The Cycle of Fashion

The cycle of visions that I’ve been tracing in these entries is synchronized with an oddly regular series of changes in fashion, with equivalent points in the cycle corresponding to very similar fashion silhouettes or details of style. I have touched on those correspondences in a few entries here, and there is the start of what was intended to be a more comprehensive discussion at my website.

You’ve Got the Look describes the basic alternation between “organic” and “geometrical” fashions. The former, which prevail during the era of a dominant partnership, emphasize the lines of the mature female and male body and particularly the waist-hip ratio in women. The latter, which prevail when a dominant partnership is collapsing, strive for a more willowy, adolescent look and at their peak subordinate the female figure entirely to a triangular or rectangular outline.

Although the deep instinctual patterns which recur in every cycle are the most obvious, there are also subtle metaphorical hints of particular visions that vary from one cycle to the next. Mixed Messages discusses how both kinds of signals are projected by fashions simultaneously.

Materialists and Vitalists follows up on the same approach by presenting examples of how the transition from materialism to holism was reflected in fashion between the 1880s and the 1920s.

In addition, there are a few pages at my website, done in 2008, that represented the start of an attempt to work through the entire fashion cycle in detail. I intend to rework these materials, present them in a more accessible form, and hopefully cover the entire cycle. However, I’m linking to this rough and incomplete version now for anyone who might be interested.