The Vagenda

For the First Time, I Can Remember Fashion From The First Time Round, and It’s Freaking Me Out


For the first time, I can remember fashions from the first time round, and it’s freaking me out.

I know what you’re thinking, older women, and it’s ‘boo-fucking-hoo, little girl. Try having Marie Claire selling the same boiler suit you wore in your twenties to today’s firm-bottomed youngsters when you, the ‘wrong’ side of fifty seven, are doomed to pop-socked laden future of slacks and targeted ads for vaginal tightening creams. My heart bleeds for you, you irksome foetus. Indeed, I am playing the world’s tiniest stradivarius (a stravidarius which I bought, incidentally, with the million pound profit I got from my townhouse, which I bought for £2 in 1963), and as I play, the blood and the sweet melancholic music blend to provide YET MORE PITY FOR YOU and your concerns about ageing. I am weeping with endless empathy. Etc, etc.’

I take your point, irritated older women of my subconscious. I’d hate being one of those young writers who assumes that everything that is happening to them is happening for the first time. Which is why I’ll happily declare right now that, if at some point in the near future I am to get pregnant, I will never, ever write a newspaper column about the trails and tribulations of being a first time mother. Well, not unless the money is REALLY REALLY GOOD. That’s a promise from me to you. It is a solemn vow.

Anyway, so the other day my colleague sent me this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 16.19.20

Is this a dagger I see before me? Breathe in, millenials. That is indeed what you think it is. Your eyes do not deceive you – it is a velvet choker with a cross on it.

A velvet choker with a cross on it.


I wore one of those when I was fourteen. Chances are, you did too. And it’s not just the choker. I’m seeing velvet spaghetti strap dresses. I’m seeing silver things in Whistles (they’re not quite the charming silver combat trouser- bodywarmer combo I sported for the millennium, but they’re on their way). I’m seeing mini-backpacks and jelly shoes and crop tops and tie dye and OFF THE FUCKING SHOULDER TOPS. What fresh hell?

It was only when I noticed that I was scouting the murder victims of True Detective for fashion tips that it dawned on me that the nineties were back. I realise that the circuitous nature of fashion means that things will always go in and out of style – it is an inevitability. Part of my irritation at the return of the nineties is, I accept, the ready-made wardrobe I would have had I held on to all my old clothes. Am I upset that I didn’t keep the baby blue mini backpack I was given on my thirteenth birthday to contain my very first mobile phone (which had an aerial! An aerial! And no address book!!!)? Yes, I am. Even though I would look like a twat in it. And am I sad that, as a friend recently pointed out as she gazed wistfully at the washboard stomach of a seventeen year old in hot-pants and a crop top that we are ‘no longer the fit ones’? Of course I am. I’m only human, and like many other ancient humans on the verge of death from old age, I couldn’t name a single Jessie J song. But this isn’t just about ageing gracelessly. It’s about fashion, and commerce.

You see, the circles that determine what goes around comes around style-wise seem to be getting smaller. Unlike my pelvic floor muscles, they are tightening. While I can understand how my mum can look at the kaftans of two years ago and sigh wistfully, that ‘oh my god, I can’t believe those are back in fashion’, the nineties only happened about ten minutes ago. OK, not ten minutes ago, but a lot less than the forty years ago that were the seventies. I refuse to believe that the things people were wearing twelve years ago count as ‘retro’ or ‘revival’.

Why is this happening? Is it because my generation has finally come of age, stopped interning, and got jobs in the fashion industry just as they were realising that they should be taking all their styling tips from Clueless? Is it because Kate Moss still looks good in these clothes? Or is it because fashion has, actually, reached the zenith of homogeneity and there is nowhere else to go from here?

I think it’s the latter.

Think about it. There are no subcultures to borrow from (when was the last time you saw a proper teenage goth?) and everything is a meta-ironic version of something else. Buzzfeed makes articles from other articles, songs are sampled and rehashed into other songs, Celebrities are our ‘style icons’ who we’re supposed to copy to ‘get the look.’ Street style blogs have developed tropes of their own and are becoming boring in their sameyness. Where else to borrow from but a mere decade or so ago? It doesn’t matter that a lot of it is terrible, because it’s new(ish). Even the nineties is a long time ago in current fashion schedules, when you consider how there’s not even much point in throwing anything away now that last season’s ‘victoriana chic’ is next season’s ‘gothic wonderland.’

Maybe I am wrong, maybe it is because I am just getting old and no longer have a figure that looks good in Topshop ‘Mom’ jeans (oh, how we used to deride ‘mum jeans’! Now they are the latest thing) Only time will tell. If, in the next couple of months, bleached denim starts popping up everywhere on the high street, we’ll know for sure that the fashion time-space continuum is truly broken and that, in this homogenous universe we inhabit, there is truly nothing that can ever happen ever again.

27 thoughts on “For the First Time, I Can Remember Fashion From The First Time Round, and It’s Freaking Me Out

  1. Someone just told me they saw a trouserskirt in H&M on Oxford Street. It’s over, people.

  2. Took my son (!!!) to the park earlier and was truly disturbed to see a teenager in a crop top and denim jacket, her hair was so similar to the Rachel hairdo it made me feel like I’d stepped into a time machine.

    I think what disturbs me most is knowing that 19 year olds now would have been born in 1995!

  3. I think the reason it disturbs me most is when things come round again, they polish them up somehow and leave out the bad bits. We never looked as good in our Sketchers, velvet, jelly bands and crop tops as today’s teenagers doing the 90s thing. I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s infuriating.

    (Coming from a fellow millennium-silver-outfit-wearer: mine was an a-line New Look spaghetti strapped dress, £10, my first purchase from the newly-opened Trafford Centre)

  4. I sincerely believe this Samara-esque cycle of fashion is due to the desire to dress our daughters in the fabulous and familiar clothes of our own youth. My daughter’s wardrobe has more than a touch of de ja vu.

  5. I sincerely believe this Samsara-esque cycle of fashion is due to the desire to dress our daughters in the fabulous and familiar clothes of our own youth. My daughter’s wardrobe has more than a touch of de ja vu.

  6. I’m scared of complaining about the 90s revival in case the early noughties (strappy combat trousers a la girls aloud) suddenly rear their head in revenge.

  7. I’ve just turned 22, which means my formative teenage years were the late ’00s. I don’t know about anyone else, but don’t those years seem to be a bit of a… void? The noughties felt like the start of this remixed generation: no original, interesting fashions to throw your teenage self into.

    My theory is that todays late teens/twenty-somethings are reappropriating the 90s, because it’s the last time there was a proper mainstream fashion movement. We remember either the ‘Spice World’ 90s or the ‘Grungy older sibling’ 90s, and I reckon the current fashion is all about nostalgia for actual childhood, rather than teenage years. Perhaps. I’ve never exactly been a fashionista… :)

  8. I’ll digging out my shiny PVC bodywarmer then. ‘Twas a staple in school discos, when we’d all dance to Gina G.

  9. What’s freaking me out is the speed at which we’ve gone from ‘oh, god, the 80s are back’ to ‘oh, no, the 90s’ are back. I’m walking the kid to school and it’s somehow 1991 and 1999 at the same time.

    I became aware of fashion around the time stove-pipe jeans when they went out of fashion in favour of boot/flare cut (early 90s, I guess). It took me a long time to warm to them when they came back five years ago. I dread the day I start to want fluoro tie-died cut-offs, and combat boots, and a suede bolero. But I’m already sold on lace and slouchy jersies. I should probably stop being less judgey-mc-judgey-face…

  10. I strongly recommend Andrew Keen’s “The cult of the amateur: how today’s internet is killing our culture and assaulting our economy” which explores the theory that today’s culture of the mash-up is destroying creativity and encouraging mass information illiteracy. I found it quite reactionary in places but very interesting reading.

  11. Yes! I’m also 22 and always felt weirdly cheated that the noughties (and that name!?) never seemed to have a defining style/ overarching trend. This article made me smile as while not a teenager i do remember some of the more PG must haves such as anything spicegirls, tiny backpacks, platform trainers, chokers etc of the late nineties and with some of these now everywhere it is quite funny seeing the cyclical nature of fashion first hand.

  12. Oh god, I had that necklace. For years (oh the accumulated wisdom of thirty years), I thought the 90s had no definable fashion, and then it turned up in Topshop. I bet there was a noughties look, we just haven’t got the mental distance to look back on it yet. I remember combat trousers, long A-line denim skirts, a brief summer of paisley print gypsy tops and tiered skirts, cowboy boots, boob tubes (I was at university for the first half of the 00s). Low-rise flares and fur gilets and denim hot pants with lace-up moccasin boots (that was Kate Moss, not me). That ringing a bell for anyone? The 00s was when the Britney Spears low-rise jeans thing was everywhere, on any item for your bottom half, the definition of the decade was needing a bikini wax to put your jeans on.

  13. I just bought some dungarees and I have never been happier! Well, apart from the first time I some. In 1995. Did someone say spaghetti straps under a sheer shirt?!?!

  14. I wore a red handkerchief hem boob tube and black bootcut trousers. Both New Look. A stunning look.

  15. I’ll be the wrong side of 57 in 6 weeks time and I’m loving this article. I remember chokers like that in umm… 1970 when I was umm… 13 or 14. You’ll know you’re really old when you start noticing the errors in tv dramas about your era. Grinning as I write this, we’re all still that teenager at heart.

  16. Great article! In the 90s I actually wrote in my diary how sad I was that there was no discernible style from my generation (though not in those words) and that in the future we’ll look back and shake our heads. I think i blamed myself. I used to look through my mums old 70s and 80s catalogues in the attic (yes she kept them, she is a hero) and get jealous about other decade’s style. I thought the 90s, fashion-wise, was shit. My fave outfit was dungarees (straps down- I was well individual) with a blue sequin halter top from New Look and Reebok Classics and my bro never took off his black denim Spliffy waistcoat. I’m from Bolton- nobody could afford Dr Martens. In fact, they looked too much like free school uniform shoes to be cool. So anyway now I’m sat here in some Dr Martens and a denim dungaree dress with a tie dye Pearl Jam tee shirt underneath. My dad walked in the other day in my bro’s bloody waistcoat! Don’t know where he found that.. I think what’s happening is, we’re trying to do it right this time round because it was so terrible the first time. Grunge was supposed to look shit then but not now.

  17. True! I am (this month) 23, and I never thought we had some fashion movement, we just dressed with clothes that looked like pricey clothes (if this makes any sense). I am, too, happy to see a little revival of the 90s, as I remember their fashion better…

  18. Those jeans were, unfortunately, featured in the video for Kiesza’s latest song (I wanted to type single but I fear that is a bygone word for a singular song :/).

    There she was with skin tight horrors, a crop too and braces, prancing around NY and I felt a little bit of sick in my mouth.

    I had a snowwashed denim jacket in the 80s and I hoped I would never see that trend reappear.

  19. I’m 26 and grew up in the 90s. I don’t know whether I love the resurgence of the 90s fashion or not seeing as I was to young to get involved with the grown up girls and their style