Whoever has been in charge of PR for 1980s fashions has really let the ball drop from about January 1990 onward. But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself there…
I don't hate modern fashion in the slightest (no do I think, as Li Edelkoot recently declared, that it's dead - though I do see why she said as much for sure), but most of its offerings - and its exceedingly fast fashion driven mindset - do not jive with my own tastes or sense of style, more often than not.
For many years now, I've looked around at what western society at large has been wearing - a sea of faded black leggings, sad, stretched out yoga pants; collar-less shirts with needlessly large breast pockets, skinny jeans two sizes too small, pajamas donned in public, and sneakers sported with darn near everything - and found myself wondering, on many occasions, if, in say, forty, five, eighty or a hundred years, anyone would be clamoring to get their hands on these kinds of garments or replicate the way people dressed back in 2015.
Will there be books, websites, and even a whole collective community of people who love "2010s" styles? Maybe, but if I had to put my money down on that point right now, I'd bet on "no" being the answer.
Before delving any further into this post (which, objectively, is just the tip of the iceberg on this vast topic), I want to point out that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying, that there isn't great/creative/fresh/fun/and yes, even collectible, fashion being produced today. There is, at all price points, and tiers of the industry, and that is a truly wonderful thing. No, what I'm talking about is the fact that, in general (and again, I'm not per se wrangling modern fashion bloggers, those in the fashion industry, or others with fantastic senses of style into the equation here), there is a real sense of homogony at work in 21st century fashion.
This isn't entirely new by any means (trends aren't called trends for no reason after all), but it is not the same, say, as a million women in NYC in the 1940s wearing gorgeous, flattering, elegant rayon or wool crepe dresses, cute little tilt hats, and wedge shoes. Pieces so pretty, so well made (often even at a very inexpensive price point level), and so desirable, that not only are they collected and worn by some today, but that for all the ensuring time between then and now, a select percentage of the population had the good sense to hold onto, and often see the worth in, those items so as to ensure they reached their 60th, 70th, 80th, etc birthday.
Where, in a world, in which you can by a whole wardrobe with every piece coming in under $10.00 a pop, that rarely last more than a dozen washes, and look like countless other closests out there, is there room for a distinctive sense of style that defines an era and makes it become one that people yearn to emulate again, apt to take root?
Today's post however is really, ultimately, not the subject of what folks are wearing in 2015, though it does loop back to such in some ways. Instead, it is about the 1980s and the clothing and styles that this decade of excess, beauty, and grandeur produced.
As someone who has worn vintage for over half my lifetime, as well as (more recently) someone who sells it for a living, I can tell you that the 1980s were an incredible time for fashion. Seriously - and I'm not prefacing that word with "-ly bad" either, as certain folks are apt to do.
The 1980s were the last great bastion of fresh, fantastic fashion in my opinion. Before the grunge days, minimalism, boxy shapes, epidemic of (what I call) kindergarten teacher dresses (see this post from 2009), and raver club influences of the 1990s took hold.
From there we saw a jumbled mix of styles, or lack of styles in some cases, emerge in 2000s, growing ever more casual, in general, with each passing year. I'm all for comfort, but as I've touched on here scores of times over the years, comfort does not have to equate to looking like you're ready to do a 5K fun run at the drop of a hat 24/7.
There have been lovely elements of fashion in the last twenty-five years or so, but not nearly as many, in my opinion, as in any of the decades of the 20th century (or 19th or 18th, for that matter) that proceed that era.
The 1980s looked back to the past often for influences in its designs - so hence why we now have a whole category of clothing called 1980s does 1940s or 1950s. Some of these looks rocked, others were eyebrow raising, but they were all fun and youthful and creative.
Indeed, for all the trends and styles of the 1980s, creativity ran rampant, in my opinion, and for every Valley Girl, Preppy, or aerobic gear fan, there was someone channeling their own Andie Walsh and marching to the beat of their own sartorial drum.
Beyond that, or at least in conjunction with it, there were great off the rack styles to be had as well. I was but a mere speck of a child during the six years of the 1980s that I got to experience. I don't profess to have scores of firsthand memories of the styles of those days, but I do recall what I wore for some of them, and moreover what the adults in my life were wearing.
I loved the baggy sweatshirts, the ankle grazing micro pleated skirts, the 50s revival sundresses, the slouchy leather boots, the prevalence of pastels, the kooky accessories, the Jordache jeans, the safari styles, the mile high perms, and yes, even some of the punchy makeup hues.
A few months ago Tony and I were rewatching the Crocodile Dundee movies and I was struck by how the character of Sue Charlton (played by Linda Kozlowski) sometimes wore fashions, hairstyles and makeup that seemed more akin to me to the 1940s and 1980s, than they do today (including, but not limited to, full skirts, gloves, and hats). This isn't the first movie where I've spotted this. It springs to mind with the Naked Gun series as well, amongst others.
Yet, these particular looks and plenty more like them were not meant per se to emulate the 1940s or 50s. They were just more classic, more beautiful (IMO), and more refined that what you’d be apt to see your average movie character (let alone person on the street) wearing today. Even when curve hugging, they didn't risk looking vulgar (which isn't to say there weren't vulgar looks in the eighties, there were, of course) or like a person was going to tumble out of their wardrobe and have a Janet Jackson experience at any moment.
1980s fashion had a prevailing sense of youthfulness to it, as well as strong lines, designer influences, a rainbow of hues, and looks to suit a million and one types of fashionistas/os. I truly love a lot of the styles of this decade, but even putting aside my own passion and nostalgia for the eighties, I can appreciate and look with a vintage wearer’s, and dealer's, eye at the decade that gave me life.
In doing so, I've really started to feel in the last couple of years that the 1980s are going to see an explosion of popularity on the fashion front in the near future. I'm not talking about hipsters wearing 80s pieces ironically, or a few select items that have always remained popular or highly collectible, nor even the 80s just having a moment (as the 70s are this year).
No, what I mean is that I think that the 1980s are going to start developing (or expanding, as I do know that there are already some such folks out there) their own group of passionate fashion fans who intentionally emulate the looks of the 1980s. Perhaps, these individuals will go a step further still and bring other elements of the eighties into their homes, music and movie choices, collections, garages, and bookshelves, just as those of us who favour early and/or mid-twentieth century styles already do.
In addition, the 1980s looks, even at their most extreme, often strike today's fashion crowd as being more akin to present styles and are seen as less "antiquated". The latter rarely, if ever, phases mid-century (or early) fans, but for those who are looking to dress from the past, but still keep one foot firmly planted in the present, the 1980s can be a great way to do just that.
I'm not going to lie, I'd personally have no qualms with wearing quite a few different 80s look myself, though I don't foresee trading in my Bakelite and platter hats for Esprit tops and duck shoes anytime soon. I could easily wear 80s garb though, and not just 1980s does 40s/50s, but full on, teased hair, blue eye shadow, power suit looks from that iconic decade.
In this hard, expensive, stressful, social media driven world, many people are looking - even if they don't fully realize it on a conscious level - for a return to (seemingly) simpler times and to when fashion wasn't just what Zara, H&M, or Old Navy put out on the floor that day, but when trends still had roots and style in general was more, how shall we say, nuanced.
I fully believe that in the next five to fifteen years, we're going to see the 1980s become a decade that some vintage fashion fans purposefully recreate and wear looks from on a daily basis. This decade will garner its own following and we'll see 80s clothing rise in both popularity and price, just as those of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and early 60s started to in the eighties themselves and onward to this day, when they're hotter (and often pricier) than ever. Eighties fashion and accessories are still quite easy to find online and off, and that may help further bolster their appeal and following.
I dub the 1980s the next "forever decade" and would be very happy actually to see my prediction come to fruition (by “forever”, I mean that it’s popularity takes hold and remains for far more than a catwalk season or two, but rather endures in the way that earlier ones from the last century have). Not everything, fashion related or otherwise, about the 1980s was great, but heavens to Bea Arthur, plenty of it was cool, fun, creative, and well worth remembering and keeping the spirit of alive.
Will this actually come to be? Only time will tell, but whereas I wouldn't wager the 2010s being an era that is largely coveted in decades to come, I would stake a good sum on the eighties experiencing a renaissance of sorts in my lifetime and I sincerely look forward to that day, if it does arrive. How about you?