New Beginnings

Emma Oliver explores some crucial moments that have led to new beginnings and new trends throughout fashion history.

Oh September, how I have waited for you. A new season that brings new collections, new beginnings and an exciting blank canvas for my autumn/winter wardrobe. With a new laptop, new stationary and re-evaluated academic expectations, it’s time to focus on the main issue: clothes. And lots of them. Choosing your sartorial personality this season can sometimes mean diving head first into the unknown. And what better way to do this than by taking a moment to look back at some of the biggest risk-taking moves made by the fashion greats of the last century.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel 

This fashion maverick needs no introduction. Trouser wearing women all over the world owe this innovative lady a major thank you. Yes, before Chanel’s (BC) bright spark idea of the roaring 1920’s, it was frowned upon for any self-respecting women to leave her house in anything other than a skirt or dress. If this was still the case, my clothing collection would be more than halved to say the least. From a feminist perspective or not, this was a major step for women’s liberation. This gave women, quite literally, the power to “wear the trousers” in the on-going battle for equality. The 1920s post-war era meant people were ready to let their hair down. Dancing to the early hours of the morning, casual sex and drugs were on the rise. Dresses became as loose as the inhibitions of the women wearing them. Uptight and constrictive dressing became a thing of the pre-war decade past. More and more fashion taboos were being broken. This decade set the wheels in motion for fashion designers to allow themselves to take risks, leap into the unknown and still be celebrated for it.

Before the unkempt, flowery, power-to-the people hippies of the 1970s came the androgynous “le smoking” suit, pioneered by Yves St Laurent in 1966. In a decade of high hair in the form of a beehive, and even higher thigh high leather boots, this minimal two piece tuxedo suit broke boundaries not seen since Chanel’s golden age of the ‘20s and ‘30s. The clean, simple lines were a refreshing change in womenswear and once again gave women a sense of empowerment in their dressing. It paved the way for the 1980s ‘power suit’ and is still used as a template for suits for women today. The autumn/winter 2012 runway collections were flooded with modern takes on the two piece suit. Pared down and easy to get right, this look is definitely on my radar for this season.

McQueen and Isabella

I may have been a ‘90s kid, but that unfortunately meant that, at aged two and three, grunge dressing was far from being on my radar. While I was in pretty sun dresses and nappies, the rest of the world was rejecting the concept of fashion and rebelling against the norm in a most fashionable way. Ironically this ‘anti-fashion’ became THE fashion. This new and slightly sinister look was embraced wholeheartedly by most. Fresh faced out of Central St Martins with a Masters in fashion design, Alexander McQueen strongly influenced the grunge movement, a brave step and a far cry from the preppy polo wearing teens of the 1980s. With high profile clients who later became friends, such as the notorious Isabella Blow, McQueen shows were the hot tickets of the season. Piercings and tattoos skyrocketed (to the horror of most parents I would imagine) yet nothing, not even a good telling-off would stop this movement from spreading.

So far the noughties are yet to have a definitive style label placed on them. We’ve seen indie, boho, prints and patterns but most, if not all, can somehow be linked to decades past. What style will our generation be remembered for and copied in the years to come? What will be ridiculed (latex leggings?) and what will be celebrated? Maybe I’m wrong and our definitive moment has already been created. However, I’m still hopeful that our moment has yet to come.

Image Credits: