Review: Forgotten Fashion: An Illustrated [faux] history of Outrageous Fashion Trends and Their Untimely Demise

Most people have never heard of the Trouser Wars of 1964, probably because they didn’t actually happen.

That is Forgotten Fashion by Kate Hahn in a nutshell – the story of fashions and trends and clothes and marketing gimmicks that never happened. Fashion is such a crazy industry that some of these are almost, really very nearly the sort of thing that you can imagining some crazy designer sending down the runway. (After all, didn’t a recent Project Runway designer create dresses fringed with human hair for his fashion show?) And with Fashion Week just past – and the Project Runway finals coming up – this seemed the perfect time to review this funny little book.

There are a couple of really great chapters here – “Ticker Tape Trim” is described as the earliest form of texting. Girls of the early 1900’s used their father’s ticker tape machines to receive love notes from their admirers, then wove the messages into their beribboned gowns for later reading. Havana Oyster Diggers were men’s shorts made of fanciful fabrics, designed to lift the country’s spirits post-World War II. Unfortunately, they were so successful that men lost their motivation to work 80 hour weeks and build their businesses, causing mini-recessions in wealthy communities. In the 1970’s, the Dress-In-A-Jar craze combined ease of application (basically colored clay in a jar with a special “scoop-n-smear” application) with ease of UNapplication (one blast of the garden hose and it melted away). Unfortunately, it’s all-herbal formula tended to ferment and caused side effects much like dropping acid. Hmmm…I wondered why that one dropped off the market?

My personal favorite: the 1998 Emotionally Distressed Jeans. In a super-secret partnership at the University of Pennsylvania, the campus psychology department gave disturbed young students a stiff, new pair of blue denim jeans, instructing them to take out all their frustrations on the pants, keeping track of the ways they distressed the fabric. The jeans were returned to the psych department and the students felt much better for venting their emotions. The jeans were then turned over to the school of business, where underground entrepreneurs created limited-edition styles like the “Amanda.” Amanda had used items left in her dorm room by her cheating musician boyfriend – guitar string, a guitar pick and a Green Day cd. This model was the favorite of rich rock musicians and their girlfriends.

This was a quick (under 100 pages) and fun lunch hour read. It’s illustrated by Andrae Gonzalo (Project Runway, Season 2 and one of my favorite characters on the show). The Project Runway fans in your life will get a huge kick out of it.

My copy was an Advanced Reader edition; order your copy at

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