Fashion Fads: The Best of the Worst
by Lisa Marsh
We've all done it.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has not fallen under the spell of a fashion trend that, in hindsight, was the worst faux pas ever.
We've compiled the best of the worst for your amusement and, perhaps, horror. And while this collection of trends is undeniably awful, keep in mind this advice from Nicole Fischelis, Macy's vice president and fashion director: "Even [a] good trend worn on the wrong person is a bad trend." So beware!
Mega Shoulder Pads
Photo: Princess Diana at a state reception in Melbourne, October 1988.
In the 1980s, there was a sense that everything bigger had to be better. The result was a lot of out-of-proportion fashion, and mega shoulder pads were right out there in front. "I have to say that the mega shoulder pads weren't the most attractive," says Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale's vice president for fashion direction. However, Marylou Luther, editor of the International Fashion Syndicate, makes a great point: "Women loved, and continue to love, them because they made their hips look smaller." But that doesn't exactly justify sporting two miniature pillows on your shoulders.
Photo: Jennifer Lopez
They've come and gone with the seasons. Yet they just don't make anyone look chic but rail-thin runway models. "I think ponchos look ridiculous. They make people look like a tent," says Bloomingdale's Solomon. Cruelly, they can always be found in maternity stores, but should be banished except for use as rain gear.
Photo: Debbie Harry in 1979
Olivia Newton-John brought down the house in the finale of "Grease" wearing a second skin of spandex. Disco divas everywhere adopted the look in the 1970s. The pitfalls of wearing spandex pants that were styled like jeans, but fit like leggings, were numerous. Among them: visible cellulite, potential camel toe, and, for those over 100 pounds, looking simply enormous. With all that, it's amazing that they're returning. "I'm baffled by why shiny leggings are coming back," says Patricia Mears, deputy director for The Museum at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology). "You see them at American Apparel in bronze or orange, and I wonder, 'Who looks good in that?' Show me the one woman who looks good in that. I think we've lost it."
Photo: Doris Day
Each season, designers dictate skirt length. Women either wear what they say or risk looking dowdy a boon for retailers who therefore enjoy a steady stream of sales from season to season. For example, in the 1960s, the mini skirt caused a sensation. "Minis meant that women could stride along and were no longer encumbered by hemlines. That was very liberating and inventive," explains Marylou Luther of the International Fashion Syndicate.
Then, in 1967, came midi skirts. They fall unflatteringly to the middle of a woman's calves. John Fairchild, the editor of Women's Wear Daily who had great sway when it came to fashion trends, pushed the midi as the next big thing . "John Fairchild forcing the midi in 1967 hurt the fashion world," Luther says. "Who wanted those hobbling lengths after a decade of liberation?"
Photo: Dolly Parton
There is nothing more comical than looking at pictures or music videos from the 1980s and seeing hair that defied gravity. Whatever would have possessed stylists across the nation to take a cue from spiky-haired punk rockers and tease the hair of regular women (and men) to impossible heights? Pray this one never comes back.
Photo: Models wearing stirrup pants
First, there were elastic clips you put on the bottom of your pants to keep them smoothly in your boots. Then manufacturers had the bright idea to make them part of your pants. The problem was that women didn't exclusively wear stirrup pants with boots. Wearing them with flats seemed to make everyone's legs look shorter, and it all started to go pear-shaped from there. Simply put, pants are not meant to be attached to your feet ever.
Photo: Actress Gillian Anderson
Two words Monica Lewinsky. The fact that the mere sight of an intern's exposed designer thong could shake the American presidency to its foundation proves this trend is all wrong. A hint of lace peeking out from under a blouse is one thing, but this interpretation of "underwear as outerwear" is unacceptable. Trust us no one wants to see it.
Photo: Michael Bolton
It's two haircuts for the price of one short and tidy in the front and long and flowing in the back. Billy Ray Cyrus and Michael Bolton fell under the mystical spell of the mullet and America sadly followed suit. Any way you cut it, it's a bad look. Remember, coming or going, you only have one head on your shoulders. Strive for one style.
Photo: Shalom Harlow
This strange look took hold several years ago and it was puzzling. Was it a tie-front sweater, a bolero jacket, or, in extreme cases, simply arm warmers attached in back? Designed to keep your shoulders warm and hide your arms, the look was just all wrong. Either wear a wrap, commit to a cardigan sweater, or go bare.
Photo: Naomi Campbell at the 2008 CFDA Fashion Awards
Overly pleated and hanging low in the crotch, harem pants, popularized by M. C. Hammer and adopted by everyone during his heyday, are just not a good look for anyone, really. Sure, they look good while twirling on a dance floor, but in the office or on the street, they're just all wrong. Unfortunately, a comeback may be in the works; recent YSL ads feature Naomi Campbell in a sparkly pair.
Acid Wash Jeans
Photo: Taryn Manning
Back to the need for jeans makers to keep sales rolling. They once thought it was cool to wash jeans in an acid bath, which gave them a frosty, whitewashed look. Blue jeans are meant to be solid blue (or, under duress, we can accept white or black). Jeans should not be acid washed, dip-dyed, highlighted or spot-worn. Period. End of story.
Photo: Model Lisa Butcher
Just about everybody wears denim. Despite the popularity of jeans, their durability can mean low sales for manufacturers. To keep the public coming back for more, designers are constantly tweaking their denim designs.
One such retooling resulted in low-rise jeans which exposed parts of the body we're sure should not be seen even for those who wax diligently. Unfortunately for us, the only person who looked good in low-rise jeans was the teenaged Britney Spears (clearly no arbiter of good taste). Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Linda Fargo says, "Without a doubt, the ultra low-rise jean with the belly-baring cropped midriff tank-top is the worst look ever."