Monday, 14 April 2014

Grunge and 90s Fashion

Back in February I took a short course in History of Fashion at London College of Fashion. I spent four Saturdays in LCF's campus just off Oxford Street getting an introduction to the history of fashion from the 1850s to the present day, with a particular focus on British fashion. If you're based in London and have a little interest in fashion I totally recommend it. You'll have to hand over about £300 to do it but if you're willing to do that you get an awful lot in return. While I don't tend to cover fashion here that often, I do think it's a really interesting area of design. Of all design categories, fashion's the one that we tend to have the closest relationship to, and the one we make the most conscious decisions about. While we don't always get to choose all of the spaces we occupy or objects we use each day, and while we don't always choose the stuff that surrounds us based on how it's designed (sometimes cost, convenience or apparent lack of choice can be much bigger factors), we tend to be far more discerning about what we wear. We know what we like, we choose garments based on how they look, what they're made from and sometimes even who designed them. While cost, convenience and other factors can come into it, for an awful lot of us personal preference comes into play with regard to fashion far more than with the other designed objects we come into contact with. Fashion is a key way for us to identify ourselves and - when you consider fashion as a historical artefact - how nations, cultures and generations have identified themselves.

So what has this got to do with grunge and 90s fashion?! Well, a recurring theme of the course was the close relationship between fashion and music: how music often brought about certain trends and vice versa. Often your experience of a particular style of music is closely tied with the trends of the time. And when it came to giving a short presentation during the last session of the course, I thought I'd talk about my experience of grunge and 90s fashion. What I think is kind of interesting about it is that rather than experiencing those two things together, I didn't discover the grunge music of the early 90s until way later when I was a teenager. At that stage the fashion was over, but looking back I had managed to soak up some of the grunge influence on fashion as a kid without listening to the music. Instead, I was inspired to wear plaid shirts (often tied around my waist) and layer shirts on top of tshirts and socks on top of tights through the television I was watching through the 90s: shows like Blossom, My So Called Life, Party of Five and, above all, Clarissa Explains It All.

Clarissa was a precocious teen with a penchant for a brightly-coloured version of grunge style and a habit for talking directly to camera to give out about the rest of her family. She was also a Pearl Jam fan and I recommend the episode where she has to decide between going to a Pearl Jam concert and DJing for her grandparents' party. 90s problems. Clarissa Explains It All was my FAVOURITE tv show for the short time it was on the air, and I was SO disappointed when the star, Melissa Joan Hart, went on to do Sabrina the Teenage Witch for years on end, which we all know was total rubbish. At the end of my (clearly) wonderful presentation, which featured lots of images of both Pearl Jam and Clarissa, the closest typeface to the one used in Clarissa I could find for free online and even a clip of the Pearl Jam episode, the class briefly discussed whether there are any signs of grunge returning to fashion. Apparently one of the Kardashians has been spotted donning plaid and, just a week or two later, LOOK WHAT I SAW IN TOPSHOP:

You have been warned.