Fashion photographs taken by famous Kansan Gordon Parks remind us that while fashion is cyclical, the sheer abundance of it today means we can find styles from practically any era.
Even though Parks shot most of his fashion photos in the 1940s and '50s, many of the gowns and accessories in those photos are part of today's trends.
A retrospective of Parks' art is on display at the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University through April 11. We thought it would be fun to try to replicate the fashions in some of his photos, an exercise that confirmed that you can get just about any look from the past you want.
That wasn't always the case.
Never miss a local story.
Fashion designers used to revive styles when they were inspired by looks from a previous decade. Perhaps it was the strong shoulder treatment of the '40s or shirt dresses reminiscent of the '50s or loose silhouettes and diaphanous fabrics from the '20s.
But fashion has a faster and farther reach today.
"In the last half of the 20th century, fashion sped up to such a frantic turnover that the demand for different designs did not allow for much innovation and it was necessary for desperate designers to research, rehash and revive the recent past," said David Wolfe, a New York fashion trend consultant for the Doneger Group.
These days, designers are reviving many decades in one season, and that holds true season after season, he said.
"It is possible to buy new items that look like virtually every decade from the '20s to 2000," Wolfe said.
He noted something else of interest: It used to be that people expected the fashion industry to innovate, surprise and even shock them with "the look" of a new season. Today, that expectation falls to the electronics industry, Wolfe said.
"The constant scientific innovation now provides what fashion design used to," he said.
So as you look longingly at the chic models in a Gordon Parks photo, rest assured you, too, can find a peplum, a billowing gown, even long gloves.
But to make a true fashion statement you'll have to pull the latest and greatest cell phone out of your handbag.
Reach Bonnie Bing at 316-268-6246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.