You have probably wondered what became of the designers who brought us such items as day-glo crop tops, sequined tennies and leisure suits. You may believe these people have long since surrendered their drawing boards and moved to places like Bakersfield.
But, you are wrong. Our theory is that they have turned their talents to creating holiday apparel.
While we are powerless to stop this phenomenon, we can at least alert you to its nuances, in the hope that you may pass on a warning to those close to you.
For this is the stuff of impulse (or possibly revenge) buying, that at its most blatant can lead to grim-faced family members taking separate vehicles to otherwise festive events.
It wasn't always so. The fad started innocently with snowflake sweaters and whimsical lapel pins; but like a roster of sexually harassed Senate aides, it grew.
America is like that. It rides its trends to the outermost limit, later to kill them off with a desperate and impassioned backlash.
Hence, we see in the malls (which may themselves be such a trend) a collection of arresting clothing, all loosely themed on the notion of acquisition and good cheer.
Sweaters are a popular medium for the message, and they are legion. They display snowmen, teddy bears, small children, Scottie dogs and kittens ranged around trimmed trees, singing, dancing, or waiting for Santa Claus. Some include textured elements such as sequins, metallic studs, glitter and/or bells. One has elves wearing fluffy white beards of faux rabbit fur.
Most of these sweaters range around $50. They are quite popular, Barbara Witczak, a salesclerk at Bullock's in Thousand Oaks, told us. "I have one customer who comes in to get a Dalmatian sweater every year," she said.
Dalmatians are a holiday theme that has been added to a growing list. Cows have joined it; there is no telling where it will end.
Bullock's, incidentally, had what we would rate the most novel sweater of the season, with the curiously inbred theme of shopping at the mall. For $146 shoppers can take home a cardigan with 10 colors and rhinestones, featuring wrapped gifts and droll shopping lists, such as "Mom--pearls; Fido--toys." On the back is a family trudging down an aisle with directional signs that say "shoes, hats . . . "
As this demonstrates, humor is an integral part of most holiday garments. For instance: a nightshirt with an anthropomorphic reindeer and the slogan, "I love you deerly." We will not list a further inventory of one-liners--that might spoil the surprise of reading one of them in your own home or office.
Another innovation is interactive clothing. We found sweaters with "Press Here" incorporated into their designs at both Robinson-May and Sears in Oxnard. When pressed, these garments respond with a medley of electronic tunes such as "Jingle Bells" and other endearing favorites.
The Press Here signs are at non-strategic areas such as the shoulder and high flank; but we wondered about the wisdom of acting on the invitation anyway. The pressing might well be done by someone of the opposite sex; that is, a man.
This seems only fitting, since men are apparently shy about actually wearing festive attire, and vicarious enjoyment of it is all they'll get.
But such playful interchange is not as well received as in former times. A shoulder-touching candidate may want to check with his attorney first, or offer a clear warning of intent, such as, "Does this mean \o7 me\f7 ?"--which could lead to a charming encounter.
Should it lead to a rejection instead, a man might want to plunge into buying provocative clothing of his own.
Of course, there is not as much for him to choose from. We did find a men's high-top sneaker by Converse in red and green with bells on the laces. These could possibly start a flirtation.
And there are conversational neckties and socks. Santa Claus plays a saxophone on both socks and ties, for instance, which might appeal to a woman Democrat; a tie with Pluto in antlers could charm a dog lover.
But the greatest variety of holiday themes appears on boxer shorts--more appropriate for ending a flirtation than starting one.
But the shorts could be used for gaining practice in wearing novel attire. Men would soon find themselves freed from mundane tweeds and stripes and ready to branch into something with flair.
For this training, they could try some of the many Looney Tunes characters--wrapping packages, trimming trees and singing carols--on underwear.
They might indulge in a Santa motif--apparently the favorite of designers. Santa can be found playing nearly every sport known to mankind, laughing uproariously, or, in one case, joining a herd of reindeer in riding stretch motorcycles. Around the legs of the biker shorts is the slogan, "You better watch out."
Use your own judgment. We just report 'em.
Kathleen Williams writes the weekly fashion column for Ventura County Life. Write to her at 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura, 93003 or send faxes to 658-5576.