Not long ago, I took in a long-ago recorded documentary some may recall, The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2 - The Metal Years. Apart from Chris Holmes' notoriously bleak, drunken turn before the camera, a great deal of this outing was devoted to poking fun at glam metal even while having a little bit of fun in the scene. The fashion is RIGHT out front, and is presented precisely as many of us saw it even at the time - pretty much ridiculous.
Let it be known, by 1988, I was dating a guy in a band (the eventual, inimitable Beloved Ex, in fact), and I had a few run-ins with spandex myself. The only lipstick in my repertoire for probably the entire stretch from 1985-1993 was a sturdy magenta that went with everything: black. On rare occasion, I will admit - I wore white minidresses and white spike heels. But mostly just black. I had a couple spiral perms, of varying burned-out 80s-osity. I had this great HAT. I wore that hat to my office job sometimes. I owned and took out of my closet more than one bolero, over the pink suede bustier I was able to afford because it had a broken snap. Indeed, I had several hats. I was remembered for one of them by a colleague of my dad's (I worked at his University on my college breaks) for decades.
Yeah, so I committed 80s fashions. I was NOT much for big hair; I never have been much for doing a lot of styling with my hair - but I just recognized how ugly it was. And damaging (though, again: spiral perms). I once got sneered at by a girl who wanted very much to scam on my husband, "I wish I could wear my hair FLAT like yours!" I brightly replied to her all the hairspray in our town seemed to have sold out after she hit the drugstore. *Shrug*
Over the top fashion does not have a way of ageing well. See also: the would-be Victorian polyester bridal fashions of the early 1970s - complete with giant floppy (matching pastel) hats. See also: 1960s Nehru jackets (the faddishness of which actually I think is a shame; men's tailoring in the West has been stagnated for nearly TWO HUNDRED years now - across three centuries, and a millennial divide!).
So, this morning, when I had nothing of this sort on my mind whatsoever, and I turned on a Grace Jones mix to accompany my work, it took a couple of hours before I began regarding her fashion extremity and remembering that other extremity, and comparing them.
Jones is iconic. She is still, also, unabashed in her presentation. It's something beyond fashion - her headdresses and makeup and her very hair are more than clothing, or style choices. She is living performance art. Confrontational and beautiful, powerful, visually stunning, dazzling.
Why is it Grace Jones' headdresses and cutout appliques to her face, her stripped-down gorgeousness and her sumptuous, presentational costumes have not become ridiculous, like the extensive array of hair and makeup and pleather donnings of the kids and performers of Western Civ?
Even the other two Decline documentaries, both of them focused on punk rock in different ways, feature looks which still are dominant today, in certain subcultures, and even on runways. My old punk brother and I sometimes get a grin realizing kids are still rocking mohawks like they're new and shocking. To us, it's actually adorable. "Aww. You're rocking your granddaddy's rebellion. You're EDGY!"
Punk has influenced fashion since the 1970s, but its widest evolved callback is probably the many Goth looks still prominent in subcultural scenes and on runways.
Grace, of course, is entirely her own. Even when she's not "trying" to be visually arresting - all but nude, or wearing a suit - her art pared to nothing - she is visually arresting. There's no such thing as minimalism with her, because anything she dons is automatically endowed with Grace.
And Grace does not go out of style. Which is rather astonishing. She's either enclosed or encompassing - either way, she bears fashion well outside of fashion itself.
As I have maintained since high school, and she embodies: there is a difference between fashion and style. (And I'd rather have the latter.) Or, as my punk-turned-old-dude of a bro once gleefully laughed about my saying, "Nerdliness is next to youthfulness." Perhaps agelessness.
My theory: the glam fashion was adhered to its connection with youth. Five years on - never mind all these decades down the road since then - if it survived at all, it was not prettily. Some things have very short half lives. Because Grace goes outside concerns like that, she survives, her outrageousness doesn't pall, because she's not acting like a fifteen-year-old. Sixty-eight years of age and OWNING that sh*t, it's not like she's rocking Baby Jane's pinafore and curls. What she started with wasn't anchored to its age. And so she gets to keep her own age, now. And keep the style she brung with her.