In a couple of generations, so much change! It seems to me, at this point in my life and the tiny spot where that life sits in human history, that change grows ever speedier, as well, but I can only guess at that. I do know that within the memory of my own family and friends, what was common knowledge and something like a cultural vernacular at one time within those groups disappears with the rapidity of birdseed down a squirrel’s gullet.
When I was growing up, computers were still [refrigerated] room-sized and full of punch cards that represented their binary data in concrete form, and any private individual owning or knowing how to operate one was generally a subject for science fiction and fantasy. You might think the magnitude of the gap between then and today’s ubiquity of such techno-wonders as laptops and smartphones and their ilk would carbon date me, but no, I am still alive and kicking (though not nearly so high as, say, a Rockette), and I expect that today’s marvels will have become equally quotidian and us, equally blasé about them almost before I can blink my diode-wearied eyes.
One of the more obvious markers of the speed of our cultural shifts has been our costume, at least since we started wearing clothes. I can, to be fair, imagine that–once there were more than a couple of people around wearing leaves and animal skins–there was immediately somebody on hand checking out whether the prognathous brow next door was adorned with a groovier piece of saber-tooth fur than her own, and some other body busily rearranging his gunnera leaf cape because he’d noticed with some envy that the cave dweller across the way had added another leaf to his ensemble for a hat, giving him a little more screening from the notice of passing pteranodons.
So eventually, we arrive in the present day, when there are still a few ladies alive who can remember wearing middy blouses, and their granddaughters instead wore midi skirts. And in the course of my life, I remember a number of fashions and popular items of clothing that have ranged rather widely and sometimes even circled back to repeat a generation later, when the young and trendy are distant enough from their original appearances to be unaware of how ridiculously out of date the New Thing looks to the people who knew it as the New Thing thirty years earlier. This tautology of togs can be amusing, mystifying, a tad mortifying, or possibly just inspiring to those who kept the ‘offending’ garments in their attics for just such an occasion or at least out of laziness and apathy. In any case, we find ourselves seeing the past replayed despite our long-ago vows to never revisit such awful and embarrassing gaffes of taste, expense and/or comfort, and as much as we might revile them on their reappearance, it’s not entirely unknown for us to readopt them along with the crowd, when they’ve become familiar again.
Where are they now? Probably right where we left them, waiting to be picked up and worn once more. Much as it pains me to admit it, you will probably eventually find me wearing, again, such vintage garb as elephant pants, soap-and-water saddle shoes, paper dresses, bobby socks, a matching crocheted vest and tam, dickeys, or perhaps just a tasteful voile pinafore over my dress. Not sure if I’ll go as far as a bustle or a farthingale, but since everything old is eventually new again, I can’t say for certain that I won’t, either. Safe to say I think it highly unlikely you’ll ever see me wearing a girdle or V-boots or armor, even if those should become familiar personal accoutrements again anywhere during my life, but I rule nothing out–weirder things have happened. And I’d hate to get too out of sync with my fashionista neighbors, don’t you know.