What goes around comes around, and fashion’s no exception. Now I’m not complaining; as a huge fan of nostalgic style, I have been known to literally squeal with delight when designers look back to the great moments of fashion history for inspiration. But even I have my limits.
I’ve always felt that the decade following 1979 was like that embarrassing fashion phase that everyone goes through when they first start dressing themselves. At the time it felt new, exciting, and sometimes rebellious, but we now know that we actually looked ridiculous, and that whatever it was we decided looked good back then, should never be brought back out of the wardrobe. For me, that sums up the Eighties: an unfortunate moment of fashion misguidance that’s best not repeated. It seems, however, as though my allies on that front are becoming increasingly hard to come by. Instead, it appears that over the following year we’re all going to have to face up to a frightening fact; that thing I’ve always dreaded is finally happening. The Eighties are making their comeback.
Now I don’t want to be accused of scaremongering, so I should probably say this now. For those of you who are already sick with worry that you’re going to have to sport Dynasty-chic this summer, surprisingly it’s not actually that bad. Don’t get me wrong, an Eighties revival was never going to be a good idea in my book, but actually many designers have done pretty well to pick the best of the bad from the decade when fashion died. Hopefully here I can do the same.
Of course, there are elements of Eighties fashion that have been around for a few years already. Take skinny jeans for example. Revived in the Eighties, they’ve once again become a staple of many of our wardrobes. This summer, however, the trend has been dragged even further down the Eighties road. Ripped, acid wash denim took centre stage at Balmain, House of Holland and DKNY, to name but a few. Personally, I’m not too sure about a revival of the ‘I’ve just been through a shredder’ look, and it’s certainly not the most wearable of trends. Pulling it off is difficult if you want to avoid revealing too much flesh or looking like a scruffy student who simply needs a new pair of jeans. If you want to try the trend, but aren’t sure about buying a pair of jeans with half the fabric cut out, why not just get an acid washed pair that are fully intact? There are some good styles at Miss Selfridge or Topshop. And hey, if you’re feeling brave later on, there’s always the scissors.
Another revival seen in so many collections for both spring and autumn this year is that definitive Eighties look of sharp-shouldered power dressing. Another tricky trend, the best interpretations came from Balmain. Although this was a collection that seemed to stem entirely from eighties inspiration, there were certainly no embarrassing throwbacks walking down the catwalk. Statement jackets that accentuated the shoulder, although an obvious nod to designers like Claude Montana, were modern and wearable. The key thing to remember with the trophy jacket is not to go head-to-toe eighties with it. Keep the rest of your outfit simple to avoid looking like you’re part of a Boy George appreciation society.
It seems that the Eighties are also affecting colour this year. Along with the various shades of nude that dominated many spring collections, Eighties-style acid-bright colours were also cropping up all over the place. Unlike shredded denim or strong shoulders, this is an easy trend to work into your own style. For those brave enough, there are some brilliantly bright Eighties style cocktail dresses at Oasis and French Connection.
But for those of you who shy away from colour at the best of times, think about looking at accessories instead. Always a great way to play with a trend you’re not sure about without committing yourself, and this season there is loads to work with. Take inspiration from the dramatic earrings at Louis Vuitton. But be careful. Big, bold and bright, jewellery this season should be a statement on its own, used to set off an understated outfit. Just remember, the idea is not to look like Madonna circa 1985.
So far this Eighties revival has actually been pretty painless, something I never thought I’d admit. However, there is one element that I just can’t quite stomach. The jumpsuit: bad in the Eighties, it still looks bad now. Designers have been pushing it for a few seasons already, but this spring it appeared in some form or another in a staggering number of collections. Like Balmain, DKNY and Topshop Unique clearly took their inspiration from the Eighties for their denim all-in-ones. However, unlike Balmain’s fresh interpretation of Eighties style, at Topshop, denim jumpsuits accompanied by large denim bows in the hair were screaming ‘Bananarama’ far too loudly for me. Unflattering on pretty much every shape other than the model thin – and even then they’re often not great – this is one trend that should have stayed well and truly locked away.
However, I do have to admit that despite the jumpsuit, the Eighties revival hasn’t actually been too bad, and as a self-confessed Eighties-phobe that’s saying something. I have always been afraid of the day when the decade that brought us Margaret Thatcher and the mullet would make its comeback. The relief is that it hasn’t. In fact in some cases, Balmain in particular, the Eighties inspiration for spring/summer 2009 has been just that – inspired. Ignoring Topshop here, many designers have managed to put a very cool, very modern spin on the fashions that I had always hoped would remain buried. What we’re dealing with here isn’t an Eighties comeback. Rather it’s something fresh and new that maybe looks a little bit like something that’s been around once before.