Decade Style Forgot Trying Glen Burnie

COMMENT

February 07, 1993|By ELISE ARMACOST

Oh, God, it's true. Bell-bottoms are coming back.

Much to the amazement of those of us who remember wearing them the first time around, we seem to be on the cusp of a 1970s revival that brings us the return of the lovely platform shoe, the crocheted vest and that timeless classic, the Greg Brady striped and zippered shirt.

I know. They say everything comes back sooner or later.

But the 1970s? The era of leisure suits, Quiana and Earth Shoes? If any fashion era deserved to be buried once and for all time, wouldn't you think this would have been it?

And yet here it is, back again, looking just as horrendous as ever.

The first I heard of this retro trend I was flipping channels and caught a fashion show on cable where all the models looked like they walked out of my high school yearbook. Here were Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta -- men who should know better -- telling me the 1970s were the "inspiration" behind their spring collections.

Next, I noticed the late-hippie look, more sloppy than psychedelic, showing up in the fashion glossies at the supermarket checkout. Then, last week, The Sun's very own features section heralded the return of crocheted and macramed accessories, calling them "light and airy for spring."

"It took a generation that embraces ratty hair, tattoos and combat boots to see the hidden charm in 1970s castoffs," our reporter wrote.

Disbelieving that there are enough tattooed, combat-boot loving people around to make this revival worthwhile, I decided to check out the local retail front for signs of the Seventies. Paulina may be wearing macrame, but it'll never play in Peoria, much less in Glen Burnie.

I was wrong.

The Seventies look is indeed back, except now it's called "Grunge," a word which fittingly describes the style, I must say. ,, According to a poster in the window of the Merry-Go-Round at Marley Station mall, Grunge is "the idea of looking like you don't really care," an ambition the four young models in the picture certainly fulfilled.

"It's the surfer pseudo-homeless look," explained the Merry-Go-Round's Mike Sullivan. "The high school kids here aren't really into it yet. Glen Burnie sticks to tight jeans and things that are out of style."

But in the Pacific Edge, apparently the Grunge capital of Glen Burnie, an enthusiastic 20-year-old salesclerk named Chad tells me the 1970s are hot with "12-year-old kids to kids in their 20s" (read: those who are too young to have worn the stuff in the first place).

He takes me to a rack of achingly familiar knit shirts, striped with little narrow bands of gray, yellow and aqua. There's also a rack of striped denim pants in colors like purple, olive and chartreuse.

"Retro Brady Bunch wear," he says. "If Mike Brady shopped, this would be his favorite store."

The bell-bottoms haven't hit yet, but they're coming, Chad assures me, "and when they do, this will be the place to buy them." Hiphuggers, just like the ones Goldie Hawn used to wear.

I ask Chad what he thinks of that striped shirt he's holding. "I like it," he says. "But it's not my particular style. I'm more of a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy."

I ask some salesclerks of various ages in other stores what they think of the retro 1970s clothes they're selling. Here's what they said:

"I like it. But it's not something a normal person could walk in and pick up. It's, like, more of a way of life."

"I'm not wearing it. It's just ugly. I just can't stand it, probably because I used to make fun of my mother wearing them."

"I didn't like it back then, so I'm not too thrilled."

Over in the shoe department, a young saleswoman picks up a hot pink platform pump (it also comes in neon orange and lavender) and wrinkles her nose. "Minnie Mouse shoes," she says. "The man who runs the department said he'd like to put them in the back so we don't scare the customers."

The Seventies are back, all right. But I'm betting they won't play in Glen Burnie, after all.

Elise Armacost is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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