Fashion In The 1980

’s Essay, Research Paper

For the New York teenager, the European or Japanese housewife, British fashion means pop videos on MTV and splashy Di and Fergie cover stories. To the world at large, our style is that which is worn by youth as its class extremes: British fashion in international markets is Rock ‘n’ Royalty. Rock & Royalty, Vogue, August 1987 Britain’s new ambassador for fashion had an aristocratic lineage, endless legs. At the age of 19 years old, Lady Diana Spencer possessed a shy smile and a firm grip on the public imagination – key ingredients, which made her the most photographed woman in the world. The decade which worshiped status symbols and courted conspicuous dressing was rooted in romantic fantasy. Royalty and soap opera lived in parallel universes. The twin obsessions of the 1980s were Dynasty and Diana; both bonded by the upwardly mobile shoulder pad. By 1980 punk burnt itself out and vogue entered the decade with a series of exclamation marks on its cover: ‘STARS! MORE! SUCCESS! WIN! By 1980 Vivienne Westwood had abandoned bondage trousers and was experimenting with radical cutting. She dissected pirates, pillaged ideas from the past and opened a shop called World’s End of London’s King’s Road, where the clock outside whirred backwards. The Japanese where already thinking along the same lines: Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto took a more refined approach origami pattern cutting. Japanese designers would shop logically by putting minute qualities of origami clothes in expensive area of prime retail space. Bruce Webber, how had worked on Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaigns pioneered the idea of a fashion shoot as stylish newsreel, seducing the customer with a mix of beauty and wide open spaces. Vogue pre-empted the royal engagement in its portrait portfolio by Snowdon in February 1981. It was the first official sitting of the 19 year old Lady Diana Spencer. Mrs. Peter Shand Kydd’- dressed in a cream orandie and lace dress by Gina Fratini, and also photographer in a pale chiffon blouse by Emanuel. The royal romance coincided with the arrival of the New Romantics in 1982 Vogue called them, ‘Afresh sartorial wind has blown across the last eighteen month. Punk dress has at last become coffee table history. Suddenly, it’s cool to be Glamorous.’ In the run up to the royal weeding, romance flourished on the fashion pages: ‘Escape to the Sun. The New Romantics decked in castaway cottons, pirate smocks, pantaloons.’ In June: ‘ Shock romance… a midsummer night’s cream, bejeweled and frilled to bits.’ And July: ‘ there is magic and madness about – it must be midsummer. One could hardly forget romance,’ Vogue, August 1981, was dedicated to ‘The Day of the wedding. Official Snowdon Portraits of Princess Diana in her Emanuel wedding dress.’ Style wars broke out between the political parties. The Labour party was out on a limb. Vogue took a wry look at partiamentary style: Margrate Thatcher versus Shirley Williams, co-leader of the Social Democratic Part. Thatcher: ‘A slickly wrapped package. Strikingly handsome, English rose.’ Williams: ‘French, amiable. Looks that her clothes were produced by a band of blind British fashion designers.’ With wall to wall engagements, and with the press hanging on every seam, the Prince of Wales Wardrobe was formed. In her previous life, Princess Diana had worn the Sloan Ranger uniform of piecrust-frilled shirt, multicolored sweaters and Laura Ashley skirts. Now dressing had turned from instinctive decision to serious business. The Prince of Wales was to be scrutinized from every angle; each minute detail – hat shape, heel height, colour, cut dissented and analyzed. The new wardrobe was British designers such as Bruce Oldfield, Victor Edelstein , Belville Sassoon and the occasional Zandra Rhodes. Diana’s long time favorite became Catherine Walker, a quite French woman living in London. Bodymap a design duo from Middlesex – explored radical cutting and were regarded as London’s brightest sparks, bringing in the buyers and creating a stir. In Paris Channel had a new man at the helm. Karl Lagerfeld, who had designed for Krizia, Max Mara, Fendi and Chloe, was appointed in 1983 and picked up where Coco left off. The house had kept a low profile since her death in 1971, and Lagerfeld proceeded to take the signature to the limit, cleverly keeping Chanel’s spirit with it’s classic suites through the use of new fabrics and reworked accessories, playing with new variations of glit chains and double ‘C’s’. After two decades of brilliance and a quick kick of fluorescence, black came back in, the colour of fashion. In the early 1980s buyers and editors converged on Tokyo to see what was happening. When the Japanese started showing in Paris, the shade card of chic changed to neutral conformity. Tokyo was responsible: ‘What hit and when fashions in Tokyo they do so with speed and thoroughness was very black, ver big, and with a very blank look.’ Reported Vogue in 1985. The natural antidote to frills and layering came in the shape of a diminutive Tunisian, Azzedine Alaia. When he launched his first collection in 1981, he was quickly doubbed the ‘King of Cling’ and ‘Titian of Tight’, and given an assortment of epithets which, roughly translated, meant sexy dressing for supermodels. Alaia adored tactile fabrics, smooth leather and elasticity. Each was approached with the same principles as courtesy – holding in and pushing out. It didn’t matter that his dresses were specifically built around supermodel bodies: ‘it is mystery, not nakedness that counts. We are becoming more and more physically and mentally conditioned towards healthy living; the moulding of clothes should reflect this.’ Jean Paul Gaultier, who trained with Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou. In London political correctness and social awareness were the causes closest to the fashion designer’s heart. Katharine Hamnett launched a ‘Choosev Life’ T- Shirt collection – clothes with a social message, including ‘Stop Acid Rain’, ‘Preserve The Rainforests’ and ‘58% Don’t Want Pershing’ ,(which she wore when meeting the Prime Minister at Downing Street in 1984). Two years later, designers banded together to form Fashion Aid’, a benefit at the Royal Albert Hall in London. John Galliano graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1984 with a first class honors degree, a collection called ‘Les Incroyables’, and a line – up of models whose expressions implied they were facing the guillotine. It was not until 1988 that he was on his way of becoming that rarest of breeds: a British designer with world appeal. ‘To be international, is to appeal to everyone.’ Mid – way through the decade, American designers were talking concept, sensing the Zeitgeist and formulating collections, which were flexible in more ways than one. The working wardrobe required effective subliminal messages. The power suite, the short skirt, heel – which said sexy but could alco walk the length and breadth of the boardroom – all required a dress code that wouldn’t cause alarm in the office, the bank and the stock exchange. In September 1985 Donna Karan showed her first solo collection since working as principal designers at Anne klein. Karan’s mantra was woman with curves and busy lives to lead – ‘clothes that would travel, interchange and impress’. Karen’s mantra was woman’s curves and busy lives to lead – ‘clothes that would travel, interchange and impress’. Her basis was the wool jersey body suit, to which a tubular skirt, elasticated sarong or wool wrap was added, then simple pieces of 24-carat plate jewelry by Robert Lee Morris were added or subtracted: ‘Everything she needs to refine or elaborate her look is contained within the collection.’ The new consumer bought Calvin underwear with his signature woven into the elastic waistband. A Versace or Amani outfit could be spotted from 500 yards by the new designer iliterate. Gianni Versace – glitzy, glamorous and the epitome of Italian excess – presented his first collection in 1978, and by 1985 he had built, on one line alone, 70 Versace boutiques throughout the world. Gorgio Armani symbolized Milan’s other side: subtle tailoring, soft shoulders, and a look that became the corporate uniform for the world’s financial whiz kids. In 1987 the puffball skirt blew in and out of fashion and Christian Lacroix, a 36-year-old from Aries, France, had left Jean Patou to open his own couture house. Lacroix’s lush cartwheel hats, coloured silks, froufrou skirts and seemingly irreverent approach to the reverential traditions of Parisian couture was a persuasive message for the younger customer. The following year, Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York held court to their individual sets of designers. Vogue cited ‘Rock and Royalty: Fashion’s most powerful influences and in January 1988 switched to parliamentary matters: ‘Dressing for political life is serious business; stakes are high and traps await the unwary.’ Twelve years before the dawn of the twentieth century, Vogue detected a disparity between designers. Some looked forward, other back; Calvin Klein, Donna Karen, Versace and Armani occupied the middle ground. Among the historians were Romeo Gigil, John Galliano and Christian Lacriox, who said, ‘Every one of my dress possesses a detail which can be connected with something historic, something from a past culture. We don’t invent anything’.

In the minimalist camp were Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and geoffrey Beene, who predicted, ‘There will be a blacklash against overdressing and ostentation. Economic conditions will have to work for life. I don’t like to look backwards – it’s not fun, it’s not challenging, and it’s been done before.’ Both designers were right. Soap opera style changed from a symphony of shoulder pads to a workable wardrobe, which appeared – even if had a Armani label inside – to intertwine with real life. Thirty something was soothing escapism for baby-boomers, who walked around in crumpled chinos and expressed angst about their relationship. Said Vogue’s ‘Eye View’ for winter 1989: ‘The first clothes we shall wear in the nineties are designed to caress the senses of the importance of balance and well -being. From eighties office clone to the nineties woman of feeling the new psychology starts here.’ Over Christmas 1989 Vogue reported the death of Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of American Vogue, whose favorite directive was, ‘astound me’. Karl Lagerfeld photographer Princess Caroline of Monaco, Vogue featured Diana, Princess of Wales with her children and picked the Mona Lisa as ‘the most desirable pin-up in the world’. There was an analysis of glamour by British Vogue’s editor, Alexandra Shulman: ‘The glamorous should not be like anyone else: Elizabeth Taylor should not have dull, domestic spats. If glamour is a projection by desire, it can always be withdrawn. Exposure and enigma are an irresistible mix’.



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