I grew up in the 1970’s when young people largely wore fairly mainstream fashion unless they were punks in which case it was all about bondage, tartan and studded leather. Until the end of that decade youth cultures tended to be successive, hitting the streets in turn one after the other and you were either part of the movement of the time or not. When the 1980’s arrived in Thatcher’s Britain it was a time of great aspiration and retail excess. Suddenly there were different movements and looks springing up all over the place as young people were variously influenced by American TV shows, musical icons and the London club scene.
Most people now appear to remember the 1980’s for power dressing. It was the age of the yuppie and that coupled with the influence of American shows like dynasty and Dallas produced a generation of power dressers who saw clothing as an expression of their upwardly mobile lives. It was an age when sharp suits and shoulder pads ruled and those who were getting on had to show it and those who were not power dressed anyway. It was all about status spawning the power of the brand.
Fitness and Fame
Movies like Flashdance coupled with the aerobics craze saw the arrival of leggings, leg warmers and baggy sweatshirts. People were going out dressed for the dance studio even if they had never been near one in their lives and the dressed down look was the antithesis of the high flying power dress of the office brigade.
The London club scene was a place where anything went and young people experimented with their looks. The Punk movement had brought the freedom to shock and people were customising and distressing their clothes. Vintage styles like frock coats, frilly shirts and military jackets were teamed with leather, men were wearing make-up and clothes were being adorned and adapted. Everyone wanted to be different and to create their own individual style rather to adopt a uniform as in earlier youth cultures. The trend spread across the country and by the time I arrived at University the clubs were awash with the weird and wonderful and it was sometimes hard to tell the men from the women! At the same time there was a powerful gothic movement which was all about black. Everything was black including the cosmetics and I rather thought this brigade looked like witches or escapees from a horror movie.
I know we all look back and laugh at the 1980’s but it was a period of fun and self-expression. There were so many different movements and looks that it certainly wasn’t dull and new trends were springing up by the minute. Fashion was exciting and interesting and with the prevalence of vintage pieces and distressed garments, pretty much anyone could afford to create great outfits for themselves. These days everyone just looks the same. Everyone defaults to skinny jean styles and a Hollister hoodie and there is no creativity at all. The 80’s may have been excessive but it was a much more interesting time!
Article By Sally Stacey