It’s unclear when “tacky” became such a violent, jarring, withering pejorative.
Maybe it was sometime in the 19th century, when the word, per the Wall Street Journal, was used to describe cheap, shabby, ill-kept horses and later to describe cheap, shabby, ill-kept people. Maybe it began amid the chaos of the 1970s, when no one could distinguish good taste from bad taste and, as Jo Weldon at Literary Hub notes, “even venerable Vogue magazine threw up its hands and declared that there were no longer any rules.”
Do any of the rules still apply? Plenty of people are intimidated by fashion because of such menacing, spectral guidelines: the assumption that everyone around them is, somehow, Joan Rivers incarnate. But fashion is supposed to be fun, and sometimes fun means leaning right into those tacky, kitschy, campy impulses that lay dormant at the core of your being — especially around the holiday season.
Camp is a self-aware, purposeful, affectionate tackiness, and Christmas — with its bright lights and gold ribbons and fake indoor pine trees — is designed for it. The holidays are not about having “good taste” or looking “elegant.” They’re about being on theme.
It’s about Santa Claus hats and ugly sweaters. It’s about weird suits, sleigh-bell earrings, garlands as belts. It’s about colours that absolutely should not be paired, but who cares, it’s Christmas. The holiday season is fertile ground for outfits that, on any other occasion, might be worthy of scrutiny. But Christmas is a hall pass.
So in honour of the coming weeks, when the invites start pouring in from friends and family to attend their various parties, here are some campy celebrity fashion moments that might inspire you to shed your fear and leap right in. Your Facebook albums will thank you in the future.
Oh, and if you still feel uninspired, completely at a loss for what on earth you’re going to wear to that party — which stage of freakout have you reached? — here are some more translatable looks you can try out. No catch. They just look really great: