1980s-inspired fashion hits the runways — 20 years later

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By Roula Medistkos

Excessive. Tacky. Glamorous. However you describe it, one thing is for sure: 1980s fashion is back — and it’s making it bigger than Wham! Did with their first album.

Just when the world had barely forgotten about the days when shoulder pads, thick belts, parachute pants, legwarmers and bright blue mascara were in every fashionista’s wardrobe, designers have taken a nostalgic hop on the 1980s bandwagon, bringing everyone inside and outside the fashion industry along for the ride.

When the world’s trendsetters showcased their fall and winter 2000 collections last spring, 1980s hues were so common that critics wondered if Christian Dior, Azzedine Alaïa and Karl Lagerfeld hadn’t all been listening to the same Culture Club album when they sketched their designs.

Barely into the year 2000, vision of Cindy, Kate and Naomi strutting down the runways with teased hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, fishnet stocking, mid-calf stiletto boots and (gasp!) purplish-fuchsia lipstick reminiscent of 1984 were suddenly popping up at every show in London, Paris and Milan.

It’s no wonder why the American edition of Vogue magazine listed “’80s Extravaganza” as one of 2000’s top 10 hottest trends. A few months ago, designer Betsey Johnson unveiled her “Rocker Chick” collection, which included black leggings and studded tops. Designers Carolina Herrera, Celine and Michael Kors paid homage to the Flashdance era in their latest collections by bringing back off-one-shoulder necklines and furry leg warmers à la Jennifer Beals. Labels such as Gucci, Fendi and Jean Paul Gauthier have also opted for stylish 1980s hues by using fabrics such as fur (much to the dismay of modern-day animal rights activists), while Prada repopularized the infamous 1980s houndstooth print with its latest bomber jackets.

Even mainstream fashion retailers have added some 1980s punk glam to their designs. Club Monaco stocked its shelves with dolman-sleeved tops in August and is now selling pleated pants and bodysuits — a departure from its signature simple, tailored look. Jacob has barely been able to keep its one-strapped tank tops in stock and LeChateau has pretty much reproduced anything and everything from the 1980s in its latest clothing collection.

“Right now we’re at a time of high economy and the 1980s was a time of high economy also,” said Jennifer Christie, a third-year Ryerson fashion student who works part-time at Club Monaco. “It was a very label-conscious time.”

Other Ryerson fashion students agree the 1980s was a time of fun and carefree living, which is reflected in the styles and assortment of fabrics used in clothing today.

“I love lurex,” said Kerry LaiFatt, a third-year fashion student. Lurex, a type of fabric with metallic sparkles woven into it, is one of the many 1980s trends the part-time Mendocino employee craves, along with off-the-shoulder tops and single-strand earrings.

Kelly Laidlaw, another third-year fashion student, has noticed a revival of coloured legwear and logos of pop/rock stars — printed on everything from T-shirts to denim jackets.

“Madonna’s a huge thing right now. Everything’s Madonna,” she said, referring to the logomania that has hit celebrities such as Britney Spears, who in a recent public appearance was pictured wearing an old, midriff-baring Madonna T-shirt coupled with a studded denim jacket.

Although the 1980s revival was popular in their women’s collections, the students said there will be fewer 1980s- inspired clothes in their future men’s lines.

“The ‘80s for men is there, but it caters much more to gay customers because they’re much more open to trying new things. For example, they love the cuff wristbands and T-shirts with logos of rock stars,” said Christie.

Adrienne Shoom, fashion editor of Flare magazine, says although the 1980s look is back in style, today’s version is slightly modified to look more modern and in tune with other pieces from the 1940s and 1950s — two other decades that are making a comeback on the runways.

“I think we have to fake certain elements of the ‘80s to make it look like original ‘80s,” she said.

“It depends on how you wear it. You can take certain elements; for example, things like mini-skirts, wide belts, dolman-sleeve tops and fishnets are really big now. It’s not necessarily that whole boxy, deconstructed look that’s in … I don’t think people are wearing it head-to-toe.”

Although critics such as Wayne Clark — whose over-the-top ballgowns made him the king of glamour in the 1980s — said a few months ago that the 1980s trend would be a one-season wonder and then disappear, Shoom says that it will be a hot trend well into the new millennium.

“For Spring/Summer 2001, most designer’s collections were ’80s-inspired,” says Shoom.

Although in full swing, fashion critics and industry experts also say it’s too soon for a 1980s revival, especially for people in their teens and early twenties — a generation that was barely out of grade school during the decade. However, 1980s website traffic, clothing and CD sales, and the rising popularity of collectibles such as Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, are showing that the decade is making popular waves with younger generations.

“The great thing about nostalgia, it was like going up in the attic and opening a box that hasn’t been opened in 20 years,” Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, recently told the Associated Press. “Now it’s as if the box never went up to the attic.”

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