The Fashion Lag on the Small Screen

Have you discovered the new Masterpiece series Indian Summers, broadcast on PBS? Set in India in the early 1930s, the show examines the rise of the Indian independence movement set against a backdrop of British privilege. If you like Indian textiles, it is treat.

One of the main characters, Cynthia, is a malevolent older woman who runs a club for the British in the Himalayan vacation town of Simla. Her main goal is to beat back any move toward Indian autonomy. Although many of her clothes are made from local textiles, they do not follow the styles of the thirties. In a wonderful slide show, costume designer Nic Ede tells why in a clear explanation of the fashion lag:

“Because [the actress Julie Walters] is playing a woman in her early 60s, we decided that the time that she felt most comfortable was about 1924, when she was in her early 50s, with the loose, low waistlines and the longer hems. I just wanted to make her look as though she had given up on fashion to a certain extent because she had found a period that suited her and stayed with it, which of course a lot of women in that period did, particularly older women. They stuck with that, with a period that suited them and they were probably at their happiest.”


You can see his use of a sari in the outfit above.

Ede makes it sound like the fashion lag is a thing of the past when he says that fixing on a certain style was what “a lot of women in that period did, particularly older women.”

But has really gone away? Do you know women who have “given up on fashion” because they have found a period that suits them?

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8 Responses to The Fashion Lag on the Small Screen

  1. JenO says:

    I am not seeing a ‘fashion lag’ in the post WW2 generations. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that most women 65 and under are still working, and therefore still exposed to current silhouettes and styles. I don’t think that mature women today are as isolated and marginalized as they might have been 50 or 75 years ago, so I don’t think they need to freeze frame in an earlier time period when they were most happy. I do see more self expression though in the choice of styles, silhouettes and textiles. I notice that this age group seems to be more free to wear global textiles or garments, and things that might be called ‘interesting’. Perhaps this comes from a lifetime of collecting and the ability to travel more after leaving a career or raising kids.

  2. Of course! I see it all the time. I’m probably one of them–I’ve worked really hard in the last few years to hone my style, to make and wear what suits me and feels good to wear on the daily, and I really make one or two skirt styles, one blouse style, one dress style (with stylistic variations for interest, but the basic shapes are the same–I rely a lot on prints for visual interest). I know I’m not the only one who does this! (Also: the fact that so many women are wearing riding boots with skinny jeans and tunics after a decade is fairly indicative, I think). I’m younger than the demographic I think you are speaking of, but I think it can happen to any of us (and isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion)

  3. Forty years ago I constantly saw older women wearing beautiful wool coats they had had in their closets since the 1960’s. (Perhaps they were finally back to their original, pre-babies weight!) And, in spite of the role-models on the Advanced Style blog, who dress as JenO says, I do not see many 60-and-over women in the “camisole plus two layers of tops plus leggings or skinny jeans” or the skin-tight dresses and skirts that young women wear on the streets and in the malls of California. My husband keeps saying that fashions haven’t really changed in decades — I attribute this to the anything-goes-with-anything aesthetic of sales oriented magazines like Lucky, which is copied by many “buy this” pages in other magazines: just an assemblage of things for sale. The era of “this year’s correct hemline” is long gone, perhaps ended by the option of trousers for women.

  4. eimear says:

    yup me too! I think I am finally wearing cuts that I am more comfortable with, and now I am sewing again, its easier to make them….. a friend posted on facebook how everyone was wearing bootcut jeans in milan now (and she was horrified and questioned does this mean they are back in ), as I was wearing slight bootcut jeans (cant do skinnies 2nd time round and didnt know that boot cut was really out) I knew for sure I had dropped out of following fashions………..the production of indian summer is gorgeous, julie waters is excellent

  5. Wendelah says:

    I watched the first episode of “Indian Summers” with my husband. It didn’t really grab us, not in the way that “The Jewel in the Crown” had back in the day, so we didn’t keep on going. The costumes and the overall look of the production were superb. The script on the other hand…was not to our liking.

    After watching “The Jewel in the Crown,” I remember I immediately went out and read all four novels by Paul Scott, and everything else I could get my hands on about Indian history.The novels were even better than the series. Both were stunning. I wonder if they ever came out on DVD. I’ll have to check the library.

    • Jewel in the Crown got the same reaction from me — I read and re-read them. (It’s embarrassing how much fiction is my entry into history…. although I’m sure my history classes didn’t cover Partition.) I gave a DVD of the series to a friend last Christmas, so I know they are available.

      • Sewer says:

        I admit to the same embarrassment. After watching “The Last Kingdom”, I’d like to find out more about the reign of King Alfred. But another thing I have to admit is that life and the Internet have destroyed my ability to concentrate. I used to be a voracious reader of books until around age 30. Having to plow through ungodly amounts of boring nonfictional material in grad school and at work contributed. I might start an Ian Kershaw book on Hitler 10 times, but end up re-watching the “Hitler’s Henchmen” series on cable.

        I disapprove of young people’s reading and writing habits, but I’m in no position to judge.

  6. RW says:

    I am 63. The outfit I remember most fondly is a pair of jeans and button-up smock top with 3/4 sleeves from the early 70’s (a hideous muddy brown mustard I duplicated in a coat sometime in the 90’s). In reading this post, I realize I have duplicated that outfit in spirit if not exactly with slim leg black jeans with an elastic waist and oversized tunics. At my age I have no interest in wearing anything else, and dread all appearances at funerals and weddings that make me deviate from it. I had never thought about why I wear this same style day in and day out. Makes sense.

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