Whether they’re rocking a flared 70s denim silhouette or flaunting a puffer coat from the early 2000s, Columbia students have tapped into an array of styles and trends worn in past eras of fashion.
Lauren Peters, assistant professor of fashion, said this phenomenon is due to the “20-year trend cycle,” as trends from the past are presented as familiar yet fresh.
“It’s really just the nature of trend cycles,” Peters said. “There’s a lot of talk now about microtrends, especially microtrends that have emerged on social media platforms during the pandemic.”
Within micro-trends, Peters said specifically during the spring and summer on the Columbia University campus, she saw students tap into maximalist, avant-garde styles by wearing pastel and electric colors, as well as nautical-inspired clothing when tapping into the beachy granny trend.
Debra Riley Parr, associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History, said that during her time at Columbia since 2000, she has seen many ways students express themselves, from post-punk to grunge.
“I think one thing I’ve really noticed is how students over the years have really used fashion to signify social and cultural status, maybe in terms of gender or class,” Parr said. “They’re really attuned to the idea of the visual as a way of signifying meaning and belonging, and maybe a form of resistance.”
With trends like the return of the low-waisted baggy jean from 2000 or 2000 — right around the time many current Columbia students were born, Julie Lewis, a first-year fashion major, said those trends aren’t her personal style.
“That’s what I love about fashion is that just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it won’t look great on someone else; there is something for everyone,” Lewis said.
Looking further back to trends spawned by the 70s, flared jeans and bold floral patterns are making a comeback.
Peters said that flared jeans — while known as a ’70s trend — were reimagined in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
“If we think back to the 20-year trend cycle, eruptions were ubiquitous in the late 1990s and even into the early 2000s. But during that period, they were referencing the 1970s when flares were popular,” Peters said.
From the fashion trends that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, there is a growing interest on campus in puffer jackets, baby t-shirts and corset tops.
Some students in Columbia have participated in a trend that stretches back to the 16th century, namely eyebrow bleaching. Peters said that as a fashion historian, this trend particularly piqued her interest.
“The intensity with which this trend has come up in the last month just blows my mind because I’ll show up to class to teach and three or four other students will have dyed their eyebrows over the weekend,” Peters said.
The trend that has inspired influencers like Kim Kardashian can be too
attributed to the Mona Lisa. Peters said that in 16th-century Europe, the trend was meant to give women the appearance of a larger forehead, and if you look closely enough, the famous portrait of the Mona Lisa features the bleached brows that are reappearing today.
Peters said Columbia University students are more inspired to express themselves outside of the mainstream
and have set about reinterpreting them.
“Whenever I talk to special transfer students who have come to the big state colleges, they say that they all dress exactly the same,” Peters said. “Whereas in Colombia you feel like you’re going to a fashion show every day at class.”