When I visited the ‘Dress Code: Are You Playing Fashion?’ exhibition in Kyoto last week, I was intrigued by the curator’s conclusion. The theory is that we are no longer naively falling for trends in the same way that we used to.
Yes, many of us still follow the rules that are set for us across seasons, years and decades. But with the internet, social media and fast fashion, we are better able to see and be seen, and a trend can be gone before most of us have even jumped on.
Displaying outfits from recent decades, the exhibition showed outfits that I had replicated in my teens. Including camo and denim everything. I felt a little nostalgic. And a little uncomfortable. They looked absurd.
I thought to myself that nobody would blindly follow a look like that anymore… would they? Then I remembered Auckland teenage girls, currently all sporting the hideous ‘socks and sliders’ look.
Pounding the pavements for 15 kilometres each day around the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, we couldn’t help but notice that Japanese women are equally prone to following the herd as girls on the North Shore. The current trend was everywhere we looked. Not just a colour or a particular garment, but a very specific combination of the two: black tops with loose-fitting tan bottoms (trousers or long skirts).
Just as I had wanted to show I was cool with my double denim and Buffalo platforms in the early 00’s, I so badly wanted to do the same in Japan last week. I tried to improvise with the single black top and pair of tan shorts that I had packed, but my exposed knees marked me out as a fraud.
I could have walked into any women’s fashion shop and bought the look wholesale, of course. Bought into the cool aesthetic. (In both senses of the word: the Japanese women were handling the 35°C heat that had me looking like a sweaty mess with enviable elegance.)
But this year-long no-new-clothes challenge is uncompromising. Even if the most comfortable thing to do right now is to buy my way to blending in, I will not.