The Last Time I Really Loved Fashion
Seeing a magazine clipping the other day, my heart really leapt and maybe even skipped a beat. What caused this reaction? Just a page showing Yves Saint Laurent models in a selection of his designs for Spring and Summer 1991. I was immediately taken back to that time – I was living in Florida and working my first fashion related jobs. I was “discovered” for my artistic talent and promoted to “Visual Merchandise Manager” from “Cashier.” I embarked on that journey at a time when I really liked clothing and a childhood in NYC had prepped me for it as well. For me, in a way, that year or maybe the next was the “last gasp” of fashion before we sank into the “Seattle Grunge” movement, a much more dreary version of the “Granny” or “Prairie Look” – two other looks that have appeared now and then – perhaps memorably in a portion of the decade of the 1970’s. The “Seattle Grunge” look spells sort of “time divider” for me. There was a portion of the 1990’s that except for liking “Friends” and “Frasier” would be somewhat of a void in my life.
So what was so great about clothes around 1991? Well, for one, like a portion of of the 1980’s, some really soft fabrics were in vogue like “Rayon.” After a torturous period in the late 1960’s through a part of the 1970’s the itchy “Polyester” was “Queen” of clothing materials. Even “Nylon” was friendlier than that “bitch.” I had been one of the rare youth who had hated blue jeans because they were so heavy and uncomfortable with their front zipper. As a dancer I wanted to be “free” so I liked it when cotton Lycra leggings had come into style in the late 1980’s then around the early 1990’s “Harem” pants and Rayon “Palazzo” pants. The other joy of this period were the neon colors of the 1980s, sometimes paired with the ever classy non-color “black.”
So what did Yves Saint Laurent show us that Spring Season of 1991? Nothing less than a spectacular “Bakst” like extravaganza of harem pants, big chunky beads, tassels, “Fez” like and even “Coolie” hats of the finest materials, looks to turn the average resort goer into a vision of Anna Pavlova in her “Syrian Dance” – combine with floral wrap dresses and accouterments like capes and I can almost feel the ocean breezes.
I will always remember the freedom and artistic dreams that ended with the “grunge look” – when lumberjack flannel shirts and toboggans took over the world – and put a damper on everything. People are resilient though. The next bright spot was a “redux” of the big band era and the cute Summer “Sun Dress” made a return along with it. Things go in cycles, if we wait long enough things we love will come back in vogue – and if you’re like me you kind of wear what you want to anyway!
Vintage Record Cover Corner:
Somali Wedding Dance Revealed
By Aziza Al-Tawil
The spirit moved me recently to check out exactly what the Somalian Wedding Dance looked like. In some ways, I can honestly say, it was not exactly what I expected and I was in store for some pleasant surprises as far as dance scholarship goes.
One surprise right off the bat is the beat: an almost American Indian beat – the kind that found it’s way into Neal Young songs back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Then there were songs used with almost a “Reggae” type rhythm. The traditional dance supposedly involved the mixing of men and women and I observed some instances where a man joins in and is stomping and clapping and almost moving across the floor as if about to tap dance. The women gesture in front of themselves and gesture with their veil (It would be interesting to find out if the “veil” gesturing is only as old as “Islamic” wear influence or goes back to when some cultures had a veil anyway-to keep sand out of the eyes- etc. “Veils” in that sense predate Islam of course but I don’t know if it does in Somalian clothing history. It’s food for thought anyway and worthy of investigating.
More versions and steps I observed were jumping, foot stamping, and men spinning around on one leg. I did see instances where the togetherness of the bride and groom was still intact-no separation of the sexes. The videos I observed with the men present seemed to be a fuller “fleshed out” dance with more technique involved. (Perhaps the banning of men in this instance limits the presentation somewhat). There is also a joyous circling and clapping with all participants going around counter clockwise. Right now, until they disappear, there are some interesting videos on YouTube. Be sure to check them out.
When Aziza’s mother Johanna started belly dancing in the 1960’s, the Greek guitar player Tassos Mavris showed her how to play “zillia.” The legendary blind Armenian oud player “Udi Hrant” told Armenian singer Madlen that he could tell Johanna was a good dancer and would be good at “zil” but he thought her pair of the finger cymbals was not up to par with her capabilities so he went to Brooklyn & bought her a fine pair as a gift. Aziza became a professional dancer at age one, & added “zil” by age two & has performed live in major cities w/some of the greatest musicians & recording artists in the field. Her childhood mentors in music were her mother & the late Ajdin Aslan, legendary musician/owner of the Balkan Record Company. Workshops are being planned in different areas, please contact us at email@example.com for more info.
Egyptian Chick Magazine is published by
Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”
Billy Jack Watkins, “Research Assistant to the Editor”
Josephine Homonai, “Fashion Consultant and Model”