Modern fashion: The 10 biggest trends
By Kat Giantis
Special to MSN
Fashion is tricky. Sartorial selections that seem hip and edgy often end up looking foolish years, months or even days later. Who among us hasn't suffered the heartbreak of a Dorothy Hamill 'do or a pastel "Miami Vice" suit with matching Sonny Crockett stubble or, gulp, a Member's Only jacket?
See, many a fashion faux pas occurs when the unsuspecting jump on a fad instead of a trend. The difference? Fads fade, while trends endure and evolve. Trucker hats, Mukluks and red Kabbalah strings? Fads (we hope). Denim and T-shirts? Trends. To define the biggest fashion moments of the modern American era, we decided to begin on a high note (thigh high, that is). And for those with closets crammed with outmoded outfits, take heart. We hear Member's Only jackets are hip again ... well, at least they are this week.
10. The Miniskirt
Who knew thighs could ignite a revolution? When the miniskirt debuted, reactions ranged from indignation to outrage. But British designer Mary Quant's sexy mid-'60s shorty was an instant classic that gave, er, rise to a youthquake and all its groovy freedoms. The mini also launched the career of Twiggy, whose 90-pound frame, 31-22-32 measurements, and pixie haircut were synonymous with mod fashion (and foreshadowed supermodel waif Kate Moss). The miniskirt has participated in most major fashion trends since — punk to Pat Benatar to post-modern — and while it no longer sparks social change, it still incites near-riots on such gam-baring gals as Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.
9. The Power Suit
Giorgio Armani owes much of his superstar status to how hot Richard Gere looks in a suit. In 1980's "American Gigolo," Gere's metrosexual archetype boasts a closet of the Italian designer's suits, shirts and power ties, which he blissfully color coordinates. The yuppiefied "greed is good" '80s saw the power suit become the dress-for-excess symbol, preferably with matching suspenders for men and, for women, shoulder pads so large that Joan Crawford would have shuddered. Power-suit paradigms include "Dynasty's" cash-rich catfighters Joan Collins and Linda Evans, who faced off in Nolan Miller's silky ensembles, and Nancy Reagan, who wagged her finger at would-be drug users in a red Adolfo number.
8. Workout Wear Worn Everywhere
"Let's get physical, physical ..." With that 1981 music-video mantra, a Spandex-sheathed Olivia Newton-John ushered in the fitness-as-fashion trend. Olivia wasn't sweating alone. Leotard-clad Jane Fonda urged millions to "go for the burn" on her 1982 exercise video; Jennifer Beals brought torn sweatshirts to the masses in 1983's "Flashdance"; and the kids from "Fame" leaped toward stardom in legwarmers. Those now-obsolete items aside, not all fitness fashion fizzled. Run-D.M.C., like Bob Marley before, sported the classic Adidas tracksuit, which remains a staple in Madonna's wardrobe. The latest ubiquitous workout incarnation features upmarket velour and cashmere sweats (Juicy Couture continues to be seen everywhere), which some celebrities have taken to pairing with pricey purses.
7. Anti-Establishment Attire
Any fashion that begins as a reaction to the establishment is almost always co-opted by said establishment. It happened with hippie duds — flower-power was used to sell sugary, carbonated beverages to peasant blouse-clad teens. The punk-driven Sex Pistols brought Mohawks, studded leather jackets, bondage gear and safety-pin chic to the masses. The anti-fashion of punk begat grunge, but the trend's flannel shirts, Doc Martens and baby-doll dresses wound up on the catwalk faster than you can say "smells like teen spirit." And because trends tend to be circular, the anti-establishment look lives on, in a far more sanitized form, with poppy MTV staples such as Avril Lavigne, Good Charlotte, and even Ashlee Simpson. Somewhere, Sid Vicious weeps.
6. Prime-Time Hair
Farrah Fawcett lasted just one season on "Charlie's Angels," but that didn't stop her famous wings from taking off. The bombshell blonde's face-framing feathers, sported in her ubiquitous pin-up swimsuit poster, became the must-have haircut for America's mall-dwelling girls in 1976. The high-maintenance mane required dedication, what with all the curling, blow-drying and teasing (or do like Paris Hilton, and simply glue on fake hair to achieve the high-volume look). Two decades on, a dynamite coif turned Jennifer Aniston from "Friends" star to cultural icon. Her neo-shag cut, forevermore known as "The Rachel," had long layers on top, shorter ones on the bottom and could be poufed up into a modified bouffant. In 1996, women old and young marched into salons with Aniston's picture and demanded to be transformed. How enduring is the cut? Michael Jackson continues to sport a variation of it.
5. Disco Fabulousness
The image of John Travolta boogying to the Bee Gees in his crisp white disco suit, glittering gold chains, platform shoes and hirsute chest is seared into the national psyche, but the disco era was so much more than "Saturday Night Fever." The hedonistic Studio 54 was ground zero for fashion-forward fabulousness, as modeled by beautiful people such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli (seriously, she was super-cool before the whole David Gest debacle) and Bianca Jagger, who made waves when she wore a gender-bending white Yves St. Laurent suit to wed Mick in 1971. Halston halters, ultrasuede frocks, Lycra pants and tube tops joined Diane Von Furstenberg's unstuffy, best-selling wrap dress as must-have items. Updated '70s fashions continue to thrive, and even the dreaded polyester leisure suit has resurrected thanks to the titular teen (Jon Heder) in the indie fave "Napoleon Dynamite."
Sneakers came out of the gym and into corporate America in 1980, when a New York subway strike forced business-suited men and women to ditch their uncomfortable footwear as they hoofed to work. A shoe trend was born, followed in quick succession by several others: skateboard punk (remember Jeff Spicoli's checkerboard Vans in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"?); the sports hero as spokesman (Nike's Air Jordans, anyone?); the dressing down of America (Seinfeld and the computer geeks of Silicon Valley); and the mainstreaming of hip-hop, which started with Pumas and laceless Adidas and continues with shoe lines from myriad music stars. It took a while for couture to catch up, but gym shoes have now gone glam, with high-end kicks offered by the likes of Prada, Tod's, Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Dior. Take that, casual Fridays.
3. The Preppy Look
Named after polo-playing prep schoolers in classic casuals, preppy style exploded onto the cultural landscape with Lisa Birnbach's "The Official Preppy Handbook." Soon, people who'd never been at sea sported boat shoes, khakis and canvas belts emblazoned with whales. Lacoste shirts, with their beloved alligators, had to be worn collar up. The preppy tide turned in the mid-'80s, with the arrest of the "Preppy Killer" and the rise of preppy cinematic heavies, notably James Spader in both "Pretty in Pink" and "Less Than Zero. " But the look survives, thanks to proponents such as Outkast's Andre 3000, whose dapper, dandy-esque old-school preppy style earned him the No. 1 spot on Esquire magazine's best-dressed list in 2004, and Desperate Housewife Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross), who has never met a sweater set and pair of pearls she didn't like.
2. Urban Apparel
Like hip-hop music, hip-hop fashions are in constant flux. Early days of oversized boxer-revealing pants, untied Timberlands, FUBU hats and ultra-puffy Starter coats yielded to couture from Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, which was then mixed-and-matched with designs from less-upscale labels Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Suburbanites quickly hopped on the trend, as did the rappers themselves, with everyone from P. Diddy to Eve launching clothing lines (Sean John and Fetish, respectively). But hip-hop fashion has never just been about the clothes. It's about communicating the right image, and to do that you need the brightest bling. As celebrity fave Jacob the Jeweler has proved, diamonds are no longer just a girl's best friend — it's every musician's best trend.
1. Designer Jeans
Denim is an enduring wardrobe essential, but it wasn't until the '70s that Gloria Vanderbilt, Sassoon, Jordache, Sergio Valente and others made big bucks by emblazoning their names on backsides. Calvin Klein put America forever in blue jeans, with help from his muse Brooke Shields, who famously cooed in that ground-breaking Richard Avedon-directed commercial that "nothing" came between her and her Calvins. For years, we wriggled into high-waisted, circulation-slowing denim (even, embarrassingly, the acid-washed varieties). By the new millennium, jean fashion flip-flopped, with low-riding hip-huggers (some with the oh-so-forgiving stretch of lycra) becoming de rigeur, with some hot styles priced over $200. But the backlash against the thong-baring style has begun, and unflattering waist-high, narrow-leg jeans are attempting a comeback with a little help from dewy style mavens such as Scarlett Johansson and Mischa Barton.
Kat Giantis points out celebrity fashion blunders and wonders in MSN Entertainment's Undressed! column.