In March, 1979, the Weekly launched its first Style page with a profile of designer Mary Kay Stoltz, photographed by Matthew Rolston (he had to start somewhere). For the next 13 years, led by Vreelandesque visionaries Joie Davidow and later Gloria Ohland (a.k.a. Gloria O.), the Weekly chronicled everything from the rise and fall of Melrose Avenue, to trends and fads (loft living, roller skating, essential oils), to the business of fashion. We championed (mostly) local designers, but also looked to Europe and Asia, while rockers Axl Rose, Donita Sparks,
Inger Lorre, Courtney Love, Michael Des Barres; actors Winona Ryder and Juan Fernandez; and impresario Mario Tamayo all struck a pose, and helped us show off Style.
From “L.A. Fashion ’79,” August 24, 1979
Fashion used to be a dead issue in L.A. We were too far from Paris to care what they were doing, and had left New York so we could stop worrying about looking chic . . . But times have changed. Women’s Wear Daily frequently devotes entire issues to California design. Many California designers are selling heavily to New York. The fashion establishment is quickly realizing that American design can no longer be exclusively defined by the New York collections. L.A. has created its own fashion aesthetic, and the rest of the world is buying it.
The many designers living and working in L.A. are producing distinctly individual fashions, but they share some things in common.
They are influenced by our climate, which lets us wear clothes for fun more than protection . . . They are influenced by the Orient. L.A.’s Far Eastern cultural heritage is rich and inescapable — Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese. This shows up in the calligraphic hand-painting on T-shirts and jackets. It shows up in the Japanese trinkets and plastic toys that have become the new costume jewelry. It shows up everywhere. In fact, many of the best young L.A. designers are Oriental.
They are influenced by the rock culture. We are, after all, living in the record-industry center of the world . . The New Wave rock music of the ’80s is happening in L.A., and it is reflected in a new fashion aesthetic all its own. . . . The L.A. New Wave look borrows from Hollywood — Spandex, sequins, Day-glo colors . . .These clothes are a rejection of elegance — torn T-shirts, safety-pin necklaces. But they are an affirmation that getting dressed is a fun, un-boring form of artistic self-expression. By dressing in a highly artificial manner, these people are making a strong statement. It’s hard to ignore a guy with slicked-back fuchsia hair, black spandex pants, printed shirt, wing-tipped sunglasses and earrings . . .
California fashion is blowing across the country like a fresh breeze. It succeeds where the stiff shoulders and peplum waists of this year’s haute couture fail, and the fashion industry is coming to realize that it sells.
FROM STYLE, July 11, 1980
It was one of those occasions that make me love L.A. The Beverly Hills beauties and the near beauties and the former beauties had gathered at Orsini’s, their blond hair expensively coiffed, their sculptured nails unchipped. Looks that only money can buy. Electronic Satie provided the perfect background music for the velvet couches, the imported wallpaper, the caviar canapes . . . Richard Tyler, the once-renegade fashion spirit, was doing a fashion show benefit for a chic charity — having risen from the L.A. avant-garde to design costumes for Allan Carr’s film Can’t Stop the Music . . . and now this. Tyler still has some of the best crazy ideas around, and the show was glorious fun — lots of great models, terrific choreography.
Big Boy Medlin, writer, March 14, 1980
When asked to explain his fashion philosophy, Big told us, “I’ve always believed that if you get dressed to go out for dinner, you should spend more for the meal than you did for the clothes.” He optimistically predicts that “in the ’80s, the mature abdominal region will be a mark of beauty in the male of the species.”
From “The Rise of Melrose,” December 26, 1980
Melrose Avenue has gotten so tony and trendy, it’s starting to rival Beverly Hills. Mitsu Sato, co-owner of the Platoon Hair Salon, and Patrick Terrail of Ma Maison have even put together the Melrose Avenue Association, with a membership of more than 60 businesses and plans to launch a magazine called (are you ready for this?) West Hollywood.
From New Latino, November 27, 1981
Say you read it first in the L.A. Weekly. We have it on good authority that the next big fashion fad will be Latino-inspired . . . The pirates and poets have already begun to dance off into the wings, and it’s not impossible to imagine that Carmen Miranda and her zoot-suited admirers will dance in right on cue.
From “Color Crazy,” July 9, 1982
A little more than a year ago, I wrote what has turned out to be the most popular story ever to appear on an L.A. Weekly style page. It was a description of my experience with “having my colors done,” having an expert determine which colors best complement the ones with which I was born. . . . The reaction to this story amazed me. Strangers at parties still launch an immediate attack of color questions the minute we’re introduced. Readers still call the L.A. Weekly to ask for information on getting their colors done.
From “The Making of a Cowpunk,” April 4, 1986
It’s a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll, a Miss-Kitty-dumps-Matt-Dillon-to-join-the-Sex-Pistols kind of look . . . The “cowpunk” look, as it’s been dubbed, is rooted in such peripheral bands as Screamin’ Sirens and Blood on the Saddle . . . whose sound, too, is a classic case of blendo-ism. But before you dismiss this all as just another terminal undergound trend, wake up. Its fans are growing in numbers, and on any given day can be found perusing the pickings at Neiman-Marcus in Beverly Hills, or tripping through the tony boutiques on Rodeo Drive.
From “Bad Love,” April 10, 1987
“I’m a bad girl. I’m never gonna be a good-girl actress.” That’s Courtney Love doing the talking, co-star of the new too-cool-for-words Alex Cox film, Straight to Hell . . . And what does Courtney see coming up in the future? More films — films that show “the total experience of being a woman, that show people who are lonely and outcast. I couldn’t be Cinderella. I’m always the wicked witch. It’s not that I think the world is bad. It’s just that nobody talks about the bad as much as they should.”
From “Fashionation,” July 17, 1987
Blame it on Madonna: “Underwear as outerwear” is this year’s fashion story. What was formerly considered “intimate wear” — bustiers and camisoles, petticoats and pettipants — is being worn out . . .
From “The Re-Beat Generation,”
June 2, 1989
How does the post-punk-reactionary-neoconservative-noncommittal-tabloid-taught culture define itself? Not very readily. Abandoning faddish fashion contrivances and slowly relaxing into a low-maintenance, understated style, we’ve eased into “hip.” In the great tradition of the Beat Generation, the nature of hip remains so subtle as to elude description. It just is. Drawing upon the cool sophistication of earlier hipsters — sans the angst, politics and road trips — you’ll find the Re-Beat Generation speaking sotto voce on de Beauvoir and Bukowski in smoke-filled coffee bars like the Sequel on Vermont, Gasoline Alley on Melrose and the Pikme-Up on Sixth . . . Re-Beats may offer a hint of something new. When the smoke clears, we’ll know if they’re breaking new ground or just coffee cups.
—Alison Dickey and Deirdre Dube
From “Great Bodily Charm,” June 23, 1989
As the old order continues to break down and “highbrow” art and fashion become increasingly self-referential and unsatisfying, there’s been a revival of the primitive arts of body modification, such as piercing, scarification and, especially, tattooing. More and more people are seeking permanent stigmata to identify themselves as existing outside society — a mark of the beast that will serve as an antidote in a workaday world that seeks to claim our very spirits, a talisman that will confer power and identity.
From “Frieze Frame,” September 1, 1989
Vogueing combines the sharp, highly stylized runway moves and photo poses of haute couture with fierce attitude and cool clothes; it’s ritualized posturing set to a beat . . . [a] recent New York trend possibly evolving out of the Harlem drag balls that have taken place since the ’60s . . . Voguers, L.A.-style, share the New York tendency to congregate as “houses” — a group who “show” together, and often with a “mother” or “father,” the group leader of sorts . . . Competitions for the all-dressed-up-and-ready-to-strut-and-show are becoming more common in L.A. . . . There was a time when it was an insult to be called a “poseur,” but vogueing turns posing into public entertainment. And anyway, in a city already narcissistically obsessed with image, how different is vogueing from what we do daily?
From “The African-American Aesthetic,” December 15, 1989
I wanted something to wear that reflected my state of being, that had cultural relevancy. And with fashion’s current preoccupation with retro — in particular the psychedelic soul ’60s, when political consciousness awakened — I got it. A revolution of images is taking Afro-centric Amerika by storm with, as its No. 1 slogan, “It’s a black thang . . . You wouldn’t understand” . . . Where can you get the goods in mighty L.A., the first Third World city in the nation? The mystical Crenshaw District is waiting for those hard-earned dollars, and in many black neighborhoods, any corner grocery sells Africa medallions and Malcolm X T-shirts . . . Take a stand and dress up.
From “Remnants of the Social
Fabric,” December 6, 1991
It’s a widely shared assumption that style is a frivolous topic, as illustrated in breathless fashion copy describing this or that designer’s latest whimsical/outrageous/sophisticated collection. Style means nothing more than expressing our interpretations of ourselves to the world through outward appearance (clothes, car, home décor), and either you’ve got it or you don’t, and enough said — or so goes the prevailing attitude. I’d argue that style is as much a cultural indicator as art, literature, pop music, film and politics; it both reveals and reflects us as a society and as individuals. The idea of style takes on profound meaning when certain kinds of baseball caps acquire a status so potent that people will kill for them. “Dressed to kill” — or be killed — has new implications.