Back to the Future – Retro

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” That is the opening line of ‘The Go-Between’. Popular culture has perhaps always drawn from its own past because, if you think about it, it doesn’t have anywhere else to draw from.

My daughter, the one with the tattoos, has always been of the opinion she was born in the wrong era. Has that anything to do with us spending Sunday afternoons watching old movies and singing along to Howard Keel and Jane Powell, or Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor?  I don’t know, but to her retro and everything associated with it is the norm, from music to dressand I don´t think she is alone, retro is on the rise.

“Retro” from the Latin, means “backwards” or is that perhaps looking at the past nostalgically.  At its resurgence, retro seemed initially to appeal to youngsters who were high on style but short on cash.  The unpredictable nature of the scavenger hunt and the thrill of discovering clothes commonly worn in the 1940s and ’50s was exciting.  Coupled with bright red lipstick, ponytail hairstyles and accessorised with sunglasses and hats gave the trendsetters a ‘new’ and retro look.  It was cheap to obtain and easy to copy – just ask grandma what she did when she was young.

Of course, grandma paints a pretty picture omitting the hardships and shortages that were also involved along the way and this new generation can see only the glamour of the past, not just in fashion but in all stages of life and they are nostalgic to bring retro back.

The word ‘pinup’ entered popular language during World War II and the early 1950s. It was all the rage amongst British Forces who collected publicity postcards of actresses of the era. Every girl, following her idol, had her photo professionally taken to send to her beau. Today, pinup tends to fall into two categories: the overtly sexual ‘lads’ mags’ and ‘retro’ pinup.  The latter drawing heavily on 1950’s “cheesecake” – naughty but fun, with just a teasing glimpse of stocking and Pinup Style Studios are now more popular than ever.  They have been set up and offer photo shoot experiences to young women who want to be someone’s pin up.  These studios generally include professionally styled hair and makeup to create the authentic vintage pinup look.

Burlesque is another popular retro experience enjoyed by the current crop of participants and fans, who have only learned about it through movies.  Although the art form predates them by decades, burlesque feels new and naughty.  Inspired by the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee, it had its heyday in the 1930’s and is traditionally a mixture of singing, dancing, comedy and striptease. Modern burlesque however tends to put emphasis on style rather than sex and on the “tease” rather than the “strip” in striptease.

It has become so popular that when you attend any convention and expo the latest trend is to have a Burlesque Show as part of the entertainment.  Even the latest Britain’s Got Talent featured Beatrix von Bourbon who managed to bring a smile to Simon Cowell’s face and she received 4 votes to go through to the next round.

Ironically, youngsters seem to think their obsession with replicating what has gone before is totally new.  Nevertheless, in thirty or forty years, another generation will try to shock their parents, unaware that everything in fashion eventually recycles and their grandparents did the exact same thing

Images are supplied by Claire Seville photographer and organiser of the Forever Art Exhibition
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