A string of rather unsettling billboards has been appearing around town that seems to be advertising a new television series or film about a family that wears hideous matching sweaters. I can’t stand to look at them for more than a second, quite frankly, but the image that is burned into my retina places the time period firmly between the years of 1982 to 1984. I’m not really sure why we keep trying to revive the 80s because unlike the 1920s or the 1940s, which have also been popular recent references in fashion, it was a supremely unattractive decade. Whether the neon colors of early Madonna or Joan Collins’ lamé Dynasty gowns or the high-waisted jeans featured on that show starring Michael J. Fox, any redeeming sartorial qualities are few and very, very far between.
I’m glad that we’ve now moved on a bit to the 1990s because that’s an era I can get behind. It may selfishly be because I’d moved away from the suffocating attempts to fit in at school by the early 90s and was attempting to formulate my own style, veering wildly from the Brideshead Revisited look of my Oxford years and fitted thrift store velvet blazers in Paris to the hustler chic aesthetic of too-short white jeans and tight sleeveless shirts of my early days in Los Angeles. I remember my friend Ron yelling at me from his apartment across the corridor in Hollywood’s old Villa Rosa like it was yesterday: “Gurrrrl, put on your tank top of the week and let’s get the fuck outta here!”
The 90s revival that is taking place this fall is much more focused than I was then, centering largely on the Grunge aesthetic of the Pacific Northwest’s music scene that took the world by storm in the early years of that decade. Hedi Slimane’s much-hyped men’s and women’s fall/winter 2013 collections for Saint Laurent looked like he’d just gone to a thrift shop and sent that shit down the runway but they definitely made us sit up and take notice. Looking back, I definitely see echoes of Grunge in Givenchy and Rodarte, as well. More recently “La fièvre grunge”, a lengthy editorial shoot by fashion photography’s darlings Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot for French Vogue’s September issue placed Grunge more firmly in the mainstream.
They key to this look is, I think, to take a few of the key elements and make them your own. For men, a soft plaid shirt layered over a striped or graphic T and jeans that are not so skinny is a pretty safe yet fashionable way to expand your style without looking like you’re copying a trend. Chunky sweaters, hooded sweatshirts and duffle coats can pull the look together when the weather gets a little cooler. The ladies can do all this over mesh tights or, for those feeling more adventurous, I’ve always thought kick ass boots were a good way to liven up a dainty party dress. And you probably still have the clunky silver rings and leather bracelets hanging around from the first time but, if you don’t, you can always borrow them from my boyfriend. As he piles on the silver before leaving the house, I often like to remind him that “you can take the boy out of Jersey but you can’t take the Jersey out of the boy.”
Finally, the key to updating your inner Kurt Cobain or Courtney Love to 2013 is to clean it up a little. Wash your hair occasionally and put on your lipstick like you actually had a mirror handy. Grunge fashion is enough of a statement without people holding their noses because you look like you’re going to smell, too. And if you really want to go Grunge-Glam, there’s a plaid flannel shirt at Saint Laurent for just under $900.
I think I’ll be getting mine at the Jet Rag dollar sale.