Is Style Genetic? Past Forward
Within the walls of the historic Georgian Manor, the rooms were filled with antiques telling stories of a bygone era. The back entrance faced a row of old coats - heavy and durable - constructed for the unpredictable Irish weather. Vintage hats and weathered saddles hung on the 18th-century walls while old riding boots sat at the edge of the old stone floors. When these items were first created, they weren’t meant to be the next fashion trend. They weren’t a creative outlet or a means of self-expression. Every hat, every boot, every coat played a key role in the daily doings of life in the rural countryside. They were all items created out of necessity and practicality.
Today, fashion can be seen as an art form. While clothes still certainly play a functional role, we have the choice to use our personal style as a tool for self-expression. I often find myself wondering what really influences our sense of style. I’ve always thought it’s simply based off of one’s unique personality, but now I wonder if it goes deeper than that.
I’ve always gravitated towards wools and tweeds most often found in the countryside, which is a strange sartorial choice for a girl who grew up on the sunny Southern California coast where most days are a comfortable 75 degrees. I’ve always been in love with the simplicity and sophistication of equestrian fashion, yet I never grew up around horses. It wasn’t until my recent trip to Ireland - the land of my ancestors - that I began to question: Are our sartorial choices unique, a form of individual creativity or is it something in our DNA?
For years, fashion has been a roadmap to the past. Button placement, hem lengths, and the tilt of a hat can reveal so much. Not only have garments given us insight into the life of those before us, but they are also still relevant in today’s fashion, inspiring designers and their collections. Sometimes it seems as though the fashion world is in constant retrograde. Time and time again, designers are mulling through the past, garnering inspiration from historical archives.
It was always prevalent that Alexander McQueen’s heart belonged to Scotland. His highland ancestry was often his muse and many of his pieces paid homage to Celtic culture. One of his most infamous collections commemorated the troubled past of his Scottish ancestors.
During Vogue’s 125th anniversary celebration, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman discussed how she pulls inspiration from her family roots in India. It all started with one little, yet impactful image of her great-grandmother in full Victorian dress. In 2015, we saw the revival of the Victorian era with blouses made with lace, ruffles, and high collars. The bodices and silhouettes of old-fashioned corsets are still recognized in today’s dresses and shirts.
There’s always a resurgence in fashion, which may seem like a contradiction in an industry that revolves around trends that are in one day and out the next. A new design doesn’t necessarily equate to a never before seen trend. It’s simply a revival - a re-imagined form of a garment from the past. And while designers often take cues from the past, there’s always a look to the future. In a way, it seems as if there is no sense of time when it comes to fashion. So whether or not we make our sartorial choices under the influence of our forefathers or not, one thing is for certain: fashion is cyclical, now more than ever.