This winter is all about…*drumroll*…(can you guess?)…THE 80s!!!!!
Yes, yes, and yes again, this has been a growing trend for, let’s face it, years now, creeping in with neon colours here, leggings there, and now, I believe, we reach the grand finale. From New York to Milan, the catwalks unambiguously and unanimously presented the very best 21st Century spin on the decade that was, with almost all a/w trends referencing the past in one way or another. And so great was the effort, I think we can only be looking at a conclusion to something that has been steadily building season after season.
First and foremost, we have our beloved mega-shoulder. Yes, beloved; we heart you, mega-shoulder. Why, I hear you ask? Because you, my blossom, draw our feminine silhouette up in the blink of an eye, making waists seem smaller, sharpening up the look and keeping things slick and sexy. Because you embody all that fabulous, ballsy power dressing and androgyny that allowed women to re-define what it is to be sexy, that is to say, to be sexy but also strong, and contrasted all that floaty feminine crap they came up with in the 1970s. The 1980s was definitely about having balls, and you, my love, were key to that. And because adding a shoulder pad is so much more chic than burning your bras.
The shape of the shoulder is not uniform; but largely fell into two categories, the firm and the fluid. At Yves St Laurent, Wunderkind, Herve Leger by Maz Azria and karl Lagerfeld, things were truly retro-inspired, with a wide, squarish shoulder frame. Then there were firm and pointy, like those at Balmain, Nina Ricci, Gianfranco Ferre and Jaegar London, this was about bringing things up into an undeniable tilt, in sculpted, techno couture. Ricci even added sculpting to emphasize the hips, making a dress reminiscent of that other great 80s genius, the body. Alternately, there we have firm and round, like those at Antonio Beradi and Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere. These would be the effeminate little sister to the hard and pointy older sibling, with strength in form but sweetness in shape, and Emanuel Ungaro even added the pad to the outside of her jacket to show clearly, this is a man-made addition to the wearer’s frame.
On the fluid side of things, we saw shoulder shapes being sculpted from swathes and drapes of materials, decorative additions to often already sumptous designs. Chez Louis Vuitton, Alberta Ferretti, Zac Posen, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, this softness was incorperated into rounder edges, really playing on a sweet softness to perhaps counter-balance the regal strength of the strong shape. At Dolce and Gabbana, in recession defying regality, the shoulder was brought to a subliminal height in an origami fashion. What a lot of shoulders! If times are tough, I think a shoulder pad will suffice, but an investment in such a high power fashion fantasy will surely pay dividends as this really is a trend to be reckoned with.
Which brings us on to leather, another notch in the belt of the tough-girl 80s chic; now if anyone of note tells you leather trousers are in, you know the 80s must be back. Along with big ole shoulders, this decade was definitely about looking tough, and without a doubt leather does just that. As well as our good frind, the biker jacket, noteably at DKNY Emilio Pucci and Phi, we have leather trench coats at Yves St Laurent, Hermes and Viktor and Rolf, a leather skirt suit at MaxMara, leather dresses at Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Michael Kors and Bottenga Venta, leather trouser suit at Meadham Kirchoff and even leather harem pants at John Richmond. And while some of these effort, like harem pants and trench coats, re-instate leather at the high fashion end of things, some simply play on the material’s sexy credentials.
And lastly, metallics seem to play an important part this season; 80s rock chick all the way? I think so, too. Biker jackets aren’t enough at Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier and Emanuel Ungaro, where studs, chains and spikes dramatize the look to full effect. Metallic dresses at Givenchy, Balmain and Akris give a girl a full throttle hardcore edge, with perhaps a dash of futurama or disco in there too, which is certainly the look at Zucca, where a simple round shouldered jacket becomes a futuristic 60s dream with mirror-like panelling in uniform stripes down the front. But we digress. Even king of colour and light Cavalli added thick punk spikes to belts, Donna Karen’s Mega-impact jewelery looked almost weapon-like in weight and at Prada, a leather dress was embellished with fierce studs and fringing. Way to go, people.
There is something the 40s, 60s, 80s and this decade all have in common. So too do the 50s, 70s and 90s. What is that? The first three were/are about challenging traditional aesthetics, changing our perception of beautiful by almost doing the opposite to it. Gender barriers are played with because actually, girls look even more girly, in a way, when dressed up in men’s clothing, and vice versa (pink menswear, anyone?). These decades are about doing weird stuff, like having skinny legs and a baggy top, putting girls into shapeless shifts and generally causing a ruckus. Meanwhile, the second lot are about returning to more traditional values, where men are men, women are women and beauty is flowers and floatiness and such. Even Le Smoking of the 1970s, yes it was a girl in man’s clothing, but the fit was flattering, thin on top and bell bottoms to lengthen the legs, while the 80s boyfriend jacket was as wide as a doorway.
Asymmetry is something that was key to redefining what’s considered beautiful, and is summed up best in the one-shoulder look. At Givenchy, Clavin Klein, and Lanvin, these were incorporated into the sculted, tailoring that belongs more to our decade, but the reference was there nonetheless. Meanwhile, At Versace, BCBG Max Azria and Donna Karen, the lop-sided look was used in a sultry, Grecian fashion of the soft, draped look that is another important but not so 80s look this fall. Although, that being said, by exposing and even sexualising this part of our anatomy, are we not making yet another bold shoulder statement about our strength as females?
In any case,Moschino Cheap and Chic, RM by Roland Mouret and Giorgio Armani took things to full throttle to the sumptuous, almost brash style Vogue labelled “dynasty dame” that was inspired by looks of the era, while at Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Herve Leger by Max Azria and elsewhere in the Versace, designers exploited the one-sided opinion to it’s fullest, disco diva potential. This business of asymmetry is, I think, key to understading the era, be it in a single earring rather than two, half your hair shaved off a la Alice Delal, or one trainer lace in black, the other in acid pink.
Similarly, low waistlines are sexy and cute, while high ones are kinda grannyish and weird. All the better, say I. And skirt waistlines have been migrating northwards for a wee while now, but the 80s twist this time is the thigh high hemline. Skirts like those at Miu Miu and DKNY, with their mid-shin longeur evoked the austere 1940s but at Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney, what appear to be respectable pencil skirts find new high leg heights, while at D&G and Pollini, mini skirts flare out from well above the hips. Here we are returning to an era before kate Moss, a time when women’s hips weren;t supposed to look like 14 yr-old-boys, an age of the hourglass not the rectangle.
What else were the 1980s fashion creations famous for? Well apart from looking tough, looking weird, it was about looking down-right rich. Much like today, the economic climate of the 80s was gloomy, and designers distracted themselves, almost denied things by creating sumptuous, fabulous clothes, almost to a garish degree, while the backdrop to the times was hardship and poverty for many. So too, today, are designers following two paths; some are sticking to minimalist looks, taking tailoring to new levels, but really stripping style down to the bare essentials of creativity, to allow buyers something that won’t date quickly if at all, investment-worthy stuff; this is almost fashion-less fashion.
The other chosen route is to deny things completely, to fight back with extravagant, exuberant creations that defy the sensible mantra of the wise ones, and all with ridiculous price-tags. It’s also about distancing ourselves from those without, almost a subconscious fear of pennilessness becoming real in our clothes. As GaGa sings, “Our hair is perfect… but we got no money”, it’s not necessarily about having a whole lot of money but flaunting it and dressing like it whether you do or not. The 1980s was about showing off your money to an almost tasteless degree, so why shouldn’t we?
Fur is a big look this season and is oh so very fabulous. Coats in a spectrum of styles, from pure and pristine white at Ralph Lauren, black tough chic (again, sigh) at Alexander Wang, to a mish mash of natural shades at Etro. Then there’s the acid brights at Blugirl, Dolce and Gabbana, Marios Schwabb and Paul and Joe which almost certainly defy any investment ideas you might have been thinking of. These loud proud numbers will be in style for a year or two, no more, then new styles and seasonal looks will ave surpassed you and mae you run with shame to your closet. But pray to find a cheap version, because just looking at these is fun. Fur was also incorporated into helmets and shoulder pads at Karl Lagerfeld and wraps at Christian Lacroix; skirts at Givenchy by Ricardo Tisci and dresses at Prada; and shoes at Barbara Bui, bags at Lancel.
Then we have the fabulous party dresses; velvet, new material in the mix this season, is regal and luxurious. Lanvin, Krizia and Elle Saab stay true to this feeling with generous swathes of fabric cascading in long flowing gowns, while Sonia Rykiel and Chloe twist things with a twinkle with gorgeous velvet jumpsuits fit for the most glamourous of red carpets. eslewehere, the austere image of the fabric was sexed up, with wider, lower necklines (a deep V at Prada) and raised hemlines (all the way to thigh at Ralph Lauren). At Christopher Kane and Bottenga Venta, dresses were made of strips or stripes of velvet, finding new and exciting ways to present the fabric in the flesh. And in glorious 80s reincarnation, king of the Cocktails Giorgio Armani presented sexy little dresses, as did D&G by Dolce and Gabbana.
While the trend has been building force season upon season, there is a whiff of 1990s trend creeping in on the edges of the fashion map. And dull as it ditchwater it may be, the structuring and tailoring we are seeing developing is just one of the many trends making the noughties a memorable decade in its own right, I suggest you only take advantage of this final blow-out 80s finale; when else will ugly be the new beautiful?