The ‘80s are so out that they’re in again in New York. For those who think they’re “in the know,” consider the movie Flashdance. Oh what a feeling this may bring; it seemingly summed up the best of the ‘80s in about two hours: the leggings, the legwarmers, the lap dancing oh my. There is, however, more to love and hate about the ‘80s than a dated movie. For example, take the return of the power suit for women—popularized by the primetime soap opera, Dynasty—identified by its exaggerated shoulders, stemming from shoulder pads used as stuffing as if they were football players; it supposedly signified equality of men and women at the workplace. It’s now a key trend for the season. I conceptualize it as the intellectual equivalent of putting a sock in the pants front.
Let’s talk about leggings, the “cat’s meow,” which have been reworked over the past two years, leaping from cotton, to wool and cashmere, to vinyl and latex, to leather and metal; leggings seem to have more lives than cats! For those I know, who are fed-up with the overdone ‘80 trend, including skinny jeans in all hues, beat up Converse and Vans sneakers, faded tee shirts, topped off with big plastic glasses and faux gold chains, we posit the same question: Why have these trends resurfaced, the ghost of ‘80s past wrought on the boroughs of the city?
The ‘80s, although considered a prosperous time until the stock market crash in ‘87, the gap between the well-to-do and those who do nothing grew exponentially. The rich draped themselves in the most ostentatious fashions available, contributing to the rise of the designer logo. Meanwhile the poor went punk—an anarchic, nihilistic style that deliberately set out to shock, turning to hip-hop and rock music for inspiration. The masses self-defined through homemade fashions, secondhand finds, fishnet tops and stockings, dark skinny jeans, and thick-soled boots as a way to rebel against the elitist status quo.
According to African philosophy, Sankofa states that one must reflect on the past in order to progress in the future, which leaves me wondering: “is the new millennium and its infatuation with the ‘80s spelling a period of reflection or are these lessons learned?” We live in a society where anything goes, a nouveau blissful anarchy of sorts, where women work and have sex like men; men spend hours getting ready before going out like women; sex on the first date is often expected; children are having children; and the beat goes on. What is Fashion forecasting?
Take Madonna, the ultimate ‘80s material girl, whose calculated, chameleon like changes made her arguably the most successful contemporary artist in world. She went from launching her career by grinding the stage at the MTV awards in a wedding dress, to well doing the same thing in the ‘90s during the Erotica tour by wearing fitted corsets and fishnet stockings designed by John-Paul Gaultier. She finally reached a religious breakthrough in a ray of light. It carried her to today, where she is doing what she essentially did in the ‘80s sans the wedding dress, instead opting for short shorts, fishnet stockings, and kneepads. Given that Madonna is fashion’s evolution personified, are we advancing or are we dancing in circles?