Blog Post 6: 80s fashion trends
Some of my designs have been inspired by the 1980s fashion trends. I feel drawn towards this decade, as the economies in the U.K. and America were booming. Times, in my opinion, were for the majority in the U.K. and America financially good and there were many strong female role models of the era.
Giorgio Armani was influential amongst working women, contributing to the wide shoulders of the power suit. Women felt they had to prove themselves and be strong just like Margaret Thatcher at this time to achieve and to do well. The power dressing was a way of intimidating others into making others feel they were inferior.
Fashion clearly changes as people’s attitudes change. Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister and Princess Diana, who married Prince Charles in 1981, were both very influential in the 1980s. Under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, the word ‘Yuppie’ was created to describe young, upwardly mobile professionals, who wore suits and had the first portable phones. Women’s clothes moved closer to men’s. Women were wearing exaggerated shoulder lines and shoulder pads, teamed with pencil skirts. Annie Lennox and Madonna, pop stars of the time, both took it one stage further and wore men’s suits. However, this was not a totally new concept as further back in time, as Martin R. has stated (1995), in ‘Contemporary Fashion’, ‘Chanel ceaselessly borrowed ideas from the male wardrobe, combining masculine tailoring with women’s clothing‘. This led to the creation of the popular and well-known tweed Chanel suit, which is commonly seen in Chanel stores today. In fact I, at first hand, admired them myself on the designer floor of Selfridges December 2019. Martin R. has taught at the Columbia University, New York University & the Chicago School of Arts. Women also copied the elegant and groomed style of Princess Diana too. She was a women who I admired and went to visit her clothing exhibition at Kensington, London last year, as part of my fashion research.
The exaggerated shoulder pads and power dressing of the 1980s was also vividly seen in the American soap operas Dallas and Dynasty. These were prime time T.V. shows of the time and had an impact upon fashion too because they had so many viewers. Images of the character Alexis and Krystal may be seen below.
As well as this, there was a health and fitness take off during the 1980s, which led to a higher demand for female sportswear. This was starting to become a huge trend and I believe it was the start of female sportswear really taking off. At this point in history, women were gaining independence financially and with it their own free time, where they could actually go and exercise to improve their own sense of wellbeing. Many women were now attending exercise classes such as aerobics. With it, came the need for suitable garments to wear, which were comfortable but also aesthetically pleasing. Compared to female sportswear of the 21st Century, I feel the sportswear being created was quite sexualised. Now, it tends to be more modest and practical. It is not a novelty now for women to attend exercise classes or go to the gym. It actually is for many women just the norm and they therefore need clothes which just fit the purpose.
During the late 1980s, there was also the start of the rave culture, where young people would illegally party all night in empty warehouses and fields. Drugs were rife and the look to attend was scruffy and ungroomed. Smiley face logos appeared on T-shirts, tie-dye became popular and dungarees were a must too. To me, this was the start of the emoji visualisation take-off which are commonplace on mobile phones today.
So, I conclude that in the 1980s there was a strong movement towards women becoming more powerful and power dressing too, as a way of proving it. Some celebrities even wore men’s suits to prove a point. However, this was not a totally new concept as further back in time, Chanel took ideas from male’s garments and combined them with women’s clothing, thus creating the popular and well-known tweed Chanel suit. With increasing gender equality, this is something which I could play with and explore more in the future. Sportswear and emoji’s were also starting to become popular and these are also factors which could be played with too, when designing and making clothes and accessories for the future.
Martin R. (1995), ‘Contemporary Fashion’, St. James Press Pub. (P.100)