Miami a hip fashion center? New York, Paris, Milan, and London definitely, but our capital of sun and fun has been known over the years for little more than sun and fun. Sure emaciated human hangers have been turning heads on South Beach for the last decade or so, but since when has our lovably eccentric resort town considered itself au courant in connection to clothing?
Almost since it was born a little more than 100 years ago, says The Louis Wolfson II Media History Center, whose Video Rewind series aims to disabuse people of the notion that Miami was ever behind the times about couture trends. Beginning this Tuesday “Lookin' Good! South Florida Fashions Through the Years” showcases 80 years of home movies, news film, special programs, and more highlighting our striking finery.
“People don't think of South Florida or Miami as having any sort of history,” says center director Steven Davidson. “[Video Rewind] shows that people have been living lives here from the 1920s onward.” Yes but have they been living them with good taste? Footage from the Twenties depicts Miamians strolling around in expensive furs and funny hats. Reels from the Fifties offer a look at fashion shows that were fancifully staged -- anywhere from a hotel poolside to midflight on an Eastern Airlines jet. The Seventies videos feature the gaudy polyester apparel of the disco era in all its flammable glory.
It all reminds us that some things just look better on film and not on us. Take the cheesy Eighties detective show Miami Vice, which portrayed Miami as more of an infamous drug den than an escape for the terminally chic, but worse than that was responsible for perpetuating the awful, wrinkled pastel blazer-over-T-shirt trend. “It looks completely ridiculous now but it was of the time; it was cutting edge,” Davidson laughs about the tacky duds. “It just doesn't hold up today. It's aged.”