The fashion industry is well known for being one step ahead, and very often our clothing trends are used as a precursor to political and social changes. In recent seasons we have seen a rise in traditional eighties silhouettes, structured shoulders, ruffles and bright colours within the clothes designers have been walking down their runways. With the resurgence of the eighties aesthetic rising for winter 2018 and seemingly staying for spring and summer 2019, does this mean we have similarities in today’s current political and cultural climate as the 1980’s, that may be behind the rise of the trends we are seeing?
We saw many designers channelling an eighties aesthetic during the shows for the coming months. At Balmain we had even more structured shoulders with razor cut blazers and knee length dresses encrusted with sequins which harked back to dynasty episodes and big hair. Marc Jacobs also strutted oversized jackets and coats with exaggerated shoulders down the runway as well as eighties ruffles on everything you can imagine, all in muted blacks, reds and purples with the odd vibrant shade thrown in. Tom Ford reintroduced us to the eighties favourite stirrup trousers and Versace gave us colourful oversized blazers (think clueless but fresher!) with beige pants and coats with burgundy leather accessories. Dresses with powerful shoulders and eighties style skirts also strutted down the runway, and as for SS19, Donatella referenced many time periods but we spotted strong eighties stylised neon party dresses and long boxy fitting coats all with statement oversized buttons. Accessories also gravitated towards an eighties aesthetic, large earrings are back with silk twilly scarves, large round frame sunglasses and chunky gold jewellery was seen everywhere.
Amid the whirlwind of 1980’s consumerism, what you bought and what you wore became an integral expression of your identity, your values and even your politics. The rich got richer, just like their shoulder pads and hair and the poor styled up what they had, creating sub-cultured trends and reinterpreting what they saw on celebrities at the time. The same thing is happening today, and if you look back through history our current social and political climate is very similar. England then was being convulsed by a social, cultural and political counter-revolution. There was violence on the football terraces and on the inner-city streets, the country was divided by Margaret Thatcher with minors strikes and a financial crisis. This is very much mirroring issues faced today, with Britain divided by Brexit and America similarly divided over political views, many people are feeling nostalgic to the eighties and its similar vibes in today’s world.
In the 1980s attitudes were also beginning to be challenged; this is very similar to today also. For decades, immigration had been changing the face of Britain, and mainstream culture became increasingly fascinated by diversity. These issues are still simmering, and with Brexit pushing discussions on immigration and our relationship with Europe, it’s like déjà vu. Not to mention the #MeToo movement spreading across the world. The global explosion of women demanding parity and recognition in the workplace and an end to sexual harassment, a phenomenon that mirrors the strong women of the eighties, making us reminisce over the power suit, in all its big-buttoned, shoulder-padded glory. Another similar factor is the rise of being environmentally conscious. It was in eighties that people were becoming actively concerned for the environment and our effect on the earth. We saw the first warnings of global warming in 1988 from NASA scientist Dr James Hansen who put global warming on the map. Now brands are pushing to be sustainable like never before, we have designers who use nothing but environmentally friendly materials in sustainable ways. If you link all these together the eighties have not only come back around in our clothing trends, but in the way we are thinking, the way our governments are acting and the issues we are all facing.
Fashion mirrors what is happening in the world, and as we are facing similar individual aspiration and cultural diversity with social and political revolution, women and men are reaching for their armour again. The eighties aesthetic is back, but along with it is the same unrest that we felt all those years ago, but just like that era, we are battling through it, with strong shoulders, statement jewellery, striking colour blocking and a political slogan tee to show you mean business.