Fashion trends that the 80s left in their wake
Shoulder pads, stirrup pants, jelly shoes, bleached denim, parachute pants, and a whole lot of color – that is what 80s style clothing probably evokes the most. Indeed, 1980s clothing styles were anything but subtle. However, the seemingly over-the-top, love-them-or-hate-them designs of that decade have influenced many of the modern fashion trends and have left behind a far greater legacy than it might appear on the surface.
The 80s style clothing trends split into numerous diverse sub-niches: Valley girl, New Romantic, Preppy, Power dressing, Punk, and Casual wear to name a few.
New Romantic style of the 1980s emerged in the UK as a counterbalance to a very popular Punk trend of the 1970s. In contrast to austere Punk designs, New Romantics embraced glamour and perks of upstanding social status. The New Romantics style clothing often referenced bygone romantic ideas of pirates and hussars all the while retaining the heavy influence of punk in the spiked hair, heavy makeup and provoking elements of garments. Not surprisingly, an outstanding Punk designer, Vivienne Westwood, crossed over into, and largely defined, the New Romantic style in her 1981 collection ‘Pirates’ and 1982 collection ‘Savage’. The pirate look, with its expensive fabrics and full-sleeved shirts, was particularly popular. Boy George and Duran Duran were among the trove of celebrity favoring the New Romantics style.
Unlike the New Romantics, Valley girl was of the US origin and was influenced by the US cheerleader subculture of California. Leg warmers, short skirts modeled after those worn by cheerleaders, and headbands were the most distinct elements of the Valley girl style. Another staple of 80s style clothing for women, the leggings, became so popular that they were outselling jeans. Although they have dipped in popularity since then, leggings found their way back into high fashion collections since 2005. Worn with ballet flats, belted tunics or light skirts and dresses, leggings maintain their staple status in women’s wardrobes. Leggings have also influenced the skin-tight brand of pants, Jeggings, and men leggings debuted by Emporio Armani in his 2011 spring collection.
Power dressing’s most definitive feature was shoulder pads. At that time, shoulder pads were used to assert women in their workplace and add masculine touch to the otherwise feminine silhouettes and designs of 80s style clothing for women. There is hardly a fashion icon or a celebrity that has not worn a garment with shoulder pads, be it Princess Diana, Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields, or Carol Alt.
The 80s style clothing for men brought change to the cut of the business suit and return to the pinstripes of the earlier decades, although in a much wider version.
The Preppy style of the 80s catered to the conservative customers looking for more classic designs, exemplified by Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap, Brooks Brothers, and Izod Lacoste. A more uptight version of the preppy style, with micro-suede jackets, neutral solid colors, and candy-striped shirts was used as a mark of one’s background meant to set aside those attending Ivy League schools from everyone else. Oxford shirts, khakis, loafers, polo shirts have not gone down in sales since then.
As for the bright palette of the 80s, one look at Christian Lacroix’s kaleidoscopic bodysuit can cure even die-hard color-avert connoisseurs of style. The exuberant, luscious colors of the 1980s are back to being in fashion, as seen from the 2012 collections of Prabal Gurung, Erdem Moralioglu, and Mary Katranzou.
Brands that retain the best of 80s style clothing vibe include Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Benetton, Girbaud, Jordache, Sergio Valenti, American Apparel, Brooks Brothers, and Gap.