Judging by the breathless reaction to the Balenciaga show yesterday, the Next Big Thing will be dressing like C-3PO. We'd like to take this moment to point out that while Nicolas Ghesquiere's tailoring is unequaled (just because we can't afford Balenciaga doesn't mean we can't appreciate it), the "protocol droid" look is likely to end up on the same list as the other ridiculous fashion fads from this year's January-February
- Bermuda Shorts. Once the uniform of British soldiers stationed in (not surprisingly) Bermuda, the shorts were first appropriated by American tourists. Then fashion magazines got involved, and Bermuda shorts became the summer office wear of the 1950s -- tastefully paired with jacket and tie, of course.
- The Conical Bra. Movie producer Howard Hughes touched off a decade-long fashion fad in 1943 when he designed a state-of-the-art cantilevered bra for actress Jane Russell -- thus allowing women to stride confidently into the 1950s lifted, separated, and pointed toward the future.
- Leg Makeup. In 1941, the U.S. government banned sillk stockings. Why? After Japan cut off American's silk supply during World War II, it became apparent that parachute production outranked women's fashion needs. Fortunately, however, the gals on the home front were a crafty bunch. Women resorted to DIY hosiery, rubbing liquid foundation onto their legs to simulate the color of pantyhose, then using eyebrow pencil to draw a "seam" up the back.
- Neon Hypercolor Shirts. Hypercolor blinded America with science in 1991. Using a revolutionary dye process, the shirts overlaid a traditional neon dye with a special dye that became colorless when hot, exposing patches of bright color underneath. But Hypercolor often stopped working after a couple of washes, which helps explain why the company that owned it was bankrupt by 1993.
- Zoot Suits. Sometimes, youth rebellion requires just the right outfit. The zoot suit, popularized by African-American and Mexican-American teens during the late 1930s and early 1940s, didn't look like your average workday attire. It had broad shoulders, a tapered waist, and baggy pants that ended in neat, pegged cuffs. All that tailoring (and all that fabric) made the ensemble a kind of defiant luxury item -- a sign that the wearer wasn't affected by Depression-era poverty, World War II fabric rationing, or disapproving looks from Mom.
By the way, here's proof that all fallen fads eventually rise again: Hypercolor manufacturer Generra is currently having a comeback, and the originals appear to be doing well on eBay. (Star Wars, of course, never went out of style.)