One word comes to mind when you think of the 1980s: BIG. Overconsumption, oversized and just plain over-the-top were cornerstone features in this decade of excess and materialism. It was a time of abundance, optimism and unabashed greed.
Shoulder pads returned to fashion in a super-sized version, and the “power suit” reflected women’s emerging status in the workplace. The term “Yuppie” was coined as an acronym for the Young Urban Professional who was a career driven, 20-30 something male or female, obsessed with upward mobility, money and the pursuit of personal fulfillment. Casual wear for the Yuppie set was collegiate or preppy with khaki pants, traditional blue blazers, crisp white shirts, polos by Izod Lacoste and Ralph Lauren and cotton cardigans draped over one’s shoulders, loosely tied in front. Designers boldly emblazoned their logos on the exterior of their designs and their clothing became elite status symbols.
Glamour in the 1980s, as depicted in the popular TV shows Dallas and Dynasty, translated to bedazzled evening wear studded with sequins and beads. Hair was permed, teased and coiffed to ever larger proportions and extravagance. Makeup was bold and colorful, as was jewelry of the era which featured large statement necklaces and long, dangling earrings which grazed the shoulders.
In contrast to the more conservative and affluent set, youthful counterculture was defining their own style. Music continued to have a strong influence on fashion, particularly with the emergence of MTV which brought music fashion to the masses. Numerous pop music stars became style icons as well. Underwear as outer wear, popularized by Madonna, infused street fashion with women donning crinolines and lacy bustiers. New Wave music and the corresponding New Romantics style trend was further popularized by London designer Vivienne Westwood, who embraced historical fashion with the use of corsets and bustles and later created the mini-crini. Music legends like Annie Lenox, Boy George, David Bowie and Grace Jones blurred the lines of androgyny in fashion. Japanese fashion designers continued to push fashion barriers exploring gender-bending, sculptural, avant-garde silhouettes.
The fitness boom of the 1980s, as part of this self-conscious and self indulgent decade, spawned a fashion trend that took dance and exercise wear from the studio and gym to the runway and the street. Jane Fonda sported neon leotards and leg warmers in her exercise videos and women soon embraced them as functional fashion. The aerobics craze influenced designer fashion with Lycra and other body conscious fabrics and styles infusing the dress designs of Azzedine Alaia and bodysuits by Donna Karan. The movie Flashdance inspired women to wear tight leggings paired with oversized, baggy sweatshirts with the necklines cut to drape casually off one shoulder. Designer Norma Kamali created an entire collection fashioned of sweatshirt fabric. Jogging or track suits became socially acceptable as casual day wear.
1980s style with its juxtaposition of trends, variety and influences created a unique legacy of fashion and anti-fashion. It is emerging as an era of sought-after vintage for its unique characteristics and lasting impact.
Written by Vintage Devotion
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