I wish that Fashion Anthropologist was an actual occupation. If it was, it would be the career opportunity for me. If you were to show me an outfit, any outfit, I could predict with 95% accuracy the year – or years – that particular outfit was popular. From crinolined skirts to outsized bomber jackets, I could tell you when they peaked in popularity. As a former economist, I would probably be able to graph it out for you, with the date on the x axis and the popularity on the y.
Alas, I am forced to study Fashion Anthropology simply as an educational and mind-broadening exercise. It’s not an employable talent.
Do you ever wonder how trends get started, or how old fashions become new again? I certainly do, particularly with fashions that are either extremely impractical or extremely unattractive. In particular, these days I’m curious about the return of the romper and the jumpsuit.
Remember back in the 1980s when jumpsuits and rompers were all the rage? I clearly remember my one-piece strapless pale pink velour romper, circa 1984. It was not attractive, nor particularly comfortable, but I wore it because it was in my closet, and I was nine. I wore clothes that were in my closet. It was very similar to this:
As I recall, the most awkward thing about it was that rompers – not unlike one piece bathing suits – are not kind to tall girls, particularly ones with long torsos.
Rompers and jumpsuits hit peak popularity in the mid-eighties, as evidenced by the number of Butterick and McCalls patterns, for sewing your own. Frankly, I’m somewhat surprised that we weren’t forced to do this in Home Ec class, but on further reflection rompers and jumpsuits were on their way out by then. Also, the sheer amount of fabric required would probably be economically out of reach for parents of the surly Junior High Home Economics students, not to mention time was of the essence.
Gosh, I feel like I could write an entire post about the hairstyles on this pattern. I coveted that middle hairstyle like no one has ever coveted a hairstyle in the history of the world. I did not covet the outfit, however. These three outfits outline the most significant problem with jumpsuits and rompers, namely, what happens when you have to use the ladies’ room? I will tell you what happens. You need to completely undress. Now, if you happen to be out and about – which these ladies MUST be, because who would wear such a fancy outfit when you are just hanging out on the couch – there is a very good chance that the top of your outfit will end up on the floor. On the floor of a PUBLIC BATHROOM. And then, once the top grazes the appalling floor of a public bathroom, you will be required to PUT THE TOP BACK ON YOUR BODY.
I feel faint just typing that.
That blue striped one looks familiar. I’m pretty sure one of my aunts had one of those outfits back in the eighties. Check out the wild floral print! That feels like something one of the more youthful ladies would have worn to my family’s church in 1985.
You know what’s worse than a jumpsuit? A jumpsuit with a halter top. Also, these flatter no one. There is no way that bubbly poof of material looks good on anyone in the world. I would like to call your attention to the hairstyles, jewelry, and belts. If that doesn’t scream 1984 to you, nothing will – unless it’s a discussion about Big Brother and rat phobias.
This poor model. She seems to be the saddest of all. There is something desperate in her eyes. Maybe it’s the ruffled sleeveless-ness. Maybe it’s the bubble shaped shorts. Maybe it’s the culottes. Maybe it’s her Scott Baio hairstyle, which – tragically and regrettably – I myself had at one sad, misguided point in my life. We will never know for sure which option spurred the McCall’s Model Depression of 1982.
But the year is 2015! Those ignorant about history are doomed to repeat it, but we are not ignorant. We know what we wore back in the 1980s. However, that doesn’t stop society from being doomed. I saw many, many women in jumpsuits and rompers of all kinds this summer, from denim to gauzy nylon, from crisp cotton, to this:
History, repeating itself.