The Fashion Cycle 2012: Post-Revivalism

As a known lover and collector of (vintage) fashion, I frequently have folks from past generations telling me that new style isn’t new. Ladies tell me that they used to wear all these so-called new styles “back in the day”; this sentence is usually followed by, “Why on earth would people want to dig up and wear what I wore in high school?” I always reply the same way: fashion runs on an organic cycle.
Nov 13, 2012

About a week ago, I stopped at my grandmother’s house after a Goodwill outing and brought in my bag of vintage goodies. As I’m pulling each item from the bag, she says, “I was just telling your grandfather as I was looking at the Sunday store ads that everything I saw in juniors and women’s clothing looked like the stuff in your vintage store!” Yeah Grandma, that stuff is actually in style again! Dwelling on these adorable encounters, I thought I’d expand on the un-official fashion cycle theory a little bit.

Designers thrive on inspiration, and a significant part of that inspiration comes from retrospection. Certain historical trends are borrowed, but are updated or modernized; thus, we see revivals of past fashion trends, but never done in quite the same way.

[Check out some of Gina's Post-Revivalism outfits in our exclusive photo gallery HERE.]

Furthermore, you will never see an entire era’s worth of trends collectively punched out of time and placed into present fashion; for example, the 1970’s begat unto us bellbottoms (in the form of flared-leg jeans) and bold printed maxi skirts, but you’ll never see leisure suits donning the cover of GQ. It’s as if only the best facets of past eras get revived by future generations and it’s not just about aesthetics. It’s about nostalgia. It’s about interest in and reverence of the past.

It’s also about media. Music used to be the big trendsetter, inspiring explosive fads within American culture (the British Invasion spawning Mod fashion, for one) and movies have done their part in history to arouse crazes, but television is the current frontrunner in the race to make us all fashionable. The 21st century has perfected this concept with the rise of uber-popular television series’ with historical settings, such as Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Downton Abbey and even Glee, with the revival of the schoolgirl look and varsity jackets.

This is where the fashion cycle flexes its organic roots; designers aren’t in control, they are acting in response to the popularity of the show, controlled by us, the viewers. We watch the show, dig the styles worn by the characters, and seek out dated looks and pieces until designers and companies notice and respond. So we are somewhat responsible for what becomes popular in fashion, or at least I like to think we have a hand in things.

2012 has virtually conquered the fashion cycle theory by going what I like to call “Post-Revival”. There are so many revivals going on at one time that it has ‘taken on a life of its own’, covering the entire 20th century. Past fashion revivals were singular and distinct, but fairly boring in comparison; Post-Revivalism is a barrage of various revivals, all executing their respective looks with an intelligent and modern approach, and working together like gears in a machine. The resulting product surpasses the original intent of a revival, taking on a whole new meaning.

Here are just a few of my favorite revivals for the Fall season:

1920’s fashion
The key to wearing this revival trend is to utilize modesty. You don’t want to look like a signature flapper, but rather find pieces that have ‘20’s flair’. Oversize coats in shapeless & cocoon cuts, masculine suiting, delicate fringing, and cloche hats can be added to a modern base for a romantic, yet spunky look.

First popular in the early 90’s, gothic is back, with a high-fashion twist. Go head-to-toe black with leather skirts, fitted jackets, black lace, high leather boots, and subtle studding and spiking (think Goth, not Biker). This trend pairs well with the modern Steampunk trend.

Ethnic / Tribal
A style that precedes the last century, the re-revival of ethnic and tribal prints has been a staple since Spring of ’12. First revived in the late 50’s and early 60’s on wide circle skirts and dresses, we have seen variations in every era since; most likely as a result of our love for culture, history, and bold, eye-pleasing patterns. Hippies adopted ethnic looks and did it in a natural way, while the 80’s made the colors and prints bolder and put them on dolman-sleeved sweaters and tapered pants. The 90’s was all about romanticizing the entire tribal looks; leaf and floral batiks, wooden jewelry, and wrap sarongs ran rampant. 2012 shows designers taking a much more Post-Revival approach, instead borrowing patterns and ideas from multiple cultures far-and-wide and subtly working them through very Western garments. There’s a multitude of options for wearing ethnic and tribal pieces; you can choose from the various screen-printed tees and modern garments in ethnic-printed fabrics or you can go vintage. Since so many eras went ‘tribal’, there are many resources, including online retail and marketplaces, such as eBay and You can also go on an adventure to your nearest thrift shop and scope out some for yourself.

No matter what revival you’re trying to accomplish, here are three questions to asking yourself as you attempt to nab the Post-Revivalist repertoire:
1. Am I matching eras together seamlessly?
2. Am I mixing revival pieces with modern garments properly?
3. Do I look like I’m still wearing my Halloween costume from last month?