To me, style is best when it’s personal. However, it’s almost impossible for our consciousness or even sub-consciousness to keep out the influence of trends. I personally love to see someone take a style trend while finding a way to make it authentic to his or her personal style and therefore completely unique. I like how it shows that a person is most true to themselves but also paying attention.
I think style forecasting is simply the art of noticing. I recently came back to my self-soothing habit from my college years of looking through magazines and tearing out the sheets that caught my eye. I start a page in my notebook for each new group and paste more in as I find them.
This practice from years ago started a habit of collecting images in my brain – like a visual database – of things that catch my eye. I try to keep count of how many times I’ve seen things – a certain color, pattern, shape or detail.
Something about this detached noticing has really helped me this year. Another beloved pastime I did not expect to reconnect with is American history. One of my favorite things to do growing up in the Midwest was attend historical re-enactments, living history experiences in the woods of Illinois. Reading about where we’ve been as a country and where we potentially are in what MLK calls “the [long] moral arc of the universe,” helps me feel like a speck of dust in the right ways. My heart rate goes down.
History is the events in time, but also the culture formed around and in response to them. Some of our biggest fall trends stood out to me for their connection to other eras in time that held tension between upheaval and progress. Was it coincidence? And with trends beginning at the couture level sometimes years before hitting the floors of where someone like me is shopping, could there be a conspiracy between time and the fashion gods to influence style so we’re sartorially prepared for, say…a surprised pandemic? Could the cosmos and creativity be collaborating?
I’m feeling it, so I took three 2020 fall trends to Dallas astrologer, Britten LaRue, for a reading and to explore connections to similar cosmic events in history so we’d know how to style the look for today’s universe.
THE SMILEY FACE
Origin in 1968 – Resurgence in 1995
I’ve never really known what was up with this guy, but I’ve always liked him. As someone who’s been the office rah-rah/morale police, I love that the yellow smile beloved by hippie culture was first designed for employees to wear in a corporate environment as a way to encourage happiness at work. Picked up off a stock images catalog for buttons by a gift shop in upstate New York a short while later, it became the face of a counterculture movement when the country was in crisis in the late 1960’s.
By the mid-1990’s, all I needed in my life to be happy was a patent yellow smiley face backpack. This time, you wore them with Doc Martens instead of Birkenstocks. Another youth movement against capitalism wore the smile and it became contagious.
Personally thinking on it, I feel like this one has been a brewin’. I feel like it was hanging around with Anya Hindmarch, then in the upper casual like Kule. I honestly feel like every way I see it done right now is cuter than the last and I gotta catch ‘em all.
The uniting feature of the Smiley Face trend is the planet Uranus’s dance with other outer, collective planets. Uranus is the principle of liberation. Uranus drives radical change, social progress, revolution, and innovation.
The introduction of the Smiley Face in the sixties came out of the mid-1960s conjunction (coming together) of Uranus with Pluto in Virgo. This only happens every 60-70 years. Pluto destroys and transforms in order to purge and purify, while Uranus invents and progresses the new paradigm. It takes generations for the effects of their dance to fully be understood. Historically, we associate Uranus-Pluto alignments with the flowering of civil rights movements, labor movements, radicalism, and major shifts in technological development. Virgo rules the working class, and thus the cultural emblem of the smiley face reflects its origin as part of an employee uprising.
The second iteration of the Smiley Face in the grunge era coincided with the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. A cosmic event that happens every 170 years or so, this is a key signature for people born 1990-1996. Neptune is the principle of stream of consciousness, dreams, the non-ordinary, and the imagination. Thus, combined with Uranus, we associate this alignment with shifts in new paradigms in utopian vision, romanticism in the arts, and what astrologer Richard Tarnas calls “cosmic epiphany.” So, it’s perfectly fitting that one of the signature comebacks of the Smiley Face came from a band called none other than Nirvana. (Kurt Cobain’s chart is heavily Piscean, a sign ruled by Neptune.)
Today’s return to the Smiley Face falls on the heels of the 90-degree square between Uranus and Pluto, which reverberated through most of the second decade of this century, peaking in 2012-2015. With the return of the themes from the 1960s, we are once again acutely aware of inequity, oppression, and the toxicities in old structures; the stuff we used to ignore feels urgently problematic. Consequently, we are witnessing the rise of radicalism, waves of progressive civil disobedience, and the demands for civil rights. The Smiley Face plays with power and irony; it says, “I’ll smile, but I’ll smile when I decide to smile, not just to play nice or be pleasing.”
Origin in 1920 – Resurgence in 1972
So, back to my love for historical re-enactments. I will let you know right now I was the girl who wore her American Girl Doll Felicity dress to just regular school. So if a hint of this trend had come around, I would’ve been ready to invest all of my dollars and closet space. But I look around and – we are looking really good here you guys. We did not expect these times to fall on us but once we get the milking done we will roll our sleeves, educate the children and fix the world. I was feeling it this summer but the quilt coat has just been waiting for me to have newfound outside chores to do all fall.
The 1783 portrait of Marie Antionette by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun in a simple, rustic cotton dress turned the ornate Rococo style previously pushed by Marie on its head. What’s interesting to me was learning more about how while women of privilege lapped up the new style as a way to feel simplicity and connection to self and nature, the look had a high cost on the slave trade. As I reflect this year on how my choices impact the lives of those less fortunate, the portrait gives off a vibe of the privilege of homesteading and how many of us who practice or preach self-reliance were set up to not need the aid of others by generational or white privileges.
In the Arts and Crafts Movement of the American 1870s, we rebelled against “fast” production and fashion with prairie style dressing and a return to slow living. Could vintage style dressing coming back into vogue – made easier than ever with all the ways we can now shop second hand online – save us from the slave labor and waste that our modern addiction to fast fashion creates?
I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the women’s movement this year. Thinking about white women first obtaining the right to vote in 1920, it’s hard to celebrate 100 years knowing that the historic freedom for me excluded others. But also, we’re dressed exactly the same as these women.
In the late 1960’s, the heightening of the Vietnam War, civil rights issues and the political tensions around both was another time where it feels like American families were comforted by their sense of resourcefulness, turning to organic gardening and textiles and the beginning of the Whole Earth Catalog, with prairie-inspired designs in fashion to prove their point.
To be honest, I was fully committed to this beginning last Christmas after watching Little Women and re-creating the sister’s scarf tying techniques when I got home, and it seems I wasn’t alone. I love the western look Dior cruise had going on a few years ago, but watching this Dior show with our daughter during COVID made me feel like we’re going to be dressing for the simpler life for a while.
There are two sets of alignments that appear to mark periods of time with a longing for a more simple, pre-industrial, agrarian lifestyle. The first is Pluto in relationship to Neptune, which suggests a call to fantasy, dream, and escape amidst destruction, degradation, and death. The second is Saturn in relationship to Uranus, which signifies a dance between tradition and revolution, constriction and rebellion, conservatism and progressiveness.
We can go all the way to Marie Antionette’s famous 1783 portrait in a white muslin dress and straw hat, painted by court artist Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun. The French Queen famously enjoyed spending her days at her Hamlet on the grounds of Versailles, complete with chicken coup and watermill. In this period, Pluto was trining Neptune with Saturn opposite Uranus.
In the 1870s, the Arts & Crafts movement began to design every feature of the home in wistful homage to simpler days before factory production. The effects of modernization, urbanization, and the wars and revolutions that resulted in nationalism had utterly changed the European landscape. Arts & Crafts artists wanted to reclaim their past through the art of the home. From the architecture to the wallpaper, to the furniture to the cutlery to the fashion of the woman of the house, everything was created to evoke a sense for a simpler, country life. The movement continued to evolve into the twentieth century. In the 1870s through the 1890s, Pluto was in the same sign as Neptune (this only happens every 495 years!), conjoining in 1891-1893. At key points in this period, Saturn was opposing, then squaring, then conjoining Uranus.
When we see cottage fashion reappear in the twenties, we are looking at a period recently ravaged by a world war and the Spanish influenza. Trust in modern life was deeply shaken. In this time, Neptune had now separated into first semi-sextile to Pluto, and Saturn was once again opposite Uranus.
In the late sixties, when prairie style re-emerged, the world was also in the shifts of the Pluto-Uranus conjunction, as well as the destabilizing effects of the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil unrest, and white flight to the suburbs and warmer cities. Astrologically, Neptune had now shifted into a sextile to Pluto, and Saturn was once again opposite Uranus.
When Cottage Core became a hashtag in 2018, Pluto and Neptune continued to sextile from the sign of bureaucratic structures (Capricorn) to the sign of imagination (Pisces). How can we imagine new ways of doing old things? Saturn and Uranus each moved into an earth sign, forming a strong alignment across the sky. As Saturn and Pluto have since conjoined in Capricorn in 2020, we feel the call from Uranus in Taurus to reimagine our relationship to the earth. The healing revolution begins with changing our relationship to the planet.
THE MEN’S BLAZER
Spotted in 1989
The men’s blazer is one that I felt was coming in strong, but with the sudden shift into working from home and less socializing I assumed couldn’t survive. Are we going to wear that strong of a shoulder when adventure is a walk from the bedroom to the refrigerator? But now, I feel like a dressed down blazer is a way to have a distinct style change from ourselves at home to the small ways we are stepping out in the world, and a little armor for the vulnerability that comes with stepping out again for the first time.
Princess Diana started making the casual, oversized blazer popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By the time Diana and Charles separated in 1992, I feel like Diana took on a more independent, modern and powerful style while still being known as one of the most nurturing and femenine faces of the time. With women having to take on more femenine responsibilities than we have in generations right now and our job market at an all time low, is the power blazer a way to show our masculine energy is just being used for its true purpose and not to play in patriarchal capitalism?
I feel like we’ve collectively started taking more interest in Diana’s later style, and I’ve wondered how much Meghan Markle has had to do with it. I remember Meghan Markle walking out to her evening wedding reception wearing the blue ring and it felt like we had a second woman in the monarchy representing another side of Diana – as the outlier rebel rouser for good, the grown woman. As Meghan departs the monarchy and embraces her own personal style, it really makes me nostalgic for how Diana dressed as “the people’s Princess.” For Texas weather, it’s just right with denim. I’ve only worn mine once but already know why Vogue calls it the perfect spring jacket.
There is a very clear alignment of astrological factors to reflect the interest in men’s blazers between 1989-1991 and 2018-2020. At that time, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus were gathered together in Capricorn. Today, Saturn, Jupiter, and Pluto are gathered in Capricorn. The key player here is Saturn. Saturn rules discipline, authority, and constriction, and Saturn rules the sign of Capricorn. Capricorn is a sign about structure, rules, and achievement.
This is the first time since 1991 that Saturn has come back around to its home sign. In the previous instance, the influence of Neptune and Uranus invited us to dream of liberating structures for success to benefit more people than just Wall Street white dudes. With today’s iteration, it doesn’t feel like a dream (Neptune) or a shocking rebellion (Uranus). The old order is flat out dying (Pluto). This is magnified by Jupiter. What we’re learning is the power of inner, self-anointed authority (Saturn), which we have the choice and the pleasure of externalizing (with our fashion choices) however we wish.
So, what do you think? Whether you’re a fashion lover or totally set in your personal style, there’s a lot of ways to explore how our thoughts and ideas may be influenced by both culture and the cosmos. Thank you to Britten for joining me in this curiosity! You can find her on Instagram or get a reading or one of her incredible books on her website.