March 1, 2007

Everything Old is New Again

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As I eagerly flipped through this month’s hefty and much-anticipated issue of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, I was utterly disgusted to find a Marc Jacobs ad featuring thirteen year-old Dakota Fanning clutching a tacky gold-and-green bag and swaddled in a glittery, oversized wrap-dress too dowdy for my eighty-two year-old grandmother. What’s worse, just a few months ago she appeared in a fashion spread for Teen Vogue modeling a range of dresses with one thing in common: they were all obscenely mature for the then twelve-year-old! Similarly, perhaps inspired by the bag ladies they passed while skipping off to their NYU classes, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have recently been receiving copious attention for dressing like old ladies in what is now their iconic style of engulfing knits, dull colors and, of course, large handbags. When did it become acceptable for rosy-cheeked middle-schoolers and svelte, purportedly hip twenty-somethings to look frumpy and moth-eaten old?

Contrarily, as all their grown-up appropriate attire is snatched up by younger girls, middle-aged women are regularly turning to younger, ultra-trendy looks. In a nation of thriving botox and liposuction operations, more and more American women are furiously attempting to embrace their remaining youth through their wardrobe as well, often translating to childish, immature numbers wholly anemic of cultivated style.

So, if you and your mother are sharing the same wardrobe, there’s an apt chance that someone is falling victim to age-confused dressing. But as you’ve probably noticed, the last few seasons have seen an influx of age-extreme, albeit chic, looks, so it’s not hard to understand the confusion about what’s age-appropriate. This season is no different, as the more mature looks of roomy grandfather cardigans and serious blazers, as well as juvenile shorts and jumpers in popping colors have been making their way down the spring runways. Caught in the middle of the two ends of the spectrum, what might a college-student do to stay up on the trends without being carded at an R-movie or being mistaken for an English professor? The quick answer: take advantage of both extremes by mixing key looks and throwing in plenty of neutrals.

As I said, the season’s long cardigans, closed-collar nunn-ish necklines, large-framed shades and austere blazers hardly evoke a sense of youth, but in the right shades or mixed with trendier or tighter items, these pieces have the potential to develop your wardrobe. Try layering a baggy cardigan that hits mid-thigh over a fun, brightly-colored mini-dress and some playful shoes, like sneakers or alpargatas, of-the-moment canvas slippers hailing from the ranches of Argentina. Silk blouses with high necklines are currently très-chic, especially when the all too typical knee-length skirt and pumps are replaced with curve-hugging skinny jeans or leggings and chunky, wedges. Forget last spring’s neutrals for a moment, stern and unadorned blazers feel perfect for the spring season in candy-bright hues – think yellow, lime-green and blue – and look perfectly cute and no-fuss when teamed with a jean skirt and flats. And what about those large, thick sunglasses that are a throwback to your mother’s twenties? Those can be paired with just about anything and never fail to give your outfit a trendy

As you’ll soon venture off to the working world, remember that college might be your last chance to wear whatever you want and truly experiment with fashion – don’t squander such a self-defining opportunity!