls to squeeze into them and continue wearing them their entire lives, even through pregnancy. They were known to misalign the spine, deform ribs, and smoosh internal organs out of their natural position.
1910s: EDWARDIAN HATS
As corsets began to come off, Edwardian hats, unfortunately, went on. A relic of the Titanic era, Edwardian hats were enormous feathered monstrosities that are best described as peacock meets sombrero. Mercifully, their memory lives on only in Halloween stores, costume shops, and reruns of “Downton Abbey.”
1920s: SMOKING JACKETS
Although they have roots dating to the 1600s, and never went out of style for Hugh Hefner, smoking jackets peaked in popularity the 1920s as the ultimate symbol of elegant leisure for gentlemen. In reality, they’re glorified bathrobes with weird pockets designed to hold primitive watches on chains. They’re almost always made of hideous maroon velvety cloth and were, presumably, saturated with cigar/pipe/unfiltered cigarette smoke.
The gangster era gave the world some of the greatest fashion ever conceived, but there was also plenty of stuff that didn’t make it into the James Cagney movies — and for good reason. Although shoulder pads are often considered a fashion disaster of the 1980s, designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced them in the 1930s. Thanks, Elsa, there’s nothing cuter than right angles from neck to elbow
1940s: ZOOT SUITS
Fully loaded with racial stereotyping against the black and Latino youths who wore them in Harlem and Los Angeles in the 1940s, zoot suits might be the only fashion trend ever to have race riots named after them. Mountains of baggy cloth. Wide lapels. Porkpie hats. Padded shoulders. The zoot suit is gone forever, and that’s fine.
The 1950s: CAT EYEGLASSES
Although Audrey Hepburn’s character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” launched them into the fashion stratosphere in 1961, cat eye sunglasses came onto the scene in the 1950s — and they’ve never gone away. That’s more than a half-century of perturbed-librarian-meets-human-feline awfulness.
1960s: JOHN LENNON GLASSES
Although they didn’t look terrible on Ben Franklin 200 years earlier, tiny glass circles on thin wire frames did for men in the 1960s what cat eyes did for women the decade before: made their faces look ridiculous. This modern style mistake can be traced to John Lennon. The Beatle sported “granny glasses” for the first time in 1966, adopting them from the character he played in a movie.