What goes around

Photographs by Ashley Fraser

… comes around. Just as we make over ourselves and our homes, fashion designers regularly remake the decades on runways

Our model, Koston Kreme, is founder of Capital Tease, a burlesque troupe in the city. The consumm ate performer took us through the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s for this fashion shoot. “I like the ’70s sleaze,” Koston laughs. “It was a decadent decade.” Plunging cowl-necked dress, $110, bracelet, $18, and earrings, $18, Le Château.

Henry David Thoreau got it right the first time.

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions,” the bearded 19th-century author once observed, “but follows religiously the new.”

And ironically enough, that goes double when the old trends — high-waisted pants, ’60s mod frocks and (oh no, not again) frizzy permanents  — come back into style.

From Paris to New York and Milan to Toronto, designers are turning back time for inspiration this spring. Tory Burch was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (a remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio is now being filmed in Australia) when she came out with silk and chiffon dropped-waist shift dresses, Peter Pan collars, kitten heels and wide pants in floaty prints.
Miuccia Prada presented updated ’50s and ’60s silhouettes, slingbacks and windswept beehive up-dos. And nostalgia spoke in Dolce and Gabbana’s big, bright print dresses and sun suits with thigh-high boy cut legs, gathered bottoms and sweetheart necklines.

“I love the ‘50s stuff,” says Koston of the Marilyn Monroe-inspired ruched Le Château dress, $139.95. “It’s very comfortable for me.” Necklace, $18, bracelet, $22 and shoes, $89.95, Le Château.

It’s a recurring trend that street-level fashion houses are embracing as well. At Forever 21, Twiggy and flower children still rule. Boyish micro mini-dresses reminiscent of the Mods’ fascination with Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, long maxi skirts layered with sweaters over shirts and high-necked, ruffle-collared blouses are everywhere.

That retro fashion is taking the front seat is no surprise, says Marlene Robillard, Le Château’s national director of public relations and communications. “Fashion is quite cyclical and what worked back then worked for a reason. Certain prints, styles and fabrics were loved then and there’s no reason why someone wouldn’t love them today.”

“People don’t wear enough dresses these days,” says Koston, hamming it up for the camera in a Forever 21 chiffon ‘50s-inspired frock, $29.80. Earrings, $8.80, and belt, $5.80, from Forever 21. Shoes from Le Château, $89.95

And that’s exactly what Le Château’s in-house design team thought when they approached this season’s collection. Pulling images from its archives dating back to when the company launched in 1959, they also sourced bolts of vintage fabric and even antique wallpaper for inspiration. The result is an old-is-new mishmash of styles from the ’50s to the ’80s that takes the best of those eras and leaves the rest. The collection features everything from a deeply plunging cowl-necked disco mini that screams iconic Halston in the ’70s to softly muted — but deadly sexy — Marilyn Monroe dresses.

“Authentic,” says Koston of this ’70s frock based on vintage wallpaper patterns, Dress, $110, Le Château. Earrings, $5.60 for six, Forever 21. Aloe vera and vitamin E rich “Harmony” lipstick, $15, and Eye Shadow Trio compact, $15, from Quo Cosmetics/Shoppers Drug Mart

Certainly, those were a favourite with our model and Capital Tease burlesque troupe co-founder, Koston Kreme, who was transformed from a Mad Men babe to a ’60s mod and a ’70s disco diva for our shoot. No stranger to rocking the retro look with her massive pin curls, bright red lips and sassy tassels on stage, Koston (the only name she goes by publicly) loves the softly feminine lines of the ’50s, but says that regardless of the era, the new retro focus “is not about being in the most up-to-date look. It’s about taking the past and making that new again.”

And as a neo-burlesque dancer in the mould of Dita Von Teese, that’s exactly what her act is all about. After the maudlin slide of true American burlesque into strip club tawdriness in the ’70s, neo-burlesque has emerged in the past few years as a fun anecdote to peeler bars. First attracted to the art form and feminine ’50s couture, Koston got her start at a friend’s 2007 show when she nervously stepped on stage in a corset and a hula hoop.

“The mod style of the ‘60s is a bit more boyish, more playful,” observes Koston, in skinny jeans with a sequined waistband, $33, and box cardigan, $21.80, from Forever 21. “It’s androgynous and yet feminine.” Hat, $19.95, from Le Château

These days, she travels across the province to perform when not doing twice monthly shows in Ottawa venues such as Mavericks on Rideau Street. And although it’s hard to imagine Koston as bashful, she admits burlesque helped her overcome shyness while immersing her in her favourite era. “I love where the waistline is on ’50s dresses, the way they flatter a woman’s body. They’re pretty… and not everything today is pretty.”

Regardless of the style and era that appeals, adds Le Château’s Robillard, wearing retro means one thing: make it your own.

“You can kind of take it where you want to go. Be true to the era or keep the accessories super modern. Someone in their 20s would wear a dress differently from someone in their 40s. It’s really up to the wearer,” she says, “and what inspires them.”







Quo Spring and Quo by ORLY makeup supplied by Quo Cosmetics. Available at Shoppers Drug Mart. Hair and makeup by Koston Kreme. Fashions supplied by Le Château and Forever 21.

Connect with Julie Beun |life@ottawacitizen.com