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Seminal Styles of the 20th Century, Part Nine: The New Millennium

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It’s the (tr)end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine...

  Ach! Sober-Fest

For the briefest moment, the cult of celebrity seemed in danger of being shown up for what it was: a shallow parade of oxygen bandits spewing puerile insights and pseudo style that the general public gobbled up with the greedy appetites of instant-gratification, junk-food-sensibility junkies. For a few weeks, it was as if the media and the masses came to their senses. Larger issues were at stake: Freedom from tyranny. Violence without conscience being fobbed off as “acts of war.” Centuries’ old works of art and culture blotted out by the Taliban in the blink of an eye. Oppression of women, honor killings, and the specter of the burka—a fashion statement so chilling and draconian to the land that brought you Daisy Dukes, the very thought made our blood run cold.

And then … something shiny—it doesn’t matter what: Shallow Hal, anthrax scares, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Afghan invasion, The Lord of the Rings, Hedwig and the Angry Inch—caught our collective attention, and the circus was back in town. In order to avoid facing deeper issues, we jumped the shark and resumed feeding our ever-growing hunger for the banal. For those keeping score: Mary Hart breathed a clandestine sigh of relief, and the band played on.

Bitter? Moi? (Okay, un peu.)

  We’re Not in Kansas, Anymore

The biggest story of the 21st Century so far, is of course, new media and social networking. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Linked-in, Twitter, blogging, and the evil spawn of the iPhone: texting and sexting (and bears, oh my…). News is instantaneous, although much the endless chatter to which we are constantly exposed is not really news. Silence—once considered golden—is all but extinct, and along with it, privacy. Data has already being collected and collated, disseminated, studied and dissected ad nauseum in an attempt to define what the effects this current phenomenon have had and will continue to have on such things as cognitive skills, attention spans, social interaction and yes, even sexual mores. As much as many dinosaur Boomers and even Gen-Xers might prefer it otherwise, the ship has already sailed—with or without them.

On the upside, this heightened accessibility does offer opportunities for those who might not otherwise have a shot at success to get themselves and their work seen, known and even—gasp!—bought. All it takes is one well-placed viral video and a devoted Twitter following, and even an unknown can find fame and potential fortune. In industries notoriously hard to break into, such as fashion, art or even publishing, the ramifications of this newly unlocked portal are staggering.

  Days of Future Past

Nine years into its first decade, the new millennium hasn’t offered up anything seminal on the fashion front. For an overview of the soon-to-close decade’s most vaunted vogues, (and to pre-empt any charge of plagiarism), I heartily recommend Wikipedia’s entry on Fashions of the 21st Century . Hmm. Less is more. Less is less. Less is where you hang your hat, and no country for old men.

One could argue that the new century has ushered in a new breed of sex symbols, though that wouldn’t be exactly true. More accurate would be to say that everything old is new again. Standards of beauty celebrating slender-hipped, boyish, bust-less silhouettes saw challenges in the ’80s and ’90s. Rather than a total about face, the skinny Minnies who walk the runway found their ranks augmented by models more along the Gibson Girl/Mae West line, at least is shape. These days, when it comes to women other women adore and want to be more like, baby’s got back, and then some. J-Lo, the Williams sisters—Venus and Serena—Beyonce and Queen Latifah offer a return to curves and pulchritude that harks back to the grand dames of ’30s cinema, but this time, in living color.

Queer saw star treatment, too, as Ellen DeGeneres became the new face of Cover Girl Cosmetics—not to mention marrying Aussie knockout Portia DiRossi. Melting pot is the new sex pot. And you know something? It’s all good. (Well, except for that Prop 8 thing. Just goes to show that we’re only too happy to take hair and make-up tips—and collect tax dollars—from our gay citizenry, but when it comes to granting them equal rights under the law, the middle American rank and file considers that damn uppity.)


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