The Love21 Controversy

You can go ahead and tell me I live under a rock, but I had no idea until recently that Forever21 had launched a maternity line, supposedly geared towards teenagers. This has created a huge controversy, what with all the teen pregnancies and all.
I’ll be the first to admit I hate teen pregnancy and irresponsible sex more than just about anything, but allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment here.
First of all, Forever21, like any other big corporation, is about making money. They’re not an activist group, they just want you to buy their crap so they’ll have more money and can keep selling you crap. As we all know, teen pregnancy is pretty much the trendiest thing in trendy town, right up there with yoga and sushi and complaining about how fat you are, so it wasn’t going to be long before somebody saw a market in all this. I guess Forever21 is pretty lucky, because they were being a lot more gutsy than their clothes would suggest they are, so they’re the first ones to tap into it. Cha Ching for them, a job well done.
Now sure a lot of these companies have an immense impact on our modern culture through their contributions to advertising, but when you claim that stuff like this encourages teen pregnancy I think you’re being more than a little naive. I know some kids are dumb but are they really that dumb to walk into a Forever21, see the Love21 maternity line, and think to themselves “Like OMG those clothes are SO cute, all I have to do is get knocked up so I can fit into them and therefor fit into my circle of friends too!”? REALLY?? I won’t say this very often, but in this case you are grossly underestimating people’s intelligence.
Lastly, who’s to say that only teenagers shop at this place? I know a lot of fully grown adults, of baby-making age, who squeal over Forever21’s stuff with the best of the teenagers. It’s not like they have an age limit over who shops there, and besides most 20-somethings and even 30-somethings adopt the same styles as teenagers. And damned if they’re going to give it up in favor of mumus with bows when they decide to go ahead and have kids.
So think what you want, but personally I think this is a whole lot of controversy over nothing. People like money, people like trendy styles, and people like making babies. It was only a matter of time before these things became combined.

The Trends of Trends

We all know that styles change over the years, over the decades, and over the centuries. We get tired of certain styles and get anxious to try out new and more innovative ones all the time. But have you ever wondered WHY certain things go in and out of style? Have you ever looked to the styles of the past and saw the reasons behind them? I’ve noticed a few trends about trends, and I’m finding them very interesting.

Big shoulder pads. Of course you’re thinking about the 80s now, the “power suit” that so represents this time. This however wasn’t the first time big shoulders were in. Before that it was in the 1940s, when big shoulders were in style partially to balance out elaborate hairstyles. Sound familiar? The other reason they were in was because at that time women were entering the work force en masse because of the war, something that can also be said for the 80s version of the phenomenon, minus the war of course. On a simplistic level, you could say that whenever women start going to work in droves, large shouldered silhouettes will appear. On a deeper level, this leads us to explore how fashion becomes an expression of our desire to be seen as men’s equals in the work force.

So, feminism and women’s rights has an influence on fashion, right? Let’s look at another example. In the 1950s it was generally considered that a woman’s place was in the home. This was a time of full swing skirts and feminine details. Later, in the 1960s, the sexual revolution began, and so did the era of the mini skirt, and the end of the girdle era. Jeans became popular for more than just the most casual of situations. Unisex hairstyles appeared. While I’m tempted to say that feminism killed glamour, it’s certainly a more complex issue than that. Let me only suggest that we can have both.

The 60s and 70s saw a huge change in clothes, and in its simplest terms you could describe this as rebellion. It was rebellion from what was previously expected and even required, and part of a huge social change. That wasn’t the first time social and style revolutions happened either. Think about the regency period. Before that, in the 18th century elaborate court clothes signified wealth and rank. Women wore huge panniers, men and women alike wore Big Hair, and there was no shortage of extremes.

Once the American Revolution, and even more so the French Revolution hit, these styles became representative of a dated monarchy. To dress this way pretty much meant you thought you were better than everybody else. Now this was a time of equals, and again, of rebellion. The regency period saw a return to simple silhouettes reminiscent of ancient Greece, and the older generation complained that women were running around “in their nightgowns”.

This happened again on a smaller scale during the recent recession. Anyone seen dressed ultra glamorous and ultra expensive was seen as being insensitive to those suffering from unemployment. Celebrities in particular were a target just as the royalty of the 18th century was. The word “recessionista” came into use, and being thrifty was finally something to be proud of.

So now it’s easy to see how major social change will influence a major change in fashion, and one fashion extreme will often lead us to the other end of the spectrum. There are many more examples. 80s glam vs. early 90s grunge, the Victorian age vs. the flapper style of the 1920s, and the simplicity of the Regency period vs. the poof of the 1840s. I could go on, if I did my research.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I want to go further into explaining the styles of the 20s through the 50s in another article, but for now it’s interesting to think about the social reasons why we wear what we do. There’s certainly a lot more to do with it than simply what we think looks good at one time or another. Of course we can’t really have an opinion about what looks good without there being some sort of reason behind it. Fashion really does say a lot about who we are in the world.

Why I Don’t Like Trends

“Judging from the ugly and repugnant things that are sometimes in vogue, it would seem as though fashion were desirous of exhibiting its power by getting us to adopt the most atrocious things for its sake alone.” –George Simnel
I once spent the afternoon shopping with a good friend of mine all over the city. I needed some jeans and upon entering one of the stores in the mall I was asked “are you looking for skinny jeans?” My response was “No, I don’t want to pay for something that will be out of style next week,” and while the sentiment may have been slightly exaggerated, that right there sums it up quite nicely. Put most simply, I find it a waste. Not only of your money, but of closet space as well, and we could all use a little more of that, couldn’t we? I just don’t see the logic in buying something you know you’ll no longer get any use out of when next season rolls around and you now consider your perfectly good purchase to be dated or even ugly. It’s the silliest thing.
There is another side to this though. Here’s another mini anecdote. When I was 16 I started learning to express myself for the first time. For years I had been trying my best to fit in to avoid any more of the elementary teasing from the kids in school, and though it worked, it somehow felt very, very wrong. I wasn’t myself and I needed to change that. So instead of wearing what everyone else was wearing, I kept an eye out for things I liked. Here’s another quote for you, “Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” –Epictetus. I could go on. That summer lacey shirts with huge flowing sleeves came into style. They were very trendy indeed, but they were also very me. I stocked up on them and soon people rarely saw me in anything else.
The key here is to know yourself, and I certainly question people’s motives when I see them decked out in all the very latest trends right down to the last detail. I would strongly advise anyone to NEVER buy anything for the sole purpose of fitting in. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to walk around looking like a freak. It does however mean you’ll feel more confident with yourself, and spend your money only on things that make you really happy. And give you the freedom to purchase for quality, and dare I say, NOT quantity.
When in doubt, timeless is the way to go. And I’m not lying when I tell you that every time I consider a fashion purchase I ask myself whether or not I’ll still be able to wear it when I’m 40. I still own the very first dress I bought with my own money when I was 12 years old, and if it wasn’t for the 90s camo print, maybe even despite of it because, damnit, I like it, I could still wear it if I wanted. Granted not all of you will stay roughly the same size, or retain the same tastes, and that’s to be expected, but you never know. One of the reasons my wardrobe is so massive is not because I’m loaded with money, but because I’ve been able to keep a whole lot over the years that still looks good. Think about that.