In early summer last year I found myself in Newark-on-Trent watching an English Civil War battle re-enactment. Afterwards I interviewed several of the participants. They enthusiastically spoke about their life as re-enactors, their interests and motivations and what it is like to take part in a staged battle. Clothes came up in every conversation: what garments they were wearing, what they meant to them, if they had made them themselves or where they had bought them, how much they had cost and how comfortable—or rather uncomfortable—they were and how their clothes transported them back in time. I was reminded of these conversations when reading Heike Jenss’ book on ‘sixties stylers’ in Germany. Sixties stylers are people who collect and wear clothes made in the 1960s, often supplementing what they find on flea markets and in second-hand clothing stores with home-made fashion items based on period patterns and styles. Jenss interprets these practices as a work of memory that ‘bridges past and present’ (p. 1).
Given Jenss’s background in fashion studies and anthropology, she is not so much interested in how retro fashion developed historically (although she has something to say on that too), than in fashion practices today: why and how old clothes come into fashion again and what they mean to the people collecting and wearing them. To this end, she has interviewed a number of German sixties stylers since …
The review will appear in the next issue of German History. For the full text go to http://gh.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/06/24/gerhis.ghw036.extract
Heike Jenss, Fashioning Memory: Vintage Style and Youth Culture, London: Bloomsbury. 2015.