From the Summer of Love to the Summer of Discontent (and Hopefully Back Again)
By Magda Pescariu
Of all the highly unlikely events I had to make my peace with in the last decade, when they happened with a perseverance worthy of a better cause, getting older was the trickiest one. The realization that time hasn’t evaded me either (go figure) sank in by increments, following Hemingway’s famous law of motion – gradually and then suddenly. Of course I’ve noticed that my friends were aging, that their kids jumped from toddlerhood to junior high in what seemed like a fortnight, and that history itself came and went with a myriad of facets and countless follies like so many other fads, but in my heart I wasn’t feeling a day over 35.
Until one day, when my own darling sister told me with a surprised giggle, ‘My God, I saw you coming up across the concert hall and for a few seconds I thought you were Mom; you look like her so much’. That kinda sealed it for me decisively, far more than officially turning 50. Since then, using humor as a key prop, I sought balance between the aggrievances and perks that come with the endearing territory of maturity and tried not to look back. I have to say, for the most part, it works like a charm.
Then there are times, however, or happenings, or just random pieces of information I come across, that give me a sudden ping of nostalgia for all the forfeited possibilities and the great options poorly explored; for all the shoulda, coulda, woulda that didn’t materialize; for the amazing beginnings that amounted to zilch; or simply for the beauty and truth and gentleness of a time bygone. A case in point was my research for this article. While shuffling through the runway reports on 2017 Summer Collections and weighing in a zillion photos of gorgeous bodies in sensual swimwear stirring hormones all over the world, two things came up as self-evident, both equally touching and hope-giving.
First, it was the realization that this summer is kindhearted as much as it is good-humored. The 2017 swimwear style is, for lack of a better word, merciful. Young or not-so, athletic or couch potato, blissfully slim or savory plump, pale or tannish, shy or audacious – one of this summer’s swimwear styles will fit you flawlessly, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that its designer sketched it having only you in mind. Everything about the seasonal trends is accepting and relaxed, yet without letting femininity and romance out of sight. It seems indeed that this summer is a summer of love.
The one-piece swimming suit is a fashion staple, revitalized by plunging décolletages or cut-out strappy sides. And when I say ‘plunging’, I mean wondering how low it can go, from nearing the waist to a wee way below the navel. To enhance the plummeting effect, designers worked on the leg cut – the higher the leg cut, the more on the trend – and added some sassy neck elongating collars.
Halter tops are en vogue as well, risqué and revealing, paired with low-rise bottoms, hipster or string. A lot of this summer’s swimwear is crocheted with a bohemian twist, sporting swinging tassels in all sizes and colors. The tassel-accent may be quite impractical (think crazy tan lines), but it’s lively and funny, and it gives our beach attire the final touch of pizzazz. To complete the vintage look, crocheted swimsuits may have high-waisted bikinis and come in old-fashioned colors.
Surfers’ rash guards carry on from last year’s summer season with timely enlivening given by crop tops, peekaboo panels, or sheer well-placed cutouts. Straps are incorporated everywhere – strappy bottoms, spaghettini ties on the side of one-pieces, intricate bandeau fastenings, or straps built-in mesh and lace bikinis.
This summer’s romanticism is unmistakable, as it reigns with frilly detailing on delicate lace swimwear, boosted furthermore by see-through sections, bare or off shoulders, thin chains, ruffles, and other sweet treatments. Of course there is the fairly significant question of how water-appropriate the lacy-lingerie swimsuits are in fact, but very few style-lovers, if any, appear to lose sleep over it.
In the same tender vein, good-old simple sarongs are not enough for cover-ups this season. Fashion designers went all the way creatively so we can choose from silk gauze layers, open-weave tops, sheer pants, long-sleeve shrugs, net kaftan robes, or filigree sleeveless dresses.
The biggest hits in texture are ribs, velvet, suede, burnout, jacquard, macramé, and silk, whereas berry tones are sovereign in colors, with blueberry and cranberry topping the list. Nonetheless, stark bridal white is the standout shade as well, counterpointing the other hues in a bold and vivid wedding color palette. Red-and-white or blue-and-white gingham patterns hold their own, particularly for the vintage-romantic swimwear, the one with retro grandma bikinis and ruffled tops.
Some of the swimwear key trends are found in this summer’s shoe styles as well. For instance, we get to wear laced up
sandals with sheer stockings or socks and all kinds of strappy footwear, from gladiator barefoot sandals to peep-toe thigh-high summer boots.
However, platforms are de rigueur all over, adding height and grace to any silhouette with no compromise on comfort. Each platform should have a story of its own, told in 70s inspired graphics, eccentric prints, leather or silk embellishments, metallic final touch, or in-your-face branding on the sides. And then there are the flatforms, platforms’ poor cousin, a style which I personally abhor, for it brings nothing to the table, except for chunky and sparkless height.
Thin stilettos are a welcome contrast to the lumpy heels, rounded or cubic, we may see on hot days, threatening our finesse while we sip our health conscientious cocktail by the pool. Kitten heels, sling-back shoes and athletic-look sandals complete the available fashion range for this summer.
The summer makeup is blissfully laid back, with nothing overdone. Only one feature gets the glory, while the rest stays under the radar. It’s either pale face with candy-colored lids and only blush on cheeks and lips or loud mouth on a bare face. Or you could try the cool-girl eyes, with party eye-liner suggestively smudged, something I’d call hangover makeup, going perfectly hand in hand with bedroom hair. Oh, dear, what a trip down memory lane…
Speaking of which, and getting back to my nostalgic reverie, the second thing I realized is that the Summer of Love turns 50 this year. It finally hit home that I, we, my generation have a half-century under our belt, with so much mixed experiences lived through and such frail wisdom earned in between.
From the 1967’s Summer of Love, with its ‘wear flowers in your hair’ memo, we’ve obviously moved on to far colder and more lucid ideas (or so we like to call them). Yeah, maybe at the beginning, in the ’70s and ’80s, we tried to bring about a renaissance of compassion, awareness and love, and we struggled with the revelation of unity and flower-power, but then things happened, greed and lust happened, every man for himself trumped no man is an island, and ‘be sure to wear flowers in your hair’ turned into ‘be sure to bring a valid credit card’ and ‘be sure it’s you before and above anyone else’.
Slowly but surely, the summer of love shifted and metamorphosed into less caring seasons. Last year crowned when people felt the estival season more like the summer of our discontent, wondering how we had gotten from love to abjection in only fifty years, and how was it possible to lose sight of truth to such an extent that we accepted and endorsed a post-truth reality. It may be that, willfully blinded by immediate interests and meager aspirations for our own fifteen minutes of glory, we got side-tracked and lost our compass in assessing good versus evil, intelligence versus industrious stupidity at work, uninvited poverty versus obscene opulence. We ended up burying the summer of love as ancient history.
So how come now it’s back? Does it mean we’ve finally changed and maybe even learned a lesson or two? Honestly, I don’t know. But I choose to trust Churchill’s wisdom when saying that we ‘will eventually arrive at the right solution – after trying everything else’.
It’s tough out there and for all of us – friends we commiserate with in real life and imaginary friends we argue with in social media’s abstract combats, trading concrete insults and inflicting virtual moral injuries. A reimagined summer of love may simmer us down, may clean the messy slate of bitterness, and reboot.
Luckily, any given summer does the trick for me – it sets me free, it gives me hope, it cheers me up to let my hair down (well, as much as my pixie cut allows). What can I tell you? Don’t be afraid to at least try – take a look around and savor this summer unreservedly, for it seems that some of the love we crave is making its way back to us, not a moment too soon. And if you can’t wear flowers in your hair (anymore), at least be sure to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s not only chivalrous, but it also pays off in the end. In a truthful reality, that is, or so I’m told.