FASHION FADS & FANTASIES: THREE DECADES OF OUTRAGEOUS DRESSING
Written and illustrated by Lorraine Geiger
What happens when you mix a T-shirt dress with red cowboy boots? According to Lorraine Geiger, “This one goes against all rules of dress ever before considered.” However, she concedes, when one is young (or young at heart), “anything works.”
This is the approach the painter and fashion designer takes in “Fashion Fads & Fantasies,” a decade-by-decade visual journey of more than 250 of the most fascinating outfits she observed on her travels from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Lorraine married her husband, Albert Geiger, in the 1940s. Albert was a clothing designer and milliner, and Lorraine was a publicist, artist and designer. Their combined skills took the two from New York to London to Paris through the 1970s, the first and most robust section of the book. These pages come alive with the disco era’s bright colors, flashy designs and sheer fabrics. However, attention is also given to the popularity of thrifted and military-inspired looks. Lorraine says these styles reflected the continuation of hippie culture, the recession economy and the nation’s first widespread exposure to violent imagery through live televised news.
The 1980s section is ruled by volume, texture and fur, but in more somber color schemes: think puffy quilted coats, synthetic fabrics and the “bag lady” look. Lorraine considers this decade one of gains and losses: “The length of skirts went up, and up, and down too.” She explains that while this decade gave birth to a number of music genres and corresponding fashions, including hip-hop, goth and rave cultures, the 1980s were overall rather conservative for fashion. “The job market was demanding and competitive, thus the return of serious dressing.” Lorraine also provides insight into the the influence of Japanese designers during this period.
Big city fashions aren’t all there is to see in this book. The athletic-inspired and punk looks popular on the streets of Chapel Hill and Carrboro in the ’90s might be a familiar trip down memory lane for some – especially the depictions of Weaver Street Market employees in their signature aprons and UNC students walking on Franklin Street in dancewear. (The couple retired from fashion in the 1980s and spent some time in East Hampton before moving to Chapel Hill in 1993. She continued painting in Carrboro until her death in 2006.)
In addition to her roles as artist, wife and mother, Lorraine was an advocate for social issues and especially for other artists. Her insightful commentary on these years of cultural change is what makes “Fashion Fads & Fantasies” such a treasure.
Below are images that Lorraine sketched in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Her notes are included above the corresponding sketch.
Franklin Street 1992
UNC Fall 1993
“Oversized and droopy is one of the fashion trends for ‘93. Topping it, in this case, is the extreme in hats, popular with University of North Carolina and younger students. This high school student in his Doc Martins sports a very relaxed top hat made of black and white satin- just one of the many wild variations.”
Student, UNC Campus Winter 1994
THE ART OF DRESSING
“Art student making a statement with a very collegiate outfit, which is in sharp contrast to classmates who appears in a variety of “laid-back” minimalistic garb, or “classic grunge”.”
Franklin Street 2001
THE GOLDEN TOUCH
“Mr. Wright, born in 1917-his everyday routine is dressing in one of his 28 suits, 18 pairs of shoes, and 20 hats, to board the bus to Franklin St. in Chapel Hill where he puts himself on display, and where he gets the most welcome attention. His wardrobe comes from Greater Looks in Hillsborough.”