Cyclical fashion is ever-present whether we realize it or not. Sometimes we might have a double take and think “Oh! They are selling sweater vests again? Actually I can kinda see now why that outfit works…” What sticks out to us in one decade we might totally ignore in another. This is nothing new. Designers are constantly drawing from history and adding a creative spin on different styles.
“The nature of fashion is cyclical” because we love nostalgia and learn from it constantly, says A Closer Look Into Fashion Evolution Theory — Strike Magazine. We like to feel a part of something bigger.
Let’s take the sweater vest and the dark academia look which “romanticizes a time when the upper classes of society put an emphasis on liberal education. An interest in classical literature, languages such as Latin, Greek or French, architecture, art, poetry and fashion from Western Europe characterize the subculture,” according to Everything to know about the “Dark Academia Aesthetic” Trend. Dark academia mixes a couple of different aesthetics including a type of gothic look, which “you may associate with the Victorian era (black velvet, lace gloves, corsets), its origins date back to the 1400s. Gothic Revivalism in dress looked back to the 15th century, and it resurfaced in the mid-to-late-19th century” according to Why The 'Best' Decades In Fashion Keep Re-Entering The Trend Cycle).
What we are wearing is often pointing back to other stories of history.
The British are often representing this type of academic look which we admire—since Brits are unafraid to add their own personal spin on the wardrobe basics with their strong sense of personal style (British vs. American Style - Observations from a British Girl Abroad).
Europe as a whole has been heavily influenced by royalty, in particular, the Medieval Period. We love the full and complex history of Europe that has influenced fashion with dramatic changes each century (London Fashion: A look into the history of the British fashion capital). It is something worth recalling and representing.
What story would you like to tell?
We tell our stories by what we wear. How are these pieces drawing upon important pieces of history for you? Whether you have always dreamed of waltzing into a room with the 1800s puffed sleeve sophistication or wished you could have been around for the crazy yet melancholic parties of the 1920s freedom flare—something with that time period resonates with you and it matters. Maybe it’s a sweater that reminds you of the one your grandmother wore when she was 20—and you think fondly of that beautiful, giggly photo of her. Perhaps you are drawn to a woven vest or embroidered skirt because it reminds you of your family’s Spanish roots.
Whatever it might be, we should not dismiss our attraction to certain clothing items as meaningless. We learn something new about ourselves just by recognizing the “why.” Whether it is understanding why we love to always wear that one shirt that just works or why we are suddenly drawn to beading on any article of clothing. We are going through new seasons and our wardrobe changes over time with us.
We can still make ethical and sustainable choices for our wardrobe while also embracing the freedom to change stylistically over time—at a slow pace. We grow and are transformed slowly—not rashly. We are not locked into one mode of style. The more we come to understand ourselves, our wardrobe and style will evolve.