Sunday, March 23, 2008

Decades of Decadence

Today was one of those rare days where you feel like you have all the time in the world and not much to do. I did most of my errands on Friday and Saturday, so today I was just reading and watching some TV with the pets.

I'm finishing up Antonia Fraser's auto-biography of Marie Antoinette. It's a great book with tons of information. Fraser is a writer who can give you the facts but keep you engaged through the human elements.

Then tonight we were watching the latest episode in the HBO John Adams miniseries, which is also great. In this episode, Adams is in France looking for aid against the British. Adams takes his job there seriously, of course, but he encounters the decadent French Court.

You could tell that this society had reached the peak of excess with their manners and clothes and vicious wit and I was struck by how like the 1980's it felt.

This may have been top of mind because of I was watching some classic VH1 videos today, but I thought back to Bud Fox's (Charlie Sheen) paper money apartment in Wall Street after Daryl Hannah got her "interior design" hands on it. With the tubs of gelato, pasta maker and sushi maker it was the dream life. And the fashions were just as excessive as the lifestyle.

I'm not taking Cyndi Lauper or Madonna, who were dressing more for performance than for real life, I'm thinking about squeaky-clean "every girl" Debbie Gibson. In her video you can see the over-the-top fashions - from the bicycle pants to tulle skirts, from big hair and jewelry to the polka dot gloves.

Now I'm not saying that I wouldn't love one of those tulle skirts right about now. But what concerns me is how you could see in hindsight, the craziness at the "peak" and the ultimate correction that takes place in the society. in the 1700's it was a bloody revolution against the nobles and wasteful rich. It only took about 20 years for this to come about.

We are in a similar time period, being 20 years after the 80's peak. And there is an ever growing division between the rich and the poor. Celebrities and celebutants are acting as immature and wasteful and decadent. There are foreign wars and a discontent with our leaders. It will be curious how the next few years unfold. Fashion is a great predictor and reflection of the times. I wonder what it will be saying?

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