Love history? Love fashion? Love fashion history? Then I hope you can still grab New York Magazine’s “What We Wore” special issue (May 16-29, 2016) from the newsstand. At least some of it is online starting here, but this is one of those editorials that works fantastically in print.
The cover line’s subtitle is “Centuries of Peacocking in the City,” so I expected the great photos but there’s so much more. I’m obsessed with the “What I Wore …” bite-size essays about clothes that bring back memories, including Bette Midler’s “…As a Go-Go Girl” (1965); Diane von Furstenberg’s “…When I was Ready to Give Up Everything” (1973); and Gisele’s “…As a Starving Model” (1997). The one closest to my heart is “…To Feel Invincible” by artist Robert Longo (1977) because that’s the quality I look for in all my clothes (and jewelry and lipstick). It’s like the armor I put on every day.
There’s an essay by Amy Larocca on why New Yorkers have always worn black, with photos that date back to 1900, though other photos — such as Amy Arbus’s 1983 picture of a cheetah/leopard print outfit — prove we don’t always wear all black all the time. The list of important stores warmed my heart with the inclusion of Paraphernalia, Charivari, Patricia Field, and my beloved Fiorucci.
Other essays celebrate fashion icons such as Diana Vreeland, Nan Kempner and Tina Chow. There’s a lineup of legendary sneakers; a recollection of clothes that scandalized; and a selection of runway shows that pushed fashion forward. As a bonus, there’s a previously unpublished 1966 shoot that Larry Fink did of Andy Warhol and his Factory crowd, including Edie Sedgwick, whose bio by Jean Stein I read over and over again in the 1980s.
But my favorite photo is one from 1926 that’s more evidence (in case we needed it) that trends we think are brand new are often anything but. As I like to say, “Fashion repeats itself” and this lady has the choker and the anklet to prove it, as well as a type of faux tattoo. She didn’t stop there, though. You must read the description of the whole outfit to fully appreciate how wild it is.
New York quoted the photographer’s original caption:
“This girl has all of [the] trends and she’s not loath to wear them at once: bell earrings, a dog collar worn as a necklace, a large beauty spot on her cheek, an ivory cigarette holder, a design to cover the vaccination mark on her arm, heavy bracelets, an anklet, a photo of a boyfriend on her stocking, an anklet watch, fancy garters worn below the knee and a mirror fastened to her wrist.”
I love a woman who knows that more is more. It’s also very interesting to learn that 1970s punks weren’t the first to wear dog collars as chokers. My question is: When are we going to bring back wearing photos of our significant others on our legs and mirrors on our wrists? Those things are due for a comeback!