We’ve all been there, rifling through our mother’s wardrobe, finding at the back a luminous array of material that was once deemed an outfit, and feeling a sense of relief that fashion has moved forwards. But observing the catwalk at New York Fashion Week you would be forgiven for thinking you had entered a time warp, back to the day when bright colours, flared trousers and oversized hats were commonplace. Which can only mean one thing – seventies fashion is back, bringing all its whimsy and eccentricity noisily in its train – and Marc Jacobs is as usual leading the way.
The revival of the jumpsuit a few years ago had mixed responses, but it was overall considered a success. Marc Jacobs has taken it one step further this time; complete with bows and whistles (and tassels and flowers), and a lot of it really works. True, I doubt I will be donning a shiny leopard print leotard or pumpkin coloured flares for a night out anytime soon, but the patterns, the layers, the belts and the accessories are on the whole extremely flattering. Forty years on and it is easier to see what worked and what didn’t, and that is the wonderful thing about fashion nostalgia – there is still room for innovation and creativity, but with the tried and tested backdrop of an era that really understood fashion. Nothing is completely untoward about the collection, the occasional outfit warrants a raised eyebrow, but there is a welcome absence of the fluorescent faux pas, and an understated modern slant.
As with all the greatest fashion periods, the seventies took inspiration from trends of earlier periods. As such it is impossible to define seventies fashion to a single look or image, but rather as an amalgamation of different looks and images from different periods. The similarities between sixties and seventies fashion is a particularly popular comparison, but dismissing the seventies fashion era as a continuation of sixties mania and flower power is to deny it some of its greatest ventures. Although seventies designers clearly cherry-picked the best looks from the previous decade, they did not limit themselves to this. The seventies was a period where change and progression went hand in hand with a respect for the past, and this is evident from the heavy pre-war Edwardian influences, particularly the long skirts and high waists, edged with a quirky style unmistakable for the time. Just as the designers of the seventies picked and mixed various styles and influences, so is Marc Jacobs now, and as such emphasising his respect and appreciation for all their efforts.
If self-expression was the central pillar of seventies fashion, then Marc Jacobs is obviously aware of what modern women aspire to in their fashion choices, and by choosing to model his collection on the clothes of an era of renewed equality and female empowerment, he clearly holds our own era in the highest esteem. And whereas a lot of other designers are opting to return to the glamour of the seventies in their 2011 Spring/Summer collections, he has opted to return to a time when women were able to blossom (quite literally) in an array of flourishes and colours.