To Be, Or Not To Be Modern

March 27, 2014 Updated: March 26, 2014

Every time I read a fashion article extolling this or that for being so modern, my hackles rise. What makes an item of clothing so wonderful simply because it looks modern? Think about it. In fashion terms modern means “now,” not seen before. Do we get bored so easily and are our attention spans so short that we can’t tolerate the familiar? When Coco Chanel said, “fashion changes, style remains,” she wasn’t encouraging us to pick up the next new thing simply because it was new. She understood that something that was stylish 75 years ago is still stylish today.

A Chanel suit is a case in point. Anyone with a vintage Chanel suit can wear it today and still be chic and stylish. Modern? I don’t know. So often, fashion editors fall all over themselves praising something trendy and of the moment.

It seems that everybody is wearing it—until the next season. Then, those same fashion editors laugh at how ugly it was and tell us to get rid of it and buy another style that has just come out. The new trend, they tell us, will really be perfect for everyone because it’s so modern. This is until the following season, when the same thing happens all over again.

Of course, if the magazines didn’t show something new, if the designers didn’t come out with a new collection each season, no one would buy anything. Women must be shown new things and told everything in their closets is suddenly out of date. I understand this, but I also think women should think for themselves. A beloved patterned skirt that was bought a few years ago should not be thrown out or relegated to the back of the closet simply because a designer has decided that “solid colors are now modern.”

Even the fashion editors can’t make up their minds and want it both ways. Recently I read an article about a new collection that seemed to be glorious simply because it was so modern. A few pages later I read about another designer whose collection was so charmingly “retro.” And what fun it was going to be seeing women wearing styles from the 1960s.

Let’s start thinking for ourselves. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s desirable, and something that dates back years can still look refreshing, chic, and stylish.

Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan, Miriam Silverberg Associates. She may be reached at silverbergm@mindspring.com.