Having recently caught the video for ‘Great DJ’ by The Ting Tings again on TV, two things hit home: 1) How sexy lead singer Katie White looks in her retro jersey dress and 2) How technically redundant the word ‘retro’ has become.
Of course all fashion is retro; everything we wear is influenced by what has gone before. That’s the point; we band the word around as a kind of generic reference to anything that’s old and hip, often without ever assigning a specific era. If it looks like something your mum and dad would have worn, well then it’s retro.
Take Katie White in the Great DJ video: her turquoise dress is a mini (invented in the 1960s), which was itself influenced by the flapper (1920s). The white contrast trim belongs to a sixties tennis dress, or from the 1964 ‘moon girl’ look, and the stretch jersey fabric originates from the 1920s when Coco Chanel took it from men’s underwear to women’s couture.
However Katie’s figure is voluptuous and modern, not waif-like sixties at all (or twenties for that matter). If the skirt was fuller, longer and the waist more nipped in she could be in the 1950s. This era, in a historical context at least, best suits Katie’s curvaceous build. Adding a wide belt, also very fifties. Though the heavy eye make-up and swept fringe hair is verging on disco, so that puts her squarely back in the late 1970s (possibly the most retrospective age in history).
And so Katie White emerges as a perfect example of someone mixing so-called retro styles and appropriating a look that she, as in her figure, lifestyle and personality, can bring together and call her own. This girl is far more interesting than retro; she’s eclectic.
© 2009 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.