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Retro Fashion

BECAUSE MOST FASHION JOURNALISTS subscribe to the Hegelian philosophy that “whatever is, is right,” they take an understandably upbeat view of retro fashion, which they tend to describe in terms of inspiration and zeitgeist. If designers “look to the past . . . it’s not because they have all been looking at the same back issues of fashion magazines,” wrote Caroline Milbank in a recent issue of Vogue. “It’s because a feeling from the past is in the air.”

No doubt this is true, at least in a metaphoric sense. But, like all zeitgeist explanations, it leaves unresolved the question of why a certain style from the past should at this very moment be “in the air” (or in the clubs and on the streets). The situation is further complicated when more than one “feeling” appears at the same time. For example, the same issue of Vogue extolled the influence of Pierre Cardin’s 1960s futuristic styles,

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