What I most admire about fashion trend revivals is their perfect timing. Only emerging confidently in the knowledge the vast majority of those original clothes from the first wave have been safely disposed of. This smooth tactic ensures no-one has anything worthwhile left to salvage from the back of the wardrobe and has to begin again. Those wide slouchy trousers and Joan Collins’ jackets that hung sadly for decades have long since departed for the local charity store. If it’s back to the 80s, it’s back to the shops.
No fashion era has been so openly derided and mocked like the 80s. Was it for the diamante Dynasty excess, the circus of glam metal bands with their eye liner and bouffant mullet hair cuts or was it for the tasteless audacity of it all?
Back here in 2017, again we have a republican celebrity President of America and yet another woman Prime Minister both burdened with the mandate of making their countries great again. Yes, it’s time to shake off the tiresome taupes and repressed neutrals and again embrace the 80s look with kitschy nostalgia and baggy trousers.
The much maligned but colourful, explosive 80s happened as a reaction to the bleakness of the late 70s, hailing a new beginning and fresh expectations. Dayglow lycra and spandex ruled as aerobic workshops pioneered by Jane Fonda flourished. Movies like Fame, Flashdance and Dirty Dancing heralded this energised era together with groundbreaking science fiction movies like Bladerunner and Back to the Future. Talking Heads cried ‘Stop Making Sense’,Culture Club put androgyny firmly on stage whilst Michael Jackson thrilled in red leather and the Eurythmics sang sweetly of their dreams.
Precarious times tip folk back to the church and designers are no different, this season they are embracing faith and its powerful iconography. Back then it was Madonna rattling her rosary beads and the Wag Club celebrating acid house with Virgin Mary sweatshirts. This season’s offerings can be sized up as Back to the Future with a heady time-travelling mix of mystical and unearthly; celestial sophistication if you will.
Fashion designers are serially criticized for re-inventing ideas from the past, but they borrow and then create their own silhouettes and lines. This time it’s 80s inspiration but with 2017 deconstructed layering, cuts on the bias, paneling and uneven hems resulting in slanting asymmetry. Sleeves and skirts are slit and slashed, waists are corseted, folded over or cinched with wide belts.
Major signature looks for clothes are big, boxy David Byrne size jackets, the boudoir is given an airing in floppy pyjamas, back to the office for men’s shirting and banker pinstripes, think Prince with billowing purple rain parkas, populist blue collar work wear boiler suits and jazzed-up denim in contrast to ruffles and chiffon layers, space age metallic is here, kitschy acid yellow, flat out fuchsia and finally ‘Be prepared’ khaki for the unexpected and calmer palette.
For the feet it’s 80s again with cone heels, backless mules and (horror of horrors) white ankle boots; kitten heels are back too but 2017 kicks in with platform loafers and Trump golden sports shoes. Accessory-wise we have hugely practical handbags the size of a man’s wallet, clinking crucifixes and voluminous, asymmetric earrings; the bigger and crazier the better.
So, time to unwind the bunting, uncork the Prosecco and celebrate this brand old/new era with its timeless images and themes, jump back to the 80s then leap forwards into 2017 and gear up with broad shoulders and a grin to match: it may be a rocky ride but never dull.