1980s Fashion was All About Labels, Glamour and Money Over the Top…

Money, money, money.

Money &mdash lots of it &mdash was what the 1980s fashion was all about. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan seemed to be running the world and a cut-throat consumerism had taken hold. Pat Sweeney commented in The Face in 1985 that the Eighties were ‘making a religion of success, a cult of status, and celebrating affluence’. In fashion, logos and labels became the ultimate status symbol. ‘Nitice me and I’ll notice you, show me your designer lables and I’ll show you mine...’ wrote style-bible i-D.

If you could not afford the head-to-toe designer look the accessories would do: a rucksak flashing Prada’s little triangle; a gold chained quilted bagboasting Chanel’s interlinked Cs. Drapers Record advised in 1986: ‘The height of chic is to cross the couture with the casual... wear a Chanel jacket with jeans.’ Logo-splashed sprtswear was at the forefront of fashion, and the style of hip-hoppers like Run DMC raised Nike and Adidas to the height of cool.

1980s fashion about money

Glamour in 1980s fashion

The glittering faux opulence of television soaps such as Dallas and Dinasty epitomised mid-Eighties glamour. Paris fashion developed the look. Karl Lagerfeld brought Chanel bang up to date with his witty take on Coco’s classic style. He piled on the gold, did Chanel suits in denim and toweling and used pearls the size of ping-pong balls. ‘It was just before the Stock Exchange crashed in New York, before the Gulf War, before the recession and everything was easy... there was no shame in luxury,’ says Christian Lacroix. He saw a gap in the market for lavish designers for women who wanted to spend serious money, and in 1987 set up a couture house.

1980s fashion Elton John Inspired

Japanese Designers influenced 1980s fashion

In the Eighties Japaniese designers were hugely influential. `comme des Garcons, Yhji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake provided a fuss-free antidote to the excessive opulence of the Parissian collections. They played with sculptural wrapping and drapping to make voluminous shapes in monotone colours; they pushed garment construction and fabric to the limits. Miyake’s Pleating and Commedes Garsons’ purposeful knitted in holes to create ripped effects were revolutionary. Theur minimal approach helped to influence the head-to-toe black uniform of the street.

With the growth of new technology, trends began to move faster and became harder to pin down. Fashion mutated and ideas ping-ponged between the catwalk and the street. Even that punk stand-by, the Doc Marten boot, evolved: popular in the 1970s, it was raised to high-fashion status by Comme de Garsons and Yamammoto and then went back on to the street as a shoe.

The New Romantic movement of the 1980s fashion

whose members bopped away at London’s Bitz club in highwayman frills and long dresses, was raised to high fashion in Vivien Westwoods 1981 Pirate collection. But who influenced whom? With their roots in the Eighties club scene, a stream of young designers including John Richmond, Body Map and Helen Storey made their names. Katerin Hamnett offered ripped jeans and T-shirts stampted with ecological slogans and Jean-Paul Gaultier put underwear over outwear and women into power sits. Virtuoso designers such as John Galiano and Viviene Westwood created neo-victorian ‘mini-crinis’ and Gailliano revived Thirties glamour with his sleek bias-cutting.

Power dresses

With Margaret Theather, the ‘Iron Lady’, at the helm in Britain, power-dressing hit the boardroom of the 1980s fashion. In the late Seventies the wide marlene Ditrich style shoulder pad was revitalised by designers such as Thiery Mugler. Gorgio Armany took up the look, offering a new suit with wide, padded shoulders and a short, tight skirt. It took American designer DOnna Karan to make the look sexy: her versatile wardrobe of scarves and leopard style ‘bodies’ was to be worn with wrap skirts, jackets and suits. Her coordinates could be transformed from day to evening simply by whipping off a jacket and clipping on a pair of earrings.

What type of beauty was in 1980s fashion?

The idealised body shape of the era was athletic, powerful, toned. The successful woman was excepted to work out. Tracksuits, grey jersey jogging and leg warmers were now seen outside the gim. American designer Norma Kamali brought women leggings and the cheerleader’s rah-rah skirt. Licra, the super stretch fibre, enabled designers like Azzedine Alaia to make tight-stretch mini-skirts and tube dresses to show off the benefits of all those hours spent at the gym.

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