Why nostalgia is very now, from J.Lo reprising her 2000 Versace dress on the spring/summer 2021 catwalk in Milan to Tiktok to Ben Affleck in flared jeans on the set of upcoming film The Tender Bar
Since March 2020, the year that was as memorable as it had been most uneventful, if only because most of us spent it at home, each day in our life has been an eon, stretching interminably into a black hole.
In those days, we were afraid. We were afraid to look out for fear a virus we hardly understood might look us in the eye. We were afraid to look to the left and to look to the right for fear that the next person on our grocery run or bank errand might pass on to us a fatal disease. We were afraid to look forward for fear of disappointing ourselves.
So we looked mostly inward or backward, back to the times we weren’t as afraid.
All those memories we dug up to distract ourselves from this crisis, which remains as current and developing as it was last year, might have opened up a portal in time.
And now we are wearing flared jeans, like Ben Affleck on the set of George Clooney’s film The Tender Bar shooting scenes in a Cuban-collared jersey, a brown leather jacket, and a pair of bowling shoes, with a John Travolta Saturday Night Fever-reminiscent ‘do, to boot.
But we’re not all back in That ‘70s Show. There’s Adam Driver shooting the Ridley Scott film House of Gucci, where he plays Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci, in a cream-colored cable knit and matching aviators, straight out of the ‘80s. Opposite him, Lady Gaga plays Maurizio’s wife, Patricia Reggianni, and she was recently seen in character clad in a white fur Cossack hat, very Dynasty circa 1981.
One is always at home in one’s past.—Vladimir Nabokov
It isn’t all that ’80s or ’90s, either. On TikTok lately, it’s the ’00s, too. To Gen-Zers at the moment, Christina Aguilera’s chunky highlights are hot again, as are painted nails, pedal pushers, and crop tops. “Oops, I Did It Again,” said Britney Spears in her 2004 hit, and little did any of us know she was being prophetic. She, too, is hot again, at least on the spring/summer 2021 catwalk, at least in the Balmain show in Paris last September, where she, along with Lindsay Lohan, N’Sync, and Aguilera and their songs from our Covid-free past, provided the beat to which this season’s collections were presented.
Anything that isn’t today is better, or more reassuring. Good or bad, we survived it all. As yet, while COVID-19 is showing any signs that it’s done with us, with the virus that causes it changing as the fashion seasons of the recent pre-pandemic years, the future is not as good as the past now that we can’t seem to figure it out through the dark, heavy filter of daily case updates and variant trackers.
The business-focused, privately-held English-language international news organization Quartz calls what’s going on the “nostalgia economy,” though it came up with this idea way back in 2017. It had a whole lineup of stories then whose headlines were self-explanatory. “Nostalgia is the ultimate privilege” was one. “Your memories are idealized versions of the past that never existed” was another, but those sentences ring truer now, when at no other time is nodding in agreement while we are all still flailing in the rising tides of COVID mortality so in season as Naomi Campbell’s signature strut, except maybe in the late 1980s when she, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista formed the “trinity,” the three most sought-after, most in-demand stars of the supermodel era.
Nostalgia is a luxury at a time being alive alone is luxury enough. But now there are so many nostalgia-fueled Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok accounts, not to mention fashion movies coming up, to remind us that, although it is all in the past, we once upon a time enjoyed way more luxuries than breathing COVID-free air without having to cover half our faces with a mask and staying six feet apart from each other.
Bring out the sequins. Bring out the plunging necklines and high slits. Bring out big hair and fishnets with the big heels. Bring out the velvet jumpsuit. Halston is now streaming on Netflix. I can’t wait to go dancing to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” with Bianca Jagger or Jerry Hall at Studio 54. But I’ll be happy enough to have a champagne moment with Diana Vreeland. Out of the way, Andy Warhol!