Column: Are You Seeing What I’m Seeing?

Throwback photo of Estelle, Bobbi, Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista on a Revlon shoot.
Throwback photo of Estelle, Bobbi, Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista on a Revlon shoot.

Throwback photo of Estelle, Bobbi, Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista on a Revlon shoot.

By Bobbi Eggers

We live in a fascinating time. As digital marketing expands and grows more complicated, with too many unknowns and data security breaches, with our ability to “unfollow” or “unsubscribe,” businesses have to look beyond being focused solely on data targeting. Nostalgia is one way for products to get noticed. It allows us to reconnect with moments that brought us great happiness and less stress. But, it is far beyond just simply a business like Burger King, attaching themselves to a trend.

With a minor in fashion history, I learned early on that women’s silhouettes are a direct reflection of political and social current events;  they aren’t random, although some say it is a 30 year cycle. During WWII, women started wearing pants, military style jackets and padded shoulders. During the Camelot years, with the Kennedys in office, more women stayed home to raise families, and we celebrated a more fertile, feminine silhouette with slim waistlines and full hips. Another silhouette is best reflected in the stick-straight flappers in the high rolling 20’s, repeated again with Twiggy, the doe-eyed, skinny model with the boyish figure. Fashion isn’t just fashion. It is a mood and it is reflected in trends expanding into home interiors, art, songs, film and events. Of course, in this day and age there are many styles, but I am referencing the influencing trends of popular culture, seen through the eyes of someone who loves trendspotting.

Suddenly, I am so surprised at what is happening. As we are being inundated through media like never before, our lives “judged” on Facebook and Instagram, overwhelmed with political discourse and intrusive challenges in all walks of life, we are reacting by reverting to a calmer, less frenetic time. For some, it is nostalgia. For others, it is a desire to be more at ease, styles that make us feel more confident. Nostalgia triggers a connection in the memory so deep and significant that we are suddenly reminded of a previous version of ourselves. The power of nostalgia is undeniable. Studies show that nostalgia can make us feel warmth and belonging and can make people feel more optimistic, and isn’t that what we want to feel right now?

Nostalgia comes from the Greek word Nostos, to “return home.” Algos means pain. The fact that we cannot recover the past, that we cannot return home, gives it the bittersweet appeal.

It is a longing to return somewhere, to a time when things were less complicated and more familiar, as we face such uncertainty.

Everywhere I look, I am seeing the comeback of fabrics bursting with big motifs, toile and cabbage roses, vivid polished cottons that were overdone in the 80’s in Laura Ashley dresses, walls, ceilings, ruffles, and layer upon layer of window treatments.  It is the same maximalism Lee Joffa and Schumacher fabrics  that dubbed Mario Buatta the “Prince of Chintz.” Patterned wallpapers, layered rugs, clustered collectibles, people want their homes to feel warm, lived-in, special and unique- a reaction to the sleek, futuristic white austere rooms and modernist fashion so popular just yesterday. The future is scary right now, so reverting to coziness seems hip, original and cool. For a glaring example of fashion inspired by a romanticized time, look at the popular ecommerce site Even tie dye is popping up, reminding us of peace and love in a swampy, crowded three days among friendly, happy strangers. Doesn’t quite sound like 2019, does it? 

And, it doesn’t stop there.

Have you binge-watched Stranger Things Season 3 yet? It’s full of 80’s pop culture references. Part of the show’s success is with people 35+ who grew up in the 80’s and are transported back to their childhood, a simpler, seemingly less stressful time. Gen X not only welcomes nostalgia, but they seek it out. It’s no coincidence that the big marketers placed organic products throughout the series, mindful of being associated with the positive reminiscence. The most glaring placement was New Coke (truth revealed- as a young art director at McCann Advertising, I was one of the small group of creatives that worked on the New Coke campaign, “Don’t Say the P Word,” with Max Headroom. Our campaign was a huge hit, but the product? Bad move. Don’t remind me.) And, have you watched college basketball lately? Gone are the long, loose shorts below the knees. Say hello to the short shorts of the 70’s and 80’s.

Harkening back to the past is a way to provide comfort from the uncertainty of the future, but in reality, we must engage with the future. Escaping with a Netflix series or throwback film feels good, but at some point we have to walk into the sunlight. In human nature, taking two steps back before we can take one giant leap forward, is our way of coping. It will be interesting to see what comes next.