In terms of radical political change, the 1980’s were one of the most important decades of the 20th century. Now over thirty years in the running, the post-World War Two strife between Soviet and Western powers took a dramatic turn. First female Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, joined forces with conservative American President Ronald Reagan. Although their political ideas slightly differed (Thatcher wanted to establish friendly relations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, where Reagan took a more opposing stance towards Communism), their political involvement drastically helped wrap up Cold War conflict (which would later come conclusively to an end in the early 1990’s).
In the same way as the 1980’s brimmed with dynamic international occurrences (most famously the 1989 demolition of the Berlin Wall, which marked the end of Soviet power in East Germany), it stands as a bold and fierce fashion era. Unlike 1970’s clothing styles, which emphasized a natural and laid back vibe, the 1980’s was all about overstated glamour and glitz. Shoulder pads grew to staggering proportions, waist lines (inspired by the corseted 1950’s look) were emphasized with wide belts, and skirts were short and flouncy or sexily body conscious. Bright and bold colors abounded, often manifested in crazy floral and geometric printed materials. Specific fashion genres of the 1980’s included the rocker movement and the “New Romantics”. Rocker fanatics donned tough black leather tomboy-chic ensembles, complete with crazy sneakers and studded accessories, where the “New Romantics” sported Victorian-style lace blouses, prim skirts, and chunky pearl jewelry. Much laughed at today, it seems that everyone during the 1980’s wanted “big hair”. Locks were permed, scrunched, or teased into a variety of voluminous styles (most famously the poodle look). Similar to the current clothing styles, makeup was deliberately applied. Deep orange matte lipstick, smudged eyeliner, and glittery eye makeup (or a combination of all three) was all the rage.
Although I prefer to recognize the “girl of the decade” as a more general figure, there’s no denying that pop singing sensation Madonna Louise Ciccone epitomized (and even created) a huge percentage of what we now commonly view as 1980’s fashion. A true Cinderella story, this girl worked her way up from Michigan Catholic school girl status to international musician and fashion diva. Teenage girls soon began to imitate her creative thriftstore-chic mode of dress, via fishnet tights, crop tops, messily-knotted hairbows, Rosary necklaces, dark lipstick, and teased tresses (not to mention a bold and confident attitude). Even more conservative dressers were indirectly influenced by Madonna’s style, as she popularized the wearing of contrasting colors and French twist hairstyles.
Style Icons of the 1980’s
In contrast to Madonna’s outrageously creative style, Princess Diana was a sophisticated and polished fashion icon of this decade, much admired by “New Romantics” and classic fashion lovers. Rocker chicks turned to the likes of Joan Jett and Pat Benatar, while supermodels Brooke Shields and Cindy Crawford wowed nearly everyone with their Aphrodite-like beauty.
Recreating the 1980’s
While it’s best not to walk out of the house looking like you’re desperately seeking Susan, don’t be afraid to have some fun with 1980’s clothes. Two or three fashion elements of this decade work best in one outfit. For example, pair a sequined blouse, Rosary, and dangly earrings with calming grey jeans and understated ankle boots, or mix a flirty skirt, shoulder-padded jacket, and fishnet tights with a more simplistic modern hairstyle. Check out this Madonna hair and makeup tutorial if you’re into trying new beauty looks.
Please let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in seeing a VINTAGE 101 article covering the 1990’s. I know that the “vintage” fashion quality of this decade is debatable, so I will be choosing whether or not to write one based on your feedback.