Saturday, 9 September 2017

the allure of high school nostalgia

Fashion is always seeking inspiration from the "best days of your life." Many will attest that our school days are, in fact, not the best days of our lives, but that does not stop the romanticised nostalgia for them in fashion, film and literature. One element that makes this concept so appealing is the experimental nature of youth. Whether it is playing dress up in your mum’s wardrobe or trying out many a fashion faux pas before settling on a ‘personal style’, a lot of creativity can come out of our teenage years; a kind that can, for better or worse, start to stagnate a little as we are swept up in the responsibilities of adult life.

The fashion industry's glamorisation of youth is often problematic. It fetishises and exploits youth. Luxury giants LVMH have recently announced that none of their brands will use underage girls to model adult clothes. Vogue also took this step back in 2012. However, recent allusions to high school and being a teen, have come from a more honest, non-threatening perspective. The trend was started with teen fashion bloggers broadcasting their own style and inviting the internet into their worlds. Now, the success of sites like Rookie and the rebranding of Teen Vogue means that teenage girls, their tastes and styles, are finally being taken more seriously. 

Calvin Klein SS18 'Sophomore'

Raf Simons' Spring/Summer '18 collection for Calvin Klein, titled ‘Sophomore’, has a thread of high school Americana running through it. With sporty parkas, PVC prom dresses and neat shirts, Simons subtly captured a mood envisaged in hit TV shows like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things. The collection featured many other references, most notably American horror movie heroines, but the high school nostalgia is also deeply embedded in the style of Raf Simons' Calvin Klein woman. 

In her December 2013 Editor's Letter for Rookie, Tavi Gevinson states that the allure of high school nostalgia comes from the concept of forever, "the state, exclusive to those between the ages of 13 and 17, in which one feels both eternally invincible and permanently trapped.” Over these years, we feel everything with such intensity and experience the variety of life for the first time. By designing collections inspired by these years, designers are drawing from a certain kind of nostalgia that rests within us all. It allows us to briefly remember how it feels to be, “both eternally invincible and permanently trapped”, or, more accurately, how we think we felt.

Molly Goddard AW15

Sofia Coppola and Petra Collins popularised the dreamy high school aesthetic in their films and photography, respectively. Coppola describes why her movies focus on teenagers, saying, "I always like characters who are in the midst of transition and trying to find their place in the world and their identity." Collins' Rookie teen style and focus weaves its way into the rest of her photography as her career has expanded. Her first subjects were her younger sister and her high school friends. Collins captures this in her favourite shoot for Rookie, Last Hurrah, which marks the end of high school for her sister's year. 

The designer who currently most inhabits the ethereal world of Coppola and Collins, is London favourite, Molly Goddard. For her Autumn/Winter 2015 presentation, Goddard famously set up a life drawing class. Models stood and sat around in uber-girly pink, frills and tulle, painting a nude model who stood in the centre of the room. Goddard explained that, “It’s about girls that went to the student ball the night before, haven’t slept, and come straight to class.” This harks back to the wild and reckless abandon of youth, characterised in Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides in the scene where Lux returns from the homecoming dance at dawn, still wearing the dress and tiara from the night before.

According to Morrissey, "You never ever ever escape school", but perhaps that isn't a bad thing. No matter how bad your school years were, we can take comfort in knowing that we can find bountiful inspiration in them. The beauty of nostalgia is that you can always reimagine them through the lens of a Sofia Coppola film.

1 comment:

  1. great post! so true as well it's such a prominent theme


If you comment I'll always love you and we can hang out and bake vegan cupcakes and drink tea and listen to sixties records. Go on, you know you want to...