The Art of Appropriating the Ethos of an Era Through Fashion: Sociology of Style on How Everything Becomes New Again


As always, I would like to thank my friends at Sociology of Style ( for taking their sociocultural perspective to the streets with a point of view on how fashion ultimately becomes a signifier of our cultural conversation.   This article by Eve Kerrigan Roberts discussion how fashion always comes full circle from one era to another.   Like everything else in life (and I do mean everything), fashion follows a spiral dynamic – following an a path that eventually dips back into the past and comes  before moving on to the next level.

I love the role fashion plays in that regard:  remind us of our human cultural milestones, traditions, triumphs and (unfortunately) mistakes.

Enjoy Eve’s article below along with some tips on how to keep the past with you as you sashay down the catwalk of life:

Everything Old is New Again


The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.
— Aldous Huxley

Mr. Huxley’s quote could easily be changed to replace the word “history” with the word “fashion,” and the meaning would be equally apt. Fashion and design love to visit the past and bring something good back. Sometimes they also bring something bad back (polyester comes to mind). The drop waist can be seen here and there in contemporary fashion, mostly as an ironic nod to the 1980′s trend. But then, the 80′s trend was a redux of the 1960′s trend, and that one recalled the 1920′s dropped waistline. It’s not news that fashion recycles, But, when we look a little deeper we might find that at the source of these collective style choices is a cultural nostalgia. And perhaps this nostalgia is, itself, based on our subconscious relationships to what those styles represent to us.

Branding experts will tell you that consumers have an unconscious psychological association to every item in the marketplace (even items as seemingly mundane as laundry detergent). For example, in America, we relate to our cars not as vehicles, but as icons of freedom and individuality. Of course this extends to the fashions we wear and the styles we respond to. Last year we saw racks of Maxi-dresses and pencil skirts reminiscent of different style caches of the 1960s. Every contemporary furniture store from East to West stocks the clean lines of mid-century modern furniture as well as bold, bright psychedelic patterns. Are these stylistic nods in the direction of free love and hipster aesthetics brought on by a widespread love of Mad Men? Perhaps. But maybe it’s the other way around. Perhaps we can’t stop watching Mad Men and and emulating the styles of its era because subconsciously we relate to the circumstances they represent.

So, hang onto your vintage statement pieces. You never know when a seminal historic event or the cultural mood will inspire you to wear something that may have felt dated before. That something may just be the perfect “modern” accent down the road.

Here are some tips to help you rock the retro and ditch the dust:

leopard-pumpsMix your vintage pieces with thoroughly modern looks. Your skinny jeans will look great with that pair of leopard pumps you inherited from your mother. When in doubt, check out a vintage inspired fashion blog.
hepburnThe true greats never go out of style because they are always relevant. Ballet flats, Fedoras, Pea Coats, Chuck Taylors. You can’t go wrong with the classics of any era. Check out Glamour’s 25 “forever fashion rules.”
Farrah-FawcettTry a vintage flair with your hair! Whether you have a 1930′s finger-wave or a 1980′s mullet, a revamped ‘do will make you look like a fashion original.  Time Magazine listed the top-ten most iconic hairstyles. See which one fits you best.
And for a look at the full article and more from Sociology of Style, click here:
Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Fashion, Marketing, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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  1. Pingback: Penn State The Art of Reappropriating the Ethos of an Era: Sociology of Style on … | Penn State

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