November 28, 2006

A One of a Kind Uniform

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When fresh trends emerge at the start of every season, they seem unique until everyone is suddenly exploiting that craze. The novelty of rim-less sunglasses, cropped leggings, ballet slippers and chunky necklaces has been lost to the shelves of Target and The Gap. While other people may maintain their own personal styles, such as the persistent prep or the grim goth, their looks have also become part of the merry-go-round that is fashion. It is difficult to create a distinctive ensemble when so many divergent looks have been mainstreamed and when it is so easy to purchase stylish clothing.
It was once considered atypical to strictly wear black, dye one’s hair black and wear black lipstick. But it now seems that every high school has their token goth or clique of goths. The same goes for hippies, preps, bikers or any other group of people that can be identified by their attire. Their formerly original look and attitude has become cliché. These once scapegoated groups seem to be drifting closer to the norm in our society.
The proliferation of stores with an extensive range of merchandise makes it possible for any person to pursue any style in a wide price range. While it was once the Ralph Lauren groupies who summered in Nantucket that maintained the preppy image, collared shirts and cable knit sweaters are now sold literally everywhere.
The influences of fashion magazines and catalogues push people towards the most innovative trends. However, if trendy people all look alike, don’t those similarities defeat their trendy-ness? It becomes a question of whether being trendy has the goal of continually pushing oneself towards the mainstream or away from it. If one simply wants to follow and remain part of the mainstream, then she will strictly follow the trends. Whatever items are in style become mainstream but before and far after that time, the item could be seen as more exceptional.
In the same light, most articles of clothing and accessories have at some point been fashionable, and most likely they will be fashionable again. Although jean jackets and Jackie O glasses may not be the latest trend, they can be seen as either distinctive or a remnant of last year’s trends.
However, even if you pursue the quintessential one-of-a-kind vintage item, it seems like those retro pieces are still trite. Although the piece was worn decades ago, it was once worn and it was once in style and the consumer is simply repeating the trend. As my older shopping compatriots say when I pick up a vintage inspired item, “been there, done that.” In addition, the growth of used and vintage (a euphemism for used) stores makes it easy for any shopper to purchase old items.
In this and in recent seasons, it seems that everything is in style. Retro, western, mod and sporty motifs are all making appearances in the latest clothes and accessories. Dressing the part of the prep, the athlete or the goth is easy; where originality can be derived is in the mixing of these distinct elements into one refined ensemble. As much as people don’t like to admit it, personality is a reflection of this fusion.
Without mixing an outfit and adding personal flair, it is easy to become a victim of the catalogues’ prescribed fashion uniforms. Wedges, skinny jeans, long sweaters and a double-strapped leather bag may sound adorable until everyone else on campus is wearing the same outfit.
Whether you are swimming away from the mainstream or trying to drift towards it, it seems inevitable that you will somehow come under its current. Similar to how everyone eats sushi and wears collared shirts, everyone now shops at vintage stores. So as you shop and dress yourself, consider mixing what you’ve got and attempting to stand out in the crowd. But just remember, in the end it seems like we are all just wearing the same one-of-a-kind uniform.