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The Eternal Return of Fashion: An Interview With Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)

The Eternal Return of Fashion: An Interview With Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)

The Eternal Return of Fashion: An Interview With Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)


Interviewee: Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)
Interviewer: Morgan Durant

Vanzetta Penn McPherson Facts for Kids

People often say that many fashion trends come and go. This is not entirely true, it is better said this way, “Fashion trends come and go, but they always come back.” Fashion is best categorized as a never ending cycle of what’s in and what’s out. It is amazing to see certain styles of clothing be in for one decade and out the next. I like to say that fashion changes like the seasons; however, it’s less predictable. I interviewed Judge Vanzetta Penn McPherson, my grandmother, on what fashion trends were like when she was growing up in the 1950s and 60s. It is intriguing to compare the fashion trends of her teenage/girlhood to the current fashion trends of teenagers today. The most confounding questions in and around the fashion world today are: “How has fashion changed?” and “What trends are coming back and why?”.

The first word Judge McPherson used to describe fashion was “cyclical” (Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.))., which is a word used to describe its movement. It means, “moving in cycles” (“Cyclic”). That is exactly what fashion trends have been doing throughout most of the last century. To say that fashion has gone through a huge change overtime is an inexact statement. The truth is that fashion has been recycling itself over the last 70-80 years. Many fashion trends today reflect fashion trends that were popular in the 1950s-60s. Some of the popular fashion trends included afros, high wedge heel shoes, flair jeans, knee-high boots, canvas bags, etc.. Already this short list showcases items that we see in today’s fashion trends; for instance flair jeans and flair pants in general are especially popular in today’s society.

Differences are also prevalent when comparing today’s teenage fashion to that of the 50s and 60s. Judge McPherson spoke of a distinct difference in jewelry when she was a teenager. She described the jewelry style as going from “heavy” to “light (Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)). Growing up she wore jewelry that was “heavy” and “wooden”(Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.). This brought in an opportunity for more creatively designed jewelry. The jewelry was more bold than the small delicate jewelry that is worn today. However, despite the fact that jewelry today is not as bold, or distinctive, it still allows people to express themselves through beauty, elegance and style. Sneakers are another distinctive difference in fashion trends. Sneakers have been becoming exceedingly popular since the 70s. They went from being “not in”, to being an everyday shoe for most people.

Economics is also an important factor to consider. In just the last 30 years prices in the U.S. have risen exponentially. Everything is more expensive: clothes, food, houses, transportation, etc. Judge McPherson noticed distinctively that “jeans” were less “expensive” than they are now (Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)). With clothes in general being more expensive the fashion industry is growing as a whole through individual brands and stores. People are spending more money and buying more clothes to stay up to date with each and every fashion trend. These days sometimes it can feel like trends are beginning to override personal style.

Despite the fact that fashion trends seem to be reappearing in today’s society, the overall look of fashion is still changing. For example, flair jeans today do not look like they did half a century ago. The afro has also evolved from being loose hair that reached for the sky, to now sitting low and hanging off of the head. Fashion is cycling, but not recycling. Each time a trend comes back it has been evolved in some way shape or form by the most recent generation.

Fashion like everything else is changing and developing at an accelerated rate. However, it is just cycling itself throughout different generations. It is crazy to think that in our lifetime fashion trends are coming back from the 50s and 60s which was a different time on so many levels. So next time you ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, etc. “What clothes were in style when you were a kid?” try to compare their answer to the clothes that we wear now, and see what connections you can make.


“—.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary,
“Vanzetta Penn McPherson, U.S. Magistrate Judge (Ret.)”. Personal Interview. 19 February 2024.



For more on influential women, check out the article: Influential Women From the Past Decade!

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