Mel goes to the mall

So, yes, I did go shopping. I actually went to one of the malls, which I very rarely do -- I get most of my clothes at discount places (TJ Maxx, Loehmanns, etc) or at Old Navy, none of which are in malls. In fact, I think the last time I was shopping in the mall was Dec 23, when my gf and I went to do some last-minute errands for the holidays. (Not exactly the best time to go to the mall.) So it was fun today to just browse around and explore the current state of mall fashion culture, which is not something I'm in touch with always.

I tried on a lot of things, but only bought one pair of black jeans marked down to $15. Not exactly what I was looking for (teaching clothes), but too good to pass up. I'll just have to go check out the stuff at TJ Maxx sometime as a reward for good behavior.

Along the way, I saw a lot of clothes I would have loved when I was about 14 or so. The 80s really are back now, with the worst bits of the 70s sprinkled in (pink polyester crocheted ponchos???). But I definitely remember the flounced/tiered mini-skirts and bright-colored tights, the pointy shoes. All these little layered and shredded t-shirts, so Flashdance. But I'm sure I'm not really reading the semiotics correctly. For instance: when I was in high school, if you wore a black belt covered with those pointy metal studs, it meant you listened to the Sex Pistols, you drank cough syrup to get high, and you pierced your own ears with safety pins. But I suspect the studded belts (which now come in baby pink! and powder blue! and pearl white!) mean something different today.

It's chastening to realise how much this makes me sound like an old fart. Whenever I see girls with an armful of black rubber bracelets, I want to sit them down and tell them how I vividly remember the first time I saw a picture of Madonna. I was sitting in the public library of my hometown, where I would avidly read all the fashion magazines, even though they were kept behind the desk and you had to ask the old drooly librarian guy for them (please, could I see the current Mademoiselle? or Seventeen?). They didn't keep the "guy" magazines behind the desk, except for the SI swimsuit issue. Anyway, I had a deeply ambivalent relationship to dominant culture even then, and I had very little money, so I preferred to read them for free where I could maintain my ironic proto-punk distance but still scoop up important tips about acne prevention and eyeliner application. Anyway, I think it was Mademoiselle, but maybe it was Glamour -- I don't remember which magazine any longer -- Madonna served as the model for a spread on denim, which she wore with her own signature look -- circa Lucky Star, so tons of jewelry, the rubber bracelets, lingerie, eyeliner, big hair. The text said something like "Model is up and coming NYC singer Madonna." I was blown away by the picture -- it made a huge impression, though I never tried to imitate her (except for some rubber bracelets and a bunch of rhinestones at one point). I'd love to see that magazine spread again, although I'm sure it's stronger in memory.

Sure, there were some elements in 80s style that were recycled -- shoulder pads from the 40s, the skinny ties & the zoot suit style some of the New Wave bands had -- the New Romantics/Adam Ant pirate look (!), of course -- plenty of fashion quotation happening then. But it seemed that some things were uniquely 80s: plastic (bracelets, earrings, shoes); neon (everything); the hair, the eyeshadow. I just wonder what 14-year-olds today will remember 22 years from now. I'm sure it's nothing I could see at the mall today with my nearly-middle-aged eyes.

But everything is so much more multifaceted now too. Pre-MTV, it was a lot harder to get your rockstar duds down at the mall. You had to order Doc Martens out of the back of Rolling Stone (at least if you lived in a smallish Midwestern town). I was really happy today to see a place called Torrid next to Hot Topic, which where all the young mallGoths get their stuff -- Torrid is basically the same but for sizes 12-24 -- they had three awesome looking big girls working in there, making life a lot better for a lot of adolescents than it used to be.

So, even though I didn't buy much, I had a good time.