Arts & CultureFashion

Mom jeans, grandma’s pearls and granddad’s clothes: Is fashion doing a #throwback?

By Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

When Macklemore sang, “I wear your granddad’s clothes / I look incredible,” he was not just making a joke about used clothes, but commenting on the phenomenon of recycling older fashion styles.

While this “throwback” trend can be found throughout popular culture, it is arguably most prevalent in fashion.

Due to the cyclical nature of the fashion industry, trends come and go from the runways to knock-offs at discount stores within the same fashion season. To be “in vogue,” designers are constantly on the lookout for new inspiration, which is often found in the past. Designers can repurpose tried-and-true designs and know that because it has been done before, their work will be successful, both commercially and critically.

But this isn’t a new trend. In his infamous 1971 show, Hommage aux Années 40s, Yves Saint Laurent revived 1940s styles. This show was controversial for its supposed inspiration from Nazi-era Europe, but its influence on ‘70s fashion is undeniable.

In recent years, older styles have come back in new ways. Specific decades have been the targets of revitalization. Inspiration can be found from the royal courts of the Renaissance to ‘90s raves. This is due, in part, to the rising popularity of thrift stores as fashion meccas, no longer used just for cheap clothes.

Even in Eugene, we have a variety of thrift stores and higher-end retro shops catering to vintage clothing, from Nobody’s Baby to Redoux Parlour.

Sisters Brianna and Cailie Mitchell, who run the popular online vintage clothing store The Pulp Girls, believe that unlike new clothes, vintage clothes carry a history with each new owner because they have already been lived in.

The two started thrifting when they were in middle school. After amassing more garments than they would ever wear, they decided to turn their passion into a business.

Their online store is constantly updated with a variety of vintage clothes and accessories from the 1950s to the 1990s. This range is important to Brianna and Cailie because of their diverse clientele.

“We’re always impressed by the costumer who mixes genres and styles effortlessly, as if she’s a time-traveller who’s tapped into the diner-after-the-drive-in vibe from the ’50s with a dash of ’90s grungy denim and a large helping of ’70s disco queen,” said Brianna.

By not being confined to a certain style or era, the sisters believe you can put yourself into a variety of roles and characters. One of the biggest criticisms of fashion is that there is nothing new, but mixing styles can make fashion more nuanced.

Another critique of vintage clothing is that younger wearers do not fully appreciate the history of the garment or idolize certain aspects of that time period, a sort of secondhand nostalgia. Brianna and Cailie, who are both in their early 20s, believe this is a wider, generational trend.

“We’re one of the very first generations to have instant access to the pop culture of the past,” said Brianna Mitchell. “Having a physical piece of something you have so much love for has an undeniable appeal, which is why we got into vintage clothing ourselves in the first place.”

While most fashion nostalgia amongst Millennials has been of a secondhand variety, the recent rise in ’90s nostalgia has provided an outlet for Millennials to be nostalgic for something they experienced themselves. This trend has not been contained to thrift store dresses and beat up Dr. Martens; it has influenced high fashion. ’90s minimalist styles have popped up on runways from new comers like Alexander Wang to well-known brands like Céline.

The Pulp Girls have also taken note of this trend, specifically the more mainstream aspects of ’90s culture.

“It’s fascinating to us, in a weird way, especially because that was our childhood,” said Brianna Mitchell. “We find comfort in the familiarity of it, but there’s also this kitschy, low-quality facet to it that resonates with our generation.”

This means selling pins and stickers of characters from ’90s TV classics like “Daria” and “The X-Files” and having models wearing ’90s inspired makeup and hair along with vintage garments.

While it is unclear whether vintage clothes will stay in vogue, due to the constantly changing world of fashion, the thrift store will always be a doorway into the past, for less than five dollars.

“…there’s something magical about wearing a piece of clothing that’s had a “life,” rather than having been churned out by exploited workers in another country,” said Brianna Mitchell. “It’s one-of-a-kind, which just makes it all the more special.”

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Sophia June

Sophia June

Sophia is the Senior Arts and Culture Editor at the Emerald.