BY BRIDGET CURWIN
They say waiting is the worst part.
Well, we've waited. For two long and uncertain years, we’ve traded lip gloss for facemasks, and let Friday nights out become, well, everyday staying in. As we begin to recover from the social hindrance put onto our lives by COVID-19, the burning desire to dance the night away finally becomes reality. Now that we have made a gentle entrance into the post-COVID era of this life, we can reflect on the past two years rather than living in fear. Sound familiar? Given the echoing crescendo of the beginning of the 2020s, one cannot miss the obvious comparison between our time and that of a postwar United States in 1920. The only true "party decade" American history has ever known, the 1920s represent a liberation from fear and depression, a time in which opulence and elegance became the new standard.
World War I was an event the likes of which were never seen in recorded history. The fight for freedom and independence became the values at the forefront of the American mind. The mass casualties suffered in the war made it hard to determine a "winner," and thus the world mourned its very human loss for two years.
However, entering the new decade was much like opening the doors to a new life. With a new appreciation for life and truly living, Americans embraced maximalism and abundance. Best exemplified by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the roaring twenties represented a renewed desire for liberation, luxury, and most importantly, love. Strands of pearls and eye-catching, glittery fabrics became the new uniform, and marked an important milestone in the history of fashion. Whereas elegant clothing in the past still encouraged and upheld certain standards of modesty and humility, 1920's fashion shunned this norm and turned the fashion industry on its head. This upheaval is consistent with a renewed passion for life felt by the American people, and party outfits became legitimized as a genre of clothing. At last, through fashion, people had unlocked a way to express the gratitude they felt for post-war life.
From there, self-expression through fashion grew and blossomed into an abundant garden full of color, sunshine, and variety. Each decade of the twentieth century presented new innovations in fashion, progressing through the 2000's until the world once again came to a grinding halt in 2020. In the interest of public safety, everyone quietly regressed indoors, until fashion became, well, athleisure. Although the new push for comfort and style combined brings an elevated perspective to work-from-home culture, is this really what we want? The world donned sweatpants and hoodies and banished dresses, suits, and everything exciting to the back of our closets, doomed to collect dust. We begrudgingly logged onto Zoom, daydreaming about the time when we will finally return to "normal," which brings us to the first misconception about the decade in front of us. If we have learned anything from the past two years, it's that normalcy will forever be interrupted. We will carry the impact of the pandemic in our minds forever, as history cannot be erased or forgotten.
However, history may be repeated. Indeed, as we exit a dark time and the light at the end of the tunnel warms our mask-ridden faces, socializing and celebrating becomes a renewed priority, just as it was in the 1920's.
Although the past two years posed unique challenges and threats to the world, we are bound to each other through this shared struggle. We experienced this pandemic and the uncertainty it brought together and managed to adapt, together. Once again, we have the same cause for celebration as Americans did 100 years ago: liberation. The contextual differences pale in comparison to the unifying similarities between post-World War I and post-pandemic America. We learned a lot, and we lost even more. By being constantly surrounded by death and fear, we can regain touch with appreciation for life, and we can start dressing like it too. The hallmark of 1920's fashion was a rupture from previous fashion "rules," and now we find ourselves in a similar era of reinvention. The 1920's broke the rules, but this time we're throwing the rule book out the window. Isolation prompted self-reflection, and 2020's fashion best represents this return to the self. Yes, there are trends at the forefront of the industry, as always. However, for the first time ever, what's trendy isn't what's best. There is a new movement in self-expression through fashion that demonstrates the importance of individual style. Everything we see now is a kaleidoscope of prominent fashion from every decade over the past 100 years, with a renewed emphasis on party clothing. The silky slip dresses of the 2000's are often seen in the vibrant colors that define the 1980's. 1960's style go-go boots and tiny 1990's sunglasses are once again on fire, all serving as a tribute to our collective fashion history.
Partying like it's 1920 isn't easy, but no one is up to the challenge like a post-pandemic world. As the champagne flows and the music bumps through the speakers, we find ourselves in a bona-fide glory era. We make a return to the signature lavishness of the roaring twenties with a 2020's spin. Pearl strands become Vivienne Westwood chokers, and sequined dresses become bedazzled everything. Gatsby fashion is once again all the rage, and nothing could be more appropriate. Indulgence is king, and money doesn't lie. According to Forbes, sales of clothing and accessories dropped 24% at the beginning of the pandemic, which is on par with a sudden lack of need or desire for new clothing. However, as of 2022, the luxury fashion market has seen a growth of 4% increase in revenue compared to 2019. This reflects a new emphasis on luxury that supersedes pre-pandemic interest in luxury goods. Furthermore, luxury fashion online retailer Farfetch saw an increase of 44% in consolidated revenues in 2021, and this number is only expected to increase in the coming years, demonstrating Gen Z's effect on luxury e-commerce.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's how to fight. We have learned to fight against prejudice and bigotry and have resisted against the negative effects of self-isolation. We found ways to circumvent loneliness and keep an optimistic attitude regarding an unpromised future. With the return to outdoors, we can pay more attention to the back of our closets and enthusiastically overfill them with more outfits well-suited to an era of celebration. Although the "end" of COVID-19 is approaching, full recovery may never be achieved due to the gaping hole left by the loss of over 6 million people worldwide. However, we have learned to move forward from loss and celebrate life the right way- by enjoying the sunshine by day and glittering lights of the dance floor by night.