MTV's seminal fashion series has been MIA for a decade, but now it's back on the Internet. Let the nostalgia begin
If you have four or five hours handy, boy, does the Internet have a flashy new gift for you.
Yesterday MTV made much of “House of Style,” the Cindy Crawford-hosted fashion series that ran from 1989 to 2000 and hasn’t been rerun on the channel since 2002, available on the Internet, along with copious context-providing supporting materials — a sort of “Annotated House of Style” — provided by Mary H.K. Choi. For people of my generation— i.e., dedicated ‘90s TV watchers — “HOS” needs no reintroduction. (I know I still frequently think about the segment in which “HOS” correspondent Todd Oldham explains how to get deodorant smears out of one’s clothing.) But for those less familiar with it, “HOS” was a sort of DIY newsmagazine show about the fashion world, one that not only chronicled the rise of the ‘90s supermodel craze, but codified and contributed to it. The show mixes up segments about the latest trends, designers and models with segments of Crawford goofing around with young celebrities and doing her day job, which is to say going on shoots and fittings, and appearing in shows, activities that frequently involve the likes of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, her fellow supermodels and pals.
As a purely nostalgic exercise, there is so, so much to love in these “HOS” clips: an adorably game and young Salt n’ Pepa model profane, multicolored ‘80s clothes; Will Smith on the set of “The Fresh Prince” laughing at Cindy Crawford saying “Humpty Dumpty” when she means “Humpty“; a segment about the rock T-shirt business that ends with Milli Vanilli T-shirts rolling off an assembly line; an interview with Tiffany, that is, like serious; Naomi Campbell looking almost bashful and freaked out when she first appears on video camera; an impossibly young Jon Stewart getting a pedicure; Sofia Coppola selling a line of T-shirts with her boyfriend Spike Jonze; Cindy Crawford saying she tries not to eat “starches,” because “carbohydrates” wasn’t a word we all knew yet; Crawford “introducing” us to Claudia Schiffer; Karl Lagerfeld’s steely gray hair.
But “House of Style” is also fascinating as a document of a less media-savvy time, something that you can see changing as the show runs on into the later ‘90s, without Crawford as host. In 1989, when “HOS” began, the tabloid and reality TV eras were still years off (“The Real World” didn’t start airing until 1992), and you can tell from watching the celebrities who appear on camera, foremost among them Crawford herself. They’re all significantly less coached and media savvy than even the greenest famous person would be today. They are more obviously self-conscious on camera — they’re nervous! — and less fundamentally self-conscious on camera, because they are not living in fear that their every word will be flung around the Internet forever and ever. At one point Naomi Campbell says the most embarrassing thing in her closet is a pair of underwear “with something attached to it.” While it’s possible to imagine Naomi Campbell, of all people, telling a journalist she has a dildo in her closet today, it’s hard to think she would do so with all the sweet, giggly innocence she tells her pal Cindy while at a really swanky Versace fundraiser in one “HOS” clip.
“HOS” is a time capsule in other ways as well. Because it began before reality TV became so established, many of the segments feel like a working out of the now inscribed rules of reality TV. Crawford takes the camera behind the scenes on her shoots, and the footage from them is cut together in a much more cutesy and jumbly way than it would be now. When Moschino says he doesn’t want the label “fashion designer” on his shoulders, the show … lays a graphic of the phrase “fashion designer” over his shoulder. The talking head interviews don’t always add much; there’s not a big premium on creating conflict. The genre conventions have yet to be sorted out.
And because “HOS” existed before reality TV was a proven way to make yourself super-famous, what Crawford was doing — leveraging her own access to fill out a TV show — has none of the gross connotations it would today. Everyone she talks to — and she can talk to anyone — designers, models, celebrities, are happy to speak with her, but without any of the “what do I get from this?” skeeze that comes with every reality TV show appearance nowadays. Compared to, say, Kanye West’s recent appearances on “The Kardashians,” where he and everyone else knows he is more or less slumming it, “HOS” seems innocent, a leftover from a time when oversharing was just being friendly, not a world-domination strategy. Go watch.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer. More Willa Paskin.
More Related Stories
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis to jury: "You should be euthanized"
- Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video
- Actually, Beyoncé is a feminist
- Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black's epic Twitter battle
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
- Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" to use porn star body doubles
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11