Friday, April 21, 2006

What a feeling! The '80s are back in fashion

By Allie Shah, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Just when you thought it was safe to give those leg warmers to a museum, they're back in style -- along with a host of other iconic pieces of 1980s fashion.

Designers such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs seem to be saying, "I love the '80s" with their updated versions of a decade many associate with ugly fashions.

Anthropologie is selling cropped parachute pants and Ragstock is advertising skinny black jeans for men and leg warmers for women. But perhaps the dominant '80s-inspired fashion of the moment is a pair of leggings worn under dresses and short skirts.

"We're really starting to see the strongest influences of the '80s in spring 2006," said Gregg Andrews, fashion director at Nordstrom, one of several stores carrying '80s designer Norma Kamali's latest creations.

"We're starting to see designers have a renewed interest in shape and silhouette and volume," he said. "We're on the end of a cycle that has been very much about lots of embellishments, lots of color, lots of very dressy fabrics. Now we're going into a cycle that's a little more subdued, understated. So the interest will come in the shape of the clothes."

The decade that brought us oversized knit tops and jackets with shoulder pads was all about volume. From cowl necklines to dolman sleeves to blouson shirts and bubble skirts, the look was mostly full on the top and narrow at the bottom.

With the birth of MTV in 1981, music stars such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson played a huge role in setting fashion trends. Earlier in the decade, the new-wave music trend also influenced styles that are in reruns today -- skinny jeans and black-and-white striped shirts, for example.

For a few years, elements of '80s fashion have been creeping back in style. Flats for women, argyle sweaters and prep brands such as Lacoste have became popular again.

"The clean and wholesome side of the '80s we've already explored," Andrews said. "Now we're going to the more rock-inspired, more decadent -- that whole new-wave look."

Designers, he said, are fashion historians who look back for inspiration and then create fresh versions to reflect a new decade of style.

But just as with any decade, the '80s produced its share of fashion mistakes. The oversized shirt with leggings and canvas sneakers ensemble should not be recycled, Andrews said.

Not everyone believes that we're seeing a '80s fashion rerun. Nina Stotler, a fashion trend consultant for Peclers Paris North America in New York, said the '80s trend was important two years ago and is gone now.

"The only thing that's referencing the '80s now is the leggings," she said. "We're seeing a lot more subdued colors, with nude being really important. It's not so much the bright '80s colors."

She also said that fashion consumers have changed drastically since the 1980s, when everyone wanted to wear the same Guess? jeans. They don't want looks that are mass-marketed, she said. They want something tailored to reflect their individual style.

Andrews, meanwhile, advises fashion-conscious shoppers to avoid overdoing the trend. "There's lots of great items from '80s that will be inspiring and that women will want to incorporate in their wardrobe," he said. "The key will be picking one '80s-inspired item and not turning it into a period costume."


  1. Noooooooooo!!!!!

    I look back at my childhood photos and I just want to barf. I refuse to "throw-back" to the 80's in any way, shape, or form.

    When I was shopping at Nordstrom the other day, I saw nude and black spandex leggings for sale, with the lacy cuffs on the bottom. Seeing those really gave me the heebie-jeebies. They surmised thoughts of what I could only recall as 10 long years of really really bad clothes. I really hope jelly-shoes aren't up next....

  2. I don't think it'll catch on, honestly. It was fun while it was happening, but the clothes aren't as interesting to me the second time around.