Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'80s Rewind...

Me & Jenny 1988 (Prom)
Have you noticed? I certainly have! Recent fashion trends are revisiting the 1980s, and I love it! Ironically, it wasn't a few years ago that my own daughters told me that '80s couture was the fashion horror of the twentieth century (and here I thought it was the plastic and paper dresses of the 1960s...), and yet today slouch boots, sweater dresses, leggings, and aviator shades are all the rage - it's like I'm in the middle of a Flashdance throwback - or perhaps a Footloose flashback. Whatever the case, you can be my hero, Kevin Bacon...

Aside from the various '80s fashions and fads that adorned my body and thinned my wallet (i.e. Doc Martens, neon colors, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and Ts, straight-legged Levis, and bold geometric graphics), there are others from the era that should remain closeted forever and ever - here's to hoping that certain fashion oopsies are not on the horizon- ahe? Like...

Grace Jones
The Power Suit. If shoulder pads weren't necessarily pretty in the 1940s, their peculiar aesthetic certainly didn't improve in the 1980s. In fact, what was tolerable in the '40s became a fashion monstrosity in the '80s. With World War II era design, there was a definite shape and form to the jacket or bodice that donned the shoulder pad - garments had a neat and tailored look for the most part, and their proportions didn't usually consume the human form. However, four decades later, it seemed that the objective of the Reagan Era designer was to shape a woman like a Steeler's linebacker. I'm sure the fashion designer's intention for the shoulder pad was to slip a bit of androgyny and mystique into the feminine costume (like the sharp and sleek aesthetic of Grace Jones), but what resulted was a ridiculously exaggerated, heavy, and misshapen look that consumed the natural form of the wearer despite the cut or draping of the garment. Save the androgynous beauty of the Grace Jones silhouette (she wore the shoulder pad - it did not wear her), the same cannot be said for the rest of us who mindlessly sported this fashion poo-poo. There was nothing attractive about it - not in the 1980s anyway... 

Crockett and Tubbs: Or, regarding stylish men's wear, a crock and dud. Again, the Miami Vice look (the over-sized dress coat, the pleated lawn pants, and the loose T-shirt) reinforced the shapeless and exaggerated fashion that defined much of the 1980's. Not only did Crockett and Tubbs rock the shoulder pads, they rocked the sockless loafers, too. This was all fine and dandy for the sexy vice duo on network television, but it wasn't so fine and dandy in real life. Ooooo, child, can you say stinky feet? Keep those dogs snug in their loafers, please! Of course, my prejudice against this particular look may be that I'm an Ohioan, and here, the Miami Vice trend seemed geographically misplaced, like wearing a parka in Ft. Lauderdale. It didn't help any that the men who pimped this style (in my experience) seemed to really think they were on Miami Vice. Remember Glenn in the The Wedding Singer? Yeah, I dated him - well, a guy just like him who thought he was Crockett incarnate. Maybe I could have tolerated the trend a little more if the men who adopted it had not adopted the whole Crockett and Tubbs persona! :) 

This brings me to Madonna, and the millions of teens and twenty-somethings who skipped through the 1980s lip-sinking "Like A Virgin" dressed like slutty rag-dolls in lace skirts and fingerless gloves. While I was never a Desperately Seeking Susan, I had plenty of friends who were (I was more of a Siouxsie and the Banshees kinda gal). Thank heaven this "Material Girl" trend was short lived, reaching its fashion apex by the mid-1980s and dying quickly from there. However, the trend that transitioned from the Madonna look, and had taken hold of the female wardrobe in the last half of the decade, has fought tooth and nail to stay alive - we still see snippets of it on the Jersey Shore and Housewives - I like to call it Lycra Couture - you know, the dresses sold by Frederick's of Hollywood? I'm all about sexy jammies, but I don't wear them in public. There is something to be said about sexy and chic (think Sophia Loren or Heidi Klum), which is cultured, intelligent, and commands respect (it diminishes sexual objectivism) - versus sexy and porn star, which merely commands sexual attention; of course, this is the objective if you happen to be a professional in the adult entertainment industry (think Jenna Jamison - she didn't make her fortune by dressing like a Pentecostal). Love it or hate it, I fear Lycra Couture is here to stay.

Giddy-Up, Horsie: The stirrup pant. *gag* Need I say more? I never owned a pair - EVER. Despite the fact that I was a self-conscious teenager back in the day, I liked clothes that showed off my figure - not to the extent of Lycra Couture - but, I had a nice shape, particularly my legs. And, what did stirrups do? They turned the female gam into a shapeless, straight-lined plank of wood to compliment the shapeless, over-sized sweaters and shirts which were also fashionable at the time. Thus, the Fabulously Frumpy look was born. Where Lycra Couture leaves nothing for the admirer to imagine, either does Fabulously Frumpy - I'm not sure which trend is more detrimental to the feminine physique (some would side on the issue of modesty and cite Lycra Couture as the greatest offender), but in either case it doesn't matter. Bad fashion is bad fashion, and bad taste is bad taste. (Tell a fashion connoisseur that costume design, form, and function is subjective - ha!)

Designer Michael Kors
There are other trends from the 1980s I hope not see, like parachute pants and mutton sleeves (this trend could have happily stayed in the 1890s), but something must be said about revisiting an era in fashion - trend reprisals are usually improved versions of their original concepts. For example, the neon craze that consumed the early 1980s (I'll never forget walking into The Limited and buying a dayglo blue crop-top that said "boy toy"!) was a juvenile trend at best. These colors saturated T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, hair ribbons, leggings, and hoodies - no respectable professional would have been spotted in neon, except in their aerobics gear at the gym. Today's reprisal of neon fashion is high-end couture, chic, opulent, and rich - there is nothing juvenile about it. It matured - and I think this is the key to revisiting a trend. 

Fashion grows up, and so should our style. 


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