Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Shout-Out to the 70's and 80's

Pantone released their Fall 2015 Fashion Color Report today. This is always an event of interest to designers - what colors will people be wearing, and what will appeal to them - and us - in the near future? According to Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman, this autumn's selection features "a truly unisex color palette." I'm loving the rich teal Biscay Bay and the vivid Amethyst Orchid. The other colors they've selected include both neutrals and brights which hearken back to shades fashionable from the 1920s through the 1970s.

All this brings me to the question: Have you ever been stuck at home because of illness or the weather and watched your way through a marathon of old TV shows? A couple channels in our cable lineup have recently begun running shows from the 70s and 80s - Mary Tyler Moore, Hart to Hart, and Magnum P.I., among others. I vaguely remember them from their first run, but since that was during the years of my childhood, I was far too young to appreciate them then. This time around, I've particularly enjoyed watching them from an adult's perspective. What surprises me is how well they hold up in the days of modern scripts and special effects.

The plots are mostly straightforward, and even the humorous characters are earnest. Modern audiences might see them as naive, but I found it refreshing. Take Jonathan and Jennifer Hart - a married couple who love each other, rather than fighting at every opportunity to give the audience a cheap laugh? Sweet! The writers didn't have the technology to rely on special effects and the censors wouldn't let them aim for shock value, so most episodes are story- and character-driven. Even the "tough" characters rarely swear, and the little they do is on the mild side by today's standards. Sarcasm is rare enough to be notable. And if all that adds up to being a little less than realistic, well, that's because it's fiction. It still has entertainment value. (One exception to the special effects comment: there seem to be a disproportionate number of scenes involving helicopters. Does Hollywood make helicopter shows anymore?)

The other thing that holds up surprisingly well are some of the clothes. Many of the outfits from the late 70s and early 80s are strikingly classic. The sleek turtlenecks and elegant gowns are the best - and it would take a lot to make a man look bad in a tuxedo, don't you think? So many of them would be wearable today - right in line with Pantone's color choices! I will admit that the hair can be hilarious at times, such as an episode in which our hero and heroine are trapped in a wind tunnel cranked to top power and atomic-strength hairspray keeps their styles nearly perfect all the way to the end of the episode.

Sadly, as much as the 70s styles turned out to be way better than I remembered, the mid 80s didn't hold up nearly as well. Pastel floral prints! Puffy sleeves! Matronly hair! Awesome! (Not.) It left me wondering whether the costume designers secretly hated the actors and wanted to make them look like they'd escaped from a cotton candy factory. At least the 80s eventually left and we moved on to other styles.

Bottom line: fashions change. And sometimes that's a good thing.

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