I’m waiting for the bus to DON’T WALK to move, wearing a black bustier scavenged from Depop, a champagne-colored skirt by Orseund Iris, two Vivienne Westwood necklaces plus a three-layered faux-pearl choker, the six rings I wear every day, a silver cuff bracelet that looks like a snake coiled around my wrist, black heeled ankle boots by Chinese Laundry, and a black hooded faux-fur coat by I.AM.GIA. For makeup, my usual small black liquid eyeliner wing extending into the inner corner, a reddish-brown (or is it brownish-red?) lip crayon and a row of black dots underneath each eye for good measure, because it’s a fashion show and I feel obliged to make an attempt to look at least vaguely avant-garde. My boyfriend is wearing straight-leg white jeans that I bought him, black leather ankle boots I suggested he buy, rings I suggested he buy, a gold-toned chain necklace by Anne Klein his cousin bought for him, smudged black eyeliner I fixed for him before we walked out the door, and a long-sleeved button-down with a white and red design that looks sort of like a sunset (or a sunrise?) that he made the executive decision to buy for himself. It’s hazily reminiscent of the ‘70s, but also exemplifies the effeminate-accented style pervading among urban twentysomething men nowadays: patterned button-down, generic jeans, jewelery.
We’re some of the first people on the bus, so I get a good look out the window at what the parade of people are wearing as they file in. A group of heavily yet expertly made-up girls boards the bus, all in form-fitting crop-top and miniskirt sets and strappy heels. Actually, one might be wearing a form-fitting minidress and strappy heels. I see variations on this look repeated throughout the night, which I think is a solid choice for anyone who wants to look uncontroversially good but is not particularly inspired in any artistic sense. I also can’t help but think open-toed high heels are not a very practical choice for dancing, weaving through a crowd five deep to get to the bar for a double vodka soda lime please, or navigating the outdoor porta-potty area, but I understand that people have different priorities and some of those are posting a killer photo on Instagram. I respect it.
Next comes a procession of boys wearing: a white Polo by Ralph Lauren button-down and nondescript pants (if you’re British, that means trousers, although I wouldn’t put it past someone to go to a fashion show in their underwear). A light pink Polo by Ralph Lauren button-down and nondescript pants. An off-white Polo by Ralph Lauren button-down and nondescript pants. A navy blue suit with a red bowtie. A black suit with no tie. A grey suit with a loosened burgundy tie. Black turtleneck and blazer. Two black turtlenecks and blazers with silver chain necklaces, a la Dwayne the Rock Johnson. T-shirt and jeans. Hoodie over a button-down and jeans. And then there are the sunglasses, the accessory of choice amongst the St. Andrews male population. Black lenses, hovering on the end of a nose bridge. Orange-tinted, perched atop heads, tying together a button-down/hoodie/jeans combination that I can only describe as business normcore.
I’m lost in contemplation about all the Ray-Bans I’m seeing when my friend, fresh out of a grueling shift at a local eating establishment that I will not name here, scampers onto the bus wearing: a blue and white drop-stitch sweater, plaid pants, a silver chain necklace and a blue and yellow knit scarf. Maybe it’s because I’m a closeted misandrist, or maybe it’s because I know her, but instead of filling me with the mixture of exasperation and indignation I felt watching the conga line of t-shirt-and-jeans-clad men boarding the bus, I’m looking at her shaggy, grown-out tendrils of bleached hair and feeling begrudging respect for her sartorial display of irreverence. I could only hope to one day be self-assured enough to escort myself to a fashion show in whatever I happen to be wearing that day, but also think that whatever version of myself who would do that would be so different to me as to be unrecognizable. Not everyone can seem cool wearing a sweater and jeans to a fashion show; I would venture that most people can’t, so why can this one friend of mine? I don’t really have the answer. David Lynch has a quote about instinctively feeling the marriage of a scene with a song, and I think that applies here with one’s clothing and one’s amorphous energy, which I guess could be termed a “vibe.” All I know is that fashion is not only about clothing.
The clothing at the event itself is a little harder to discern, owing to the fact that the venue is dark, illuminated only by a faint red glow, and the four-ish rum and Diet Cokes I suck down promptly upon arrival. Here is what stands out to me: a lot of pastel long and tea-length satin slip dresses, chic in a sort of sophisticated semiformal ‘90s way. These people are the most likely to go for a bold lip. A pair of knee-high stockings with ankle-strap heels, which reminds me of Blair Waldorf. A black corset, opera-length gloves, and drag makeup. A long black lace dress over black lingerie. Whale tails. Backless everything. More suits. Blazers over bralettes. A bright red pantsuit, also with a bralette. ‘70s, ‘90s, 2000s.
There is no dominant aesthetic, only the proliferation of dozens of smaller ones, which are simultaneously all instantly recognizable from TikTok or Instagram and completely distinct from each other. Punk, goth, grunge, Y2K, McBling, logomania, bohemian, cottagecore, streetwear, and pieces of all of them synthesized into a single widely palatable ensemble. Nothing is new, but everything old is new again. I don’t know if we’ll be remembered for anything–did our parents have an awareness in the ‘80s that their preoccupation with perms and artificial volume would be immortalized in pop culture as a moment of collective comic insanity? Probably not. It’s hard to see what’s around us. We’ve either given up on fashion completely, surrendering to whatever the influencers tell us, or embraced it by circumventing the trend cycle so totally that every style could plausibly be one’s personal style. It’s the 2020s.