This rocky decade of war, terrorism, global warming and economic catastrophe is at last drawing to a close. Such things aren't normally considered to have a profound effect on fashion, but fashion, like any art form, tends to reflect the period in which it is created. So the nutty amalgamation of attire that floated in and out the past 10 years is a reflection of the decade that was just as much as any news of the day.
Military conflict was said to have fueled the interest in buckles, boots, belts, epaulets and fitted jackets. Our growing concern over the environment spurred more eco-friendly fabrics and an interest in futuristic design aesthetics.
Is it a coincidence that designers and consumers sought comfort in post-World War II-inspired fashions and collections based on the clothing of the Great Depression era?
Thanks to the "Project Runway" era and an active stream of DIYers setting up home boutiques on the homemade shopping mall Etsy.com, consumers no longer had a take-it-or-leave-it relationship with cookie-cutter fashions.
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This forced designers to adjust and work harder to make their products special.
And so we've enjoyed the rise of cheap chic.
Fashion drifted into a new era in which the social stratas were leveled. For the first time, scores of high-end designers were clamoring to dress the masses, not just the celebrities and the socialites. We became the target customers of Vera Wang, Roberto Cavalli, Jimmy Choo, Norma Kamali, Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta and Comme des Garcons thanks to special collaborations with mass market retailers such as Kohl's, Target, Walmart, Dillard's and JC Penney.
Let's start this recap of the decade's fashions with the most infamous fashion item of the decade:
Crocs — I've run out of words to malign this particular piece of footwear most notable for being dishwasher safe. Instead, I would like to quote Greg Beato, who writes about pop culture in Las Vegas. In an article called "Crocs on the Rocks," he wrote "Battered by 9/11, frazzled by anthrax scares and Code Orange alerts, America wanted a shoe that provided more than just arch support. America wanted a shoe that nurtured it, cradled it, made it feel warm and safe and loved."
Flyaway dress — Known by many names, this unstructured sack of a dress (reminiscent of baby doll frocks) was flouncing down runways and supermarket aisles for the middle part of the decade. And maybe it was an homage to Catholic school girl modesty that also ushered in a period of wearing pants under dresses.
Poncho — I've tried to forget, but we all remember Martha Stewart's infamous prison poncho and the mini-craze that ensued.
Gladiator shoe — The Greco-Roman footwear came back with a vengeance, and it was more fierce than ever with studs and buckles and towering 5-inch heels.
Sexed-up Velour tracksuits — Suburban moms united and adopted a uniform of comfort that still made them feel like a woman. I blame Madonna for making this look cool.
Shapewear — We ditched the mainstream corsets long ago, but thanks to form-fitting clothes and a nation that's steadily gaining girth, shapewear that trimmed the waist, hips and thighs and butts of men and women were among the most successful clothing introductions of the decade. Thanks, Spanx.
Oversize purses — Handbags exploded into the most glorious, ridiculously elaborate contraptions designed for everyday wear. Chiropractors suddenly had more patients.
Ugg boots — Some Hollywood stylist thought it was a good idea to pair these cold-weather genuine sheepskin booties with a miniskirt, and a disturbing inconsistency was born.
Trucker hats — This flash was all to do with Ashton Kutcher, and we're glad it's a footnote.
Graphic tees — For some reason, a men's T-shirt designer thought it was really hip to see how many symbols they could put onto one shirt. Crosses, skulls, thorns, roses, eagles and words like, "love kills" were really popular. We have another word, "overkill." Sorry, Ed Hardy.
Belts-a-rama — Wide, skinny, medium waist jewelry layered over button-down shirts, jackets, coats and sweaters. Michelle Obama has become the poster girl for this look.
Shootie — Our love of high-heeled shoes and our love of boots are at last married into a single footwear item. The shoe boot now exists in many glorious incarnations, including open-toed, caged and buckled. The spectacle of the shootie with a cocktail dress or a flirty skirt is a thing of beauty.
Skinny jean — We've seen slim fitting pants before, but the new skinny jean was notable for the extra long inseam, the better for scrunching at the ankle. It was also best when skin tight and designed with the narrowest of holes at the ankle. It didn't seem to matter that it took 10 minutes to get the darn things on.
Jeggings — This is a combination of jeans and leggings. They are glorified tights that have fake seams and pockets drawn onto them so that there is actually less material between you and the world. We can only guess that they came about because skinny jeans just weren't skinny enough.
Black nails — Always a staple of the goth crowd. Black, or nearly black, nails became a staple for trendy cocktail looks that continues today in shades of red, blue, green and purple.
Untucked dress shirts — We blame this on the men of "Friends" who gained weight and no longer looked so youthful and cute with a tucked-in shirt. Yes, I'm talking to you, Joey and Chandler. It gave men of all ages license to untuck, so menswear designers had to adapt and create shirts that were more fitted and shorter so that they looked good untucked.
Thick-rimmed eyewear — It's chic to look geeky.
Chandelier earrings — It was a classic look of elegance that started the trend of bringing evening wear items into daytime apparel.