Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bad taste is the new black







At the end of my bed there is a whole shelf dedicated to scrapbooks – finished articles that I flick through for inspiration, boxes holding postcards and tattered family photos, containers bursting with images ripped from magazines. Every so often, my floor is deluged with Harper’s Bazaar images of models (I tear them up, but the Vogues stay intact) and portraits of famous writers that I rescued from paper recycling. Then, preferably while watching Green Wing/ Father Ted/ The Fast Show/ Black Books/ Spaced (depending what comedy mood I’m in), I proceed to fill up cheap scrap books from the pound shop.
I’m not sure what is so satisfying about this process – possibly it’s just that I love pictures and patterns. Being satisfied with a page in a scrapbook is like creating a really good outfit that juxtaposes unwitting elements together.

Recently I was looking through the first scrapbook I made several years ago. Inside, there are two snapshots of my parents. The first is my mum and a friend. My mum, her red curly hair reaching afro-like proportions, is dressed in a brown crocheted cardigan, with a petrol blue polo-neck and yellow joke sunglasses that make her look like a cartoon caricature. Her friend is similarly clad, with a tartan floppy fisherman’s hat, ‘bottle-top’ glasses, a pink jumper with an oversized collar peeping out, a floral waistcoat and countless strings of cheap beads around his (or her – I’m not quite sure) neck.
The photo was taken at my mum’s 21st birthday in 1986. The theme had been ‘bad taste’, and almost everyone had turned up in something vaguely seventies inspired, with a heavy emphasis on granny chic. That’s what was considered ugly when she was younger – a decade that has recently enjoyed a renaissance on the catwalk.
Looking back on this image, I was reminded of a famous Oscar Wilde quote:
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”.
I think I mentioned it on this blog a long time ago, but the words still ring satirically true. Obviously I don’t consider fashion to be ugly (you need Tanya Gold if you want that opinion), but nevertheless it’s obvious that the whole fashion industry is built on the changing of trends twice a year, so that new goods are constantly desirable. This sometimes means there are certain items that would be considered hopelessly out of date right now (aviator jackets, anyone?), while others that were recently dismissed are suddenly ‘en vogue’ once more.

So is the idea of bad taste constantly evolving, or are there certain items that can be considered strange no matter the year or season? I’m sure that this blue hooded dress (worn over a second hand dress) was once considered the epitome of chic during the synthetic seventies. Now, when I look at it, I don’t immediately think “My god, that’s a timeless staple that I can wear every day!” but I do feel I can appreciate the rather strange beauty. Admittedly, I did feel like an extra from Star Trek on an empty beach at seven in the morning while my mum took photos. However, if it wasn’t made of fabric so flammable I felt glad to be next to a large expanse of water, then I could have equally been a ‘lady of the lake’. The style, from the floor sweeping length to the dramatic sleeves, seemed highly influenced by medieval dress. Anything pre-twentieth century doesn’t seem ‘bad taste’ per se, but just un-wearable now. When was the last time you saw someone in full Elizabethan regalia, other than at a period castle or costume party?
They say that beauty is in the eye of beholder, but maybe bad taste is too? One girl's dream dress could be another’s worst nightmare. For example, I don’t go out in skin hugging body-con, neon and trainers, as that is my idea of bad taste. But for another person, they might see my choices of crocheted cardigans and jumble sale buys as unfathomable.

Of course, here I am talking about bad taste in terms of popular opinion. Some choose bad taste (in everything from fashion to music taste) purposefully as a form of rebellion – think of the punks of the seventies, or even the hippies of the sixties. These were groups of people who chose to go against what was then considered the norm, so that they could consciously stand out. Where we might now see the original punks as subversive, I’m sure many at the time swept them aside as teens with too many piercings who listened to bands that resembled screaming and the clashing of dustbins.

My dad was a late punk – the archetypal middle class boy trying to lose his roots during the late seventies and early eighties. However, when he later met my mum they both went through a very second generation hippie phase. Both my parents tried on various personas for size before dropping them again.
The other photo in the scrapbook shows my dad standing on a street several weeks before he met my mum, a row of houses with net curtains, made for twitching, stretching out behind him. His hair is as long and curly as my mum’s (at their wedding they actually had ‘his and hers’ hairdos), and he is wearing what appears to be sofa fabric. Of course, if I ask him about it, he likes to tell the story about how his patch-worked two piece suit was tailor made to his measurements, and that it was a one of a kind classic. All I can see when I look at the image is soft furnishings - he wouldn’t look out of place surrounded by chintz table lamps and china figurines.
That suit still hangs upstairs in his wardrobe, joined in the gloom by a tie designed to look like a fish, and some scarily bright shirts. All relics of his younger self. He still loves the grey and blue squiggled fabric (I may be mistaken, but I think we might actually have a picnic blanket made of the same material), but although I can appreciate it from a safe distance, I will never see it as anything other than slightly odd.

Thank goodness we’re all different though. I’m so glad that we don’t all have the same style barometer installed in our heads, as life would be distinctly dull then. Maybe fashion feeds on judgement, and constantly re-defines the boundaries of ‘Bad Taste’, but style should be about celebrating the individual.
However, I refuse to celebrate jeggings – ever.

46 comments:

alexandratherese said...

What you've said in those last few lines is so true Rosalind - it is because we are all so different, be it in our choice of clothes, music or people, that we are an interesting species. If we were all the same we might as well be robots. That's what I think about groups of people who wear brands like they are a uniform - there is nothing unique or personal about it.

I laughed when I read the line about body con dresses and neon - I am not a fan either - but then when you said that some people might be repulsed by crocheted cardigans and jumble sale buys I thought "yep, that's me". I know that a lot of people think that never wearing an outfit that doesn't include at least one charity shopped item is weird but that's just the way I dress!

This dress you are wearing reminds me of some kind of seventies witch! But the colour is beautiful and it really does suit you, though I've no idea of when you would actually wear it! As to scrap booking, it's something I've been meaning to do for a while as I've collected all the magazines but just haven't quite got around to buying a book to stick them in yet! Maybe that should be my project for the last few weeks of August! It sounds very relaxing and therapeutic though - especially when done in front of a comedy series! I think mine would have to be The Thick Of It.

I suppose taste, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder!

Alexandra xx

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

I so agree with you. We are all different which makes the world a far more interesting and colourful place to live in. I do wonder at times what it would be like if we all dressed and looked the same. Perhaps a bit like doctors at a hospital. More uniformed rather than individual, and that is why I adore flirting with fashion and celebrating my inner style.

Rejoicing in the fact that life is diverse and brimming with so many wonderful personalities such as yourself;-)

Closet Fashionista said...

This is sooo true! Fashion is so different based on each person! Its funny to look back on what was considered fashionable and unfashionable in the past and to see them switch roles later on. So fashionable really is anything because if it is fashionable to you, who cares what everyone else thinks because we all have different opinions. :)
Though I must say I also agree with the no body-con, neon and trainers look ;)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com

The Fancy Teacup said...

You pull off the cape flawlessly. And I am in accordance with you, if we all had the same stance on what is considered “beautiful” or “chic” this world would be awash in gray.

♥, Jamie
www.TheFancyTeacup.com

Natalie Suarez said...

you are so beautiful! LOVE :)

xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Carly said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Especially on the jeggings front, even leggings for that matter, I've never been a fan.

I love the sound of your dads suit, isn't it incredible that he once saw that as something 'cool and stylish'. My parents were the same, my mum loved her garish neon oversized blouses with shoulder pads in the 80's and still sticks up for them when we mock her on her previous wardrobe choices. I guess 'bad taste' is such a personal thing that what one person loves another will well and truly hate.

I'd love to see your collection of scrapbooks, I have boxes of torn up magazines and old images (never a Vogue, they stay intact in all of their glory) that I really must do something with. I'm saving them for the future when I need inspiration for upcoming shoots (here's hoping I'll be a successful stylist).

I love Oscar Wildes quote, also this one from Yves Saint Laurent:
“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”

Carly xx

Celynne said...

I think this blue number is amazing, but you're right, a bit hard to wear for the most part. An article of clothing's wearability doesn't quite decide whether or not it's bad taste or not though, because goodness knows most really high end fashion designs are totally unwearable but considered in good taste (at the time).

I agree that things would be dull if we all had the same taste in fashion. I often enjoy seeing people rock styles that I'd never have the guts to, and it's fun like that.

But I also agree on the jeggings... big NO right there.

Laura Gerencser said...

Great post! i think bad taste is often determined by whats "popular". Which is a shame in most cases.
Lovely photos as usual! Love your hair!

london loves said...

Love this post! Looks like a goddess!
xxx

London Last Night

Viktoria said...

Wow amazing pictures.

sylvie said...

Please show us these vintage photos you're talking about! it would be great!

Conee said...

me encantaron las imagenes, me recuerdan a un viaje a brasil y unas imagenes de una virgen que vi alla.
Un beso desde Argentina

http://conee-addictedtoyou.blogspot.com/

Page said...

i really love your pics!
page

isa telaraña said...

Brilliant. You transform the clothes. A fancy dress is a fashionable dress on you. Maybe not at the supermarket, but couldn´t you wear like that at the Opera...

CALAMITY JANE said...

What you said in the last few words cannot be more true. For me there is no thing as Bad taste, but there are different type of people!

In the pictures you look like a ninfa, just beautiful.

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

These photos are so beautiful. Especially the ones with the hood on.

I wouldn't say its a timeless piece but it's certainly unique! The problem with things from the 70's/80's is that everything is made out of polyester...I hate that. Makes my hair stand up ;)

Autumn said...

"style should be about celebrating the individual. " That is insanely true. This post is awesome and the pictures are lovely. The third on is very Lady of the Lake to me.
~
Autumn

Jessica said...

Great photo's!

I do exactly the same, I enjoy collecting some of my favorite articles, pictures and photo shoots. I have shoes boxes full of family photo's and all my little keep-sake's! But like you, my scissors never reach vogue!

I am glad we are different too. Countless amounts of times I've heard people say 'We are all the same'.

http://chicgeekblogger.blogspot.com/

Please take a minute to look at my trunkshow;

http://iouproject.com/tsh/jessica-karen/

Polka Princess said...

That shot in the sea is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L dear....... <3

Beckerman Girls said...

These pics are totally INCREDIBLE!!!! Like holy unbelievable!!! The ones in the water are breath taking too!!! U look like a mermaid!
kisses
xoThe Beckerman Girls

www.BeckermanBitePlate.com

SabinePsynopsis said...

Yes, it is a bit star-trecky, but it looks so beautiful on you I could never consider it ugly.
Beautiful pictures, Rosalind! xo

Anula said...

georgeous outfit!! amazing photos!! great blog!!

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

My fella, The Phoenix, just revealed to me today that in the 80s he had a metallic electric blue suit from Top Man. I think I fell in love with him just a little bit more today. I wish I knew him then. Thank you for sharing your parents' taste. You look utterly gorgeous Roz xoxoxo

Aditi said...

I am a regular reader, longtime lurker, and first time commentor on your blog. I love the way you write, and of course your style is incredible. I especially love the posts where you describe all your outfits in detail, as if they were people with their own personalities...please don't stop doing that!

L'age moyen said...

I couldn't agree more. I think that's why I'm so drawn to blogs and so bored by fashion magazines. I also find it so important to see style presented from a range of age groups - I am in l'age after all, but it must be said that style seems to be associated with youth whereas in reality - style is absolutely everywhere. I love the blue caftan - just don't use the stove!

Meena Dhuga said...

love this post! that colour is amazing and so cute :D

http://pinklemonsorbet.blogspot.com/

Meena ♥

Fashionistable said...

You are the best. You never fail to to make me smile. Good and bad taste really are only a matter of taste. We are only the products of what we think and feel. The 4th shot blows me away. The lighting the colour, you. Everything. Xxxx

Blue said...

I loved reading your thoughts on the evolution of bad taste. I never thought about it, but you are obviously right. Our tastes change, so naturally the opposites of that change as well.
And that dress, well. I think it looks great on the photos, but I am not sure it is suitable for anything else...

SomeoneLikeYou said...

That last picture of you standing in the water absolutely captures my heart...It is so beautiful and utterly enchanting! Your photography is always so supurb! ❤

the nyanzi report said...

Beautiful shots as always especially the fourth shot.

Kate said...

What you say is one hundred percent true, one man's treasure is another man's gold! Everyone has different opinions, and that makes the world a more interesting place!
I absolutely love this post, I was wondering if I could link to it on my blog?
www.styleisalwaysfashionable.blogspot.com

Amanda said...

your fascinating... I just found your blog and your style really caught my eye!

Vix said...

What a twit I am! I read your post and forgot to leave a comment so please forgive the lateness.
I do agree, Roz, what the majority perceive as bad taste is constantly evolving. In the Eighties most of us (I'm a year younger than your Mum) regarded the previous decade as being the worst known to man, probably as it was so recent and therefore so passe. Nowadays it's the late 1990's, all those bodywarmers, combat trousers and Chinese prints, which no doubt everyone will be embracing again in ten years time.
Thank goodness we aren't all the same or I wouldn't be able to snap up 1970's dresses for pennies at jumble sales.
I adore that hooded gown on you, the beauty of polyester is that I bet that was dry within an hour of taking a dip. x

bollykecks said...

Eek, hello Roz. The world of blogger is very confusing and even more scary to come onto your blog and see all your lovely posts and well set out blog. Mine is a mess, I feel silly and lonely in my odd world with one post. Your pictures were all very summery and lovely. I miss you. Caitlin.
http://boombollykecks.blogspot.com/

amy said...

You are a dream. Your flowing hair, to your soft petal feet, I adore your evocation of style. I adore how you dress in every photograph- you are truly enchanting xx

sweetness xx
hope to hear from you*!
amyflyingakite.com

The Foolish Aesthete said...

The Lady of the Lake is walking on water. Such lovely images by the sea (or is it the lake by Avalon?). It is interesting that the '70s used to be considered the archetypal decade of bad taste. Now, I view old films and think how amazingly cool everyone looked, afros, hippy fringes and all! And I find the '80s to be so detestable! We shall see another decade or so from now if that opinion changes. Meanwhile, I am with you -- no jeggings ever! xxx

Preity Lama Tamang said...

Beautiful pictures!! love love that dress!
xx

CottonCandy said...

you are sooo pretty and you have a wonderful blog ;)

danniekate said...

brilliantly put, and the snaps are incredible. you're right - jeggings are such a no no. did you want me to email FG on your behalf to make an introduction? xx

sacramento said...

Amen, my beauty in blue.
Besos siempre.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Evi said...

You look like a fairy..so pretty ;) great photoshoot!!!

Evi xoxo

www.thenotebookofafashionlover.blogspot.com

West End Girl said...

My dad was a Mod... sharp suits, close-cut hair... some VERY funny photos! I love the blue hooded dress; I'm a total sucker for period costume, and it's got a very medieval vibe - perhaps a noblewoman's gown, as the blue is so vibrant...
Very true about 'style celebrating the individual'. It's just a shame that people get judged so harshly on their sartorial tastes. Another insightful blog.

West End Girl x
http://onegirlandaticket.blogspot.com/

Oh are you sure about that? said...

These photographs are beautiful! There seems an air of pre raphaelite to them !

Also love your story of your mum and dad. I love looking back at photos of my mum in the 80s and seeing her wear things that she has now passed to me .

Lally

http://ohareyousureaboutthat.blogspot.com/

Melanie Fontaine said...

Beautiful words, Rosalind. And as much as I love looking at your pictures - it is reading your thoughts that I especially enjoy and look forward too.

And I definitely think you're right. Bad taste - or just taste in general - really is in the eye of the beholder. Funnily enough, one changes his opinion on a certain style or item in the course of time. But that is the great thing about fashion - it gives you the opportunity to slip into rolls and just be whoever you want to be in that moment, even if you might look back in a couple of years and just be horrified.

On a side note: That location was just ideal to showcase the dress.

Love, Melanie

awishisarainbow said...

I completely agree! I think everyone has their own style and preferences...and what I think wonderful I'm sure others will think horrid!

Meena Dhuga said...

awesome photos! i am also one to tear apart magazines for collages, i find it so fun! i really enjoyed reading this post- i think that if you stick to wearing what feels right and you love and forgetting about trends then its better :)


http://pinklemonsorbet.blogspot.com/

Meena ♥