At a time when kids were collecting My Little Pony and fumbling with their filofax and Rubik’s Cube, 1980s women’s fashion was heading towards the tailored look, at a time when feminism had turned women into power dressers. Pin stripe suits adorned the city slicker girls as they mimicked their male counterparts. Tailored jackets were everywhere. The iconic look of the 1980s was the huge shoulder pad, influenced by American soaps like Dynasty and Dallas and another power dressing tactic to give women the authoritative look. Applique knitwear with shoulder pads was worn with floppy satin artist bow ties. Oversized jackets with huge shoulders were a feature of day and evening wear. Black and white giant dogtooth fabrics were popular, particularly for outerwear and shawls.
Accessories were crucial in creating that 1980s look. Clutch bags and shoulder bags were de rigeur and the iconic bag was the Chanel style shoulder bag with gold chain strap. The bum bag and Prada nylon bag were common street wear. Jewellery was oversized to match the shoulders. Gold, gilt and pearl earrings got bigger throughout the 1980s. Gold hooped earrings reached a 4 inch diameter.
Footwear was an eclectic mix of heels and flats. Doc Martens were still going strong, but in the 1980s were combined with ultra feminine floral Laura Ashley dresses for a completely new look.
1980s hairstyles relied heavily on a lavish quantity of hairspray. They were large, to create balance with the large shoulders and jewellery. Flicks got larger and with the advent of hair mousse, finger drying replaced heated rollers. The most popular hairstyles were the Purdy look, worn by Joanna Lumley in The New Avengers and of course the icon of the decade, Princess Diana with her feminine bob, combed forward and with a shaping at the nape of the neck. Back combing created that big hair look, promoted by Madonna, whose clothes were easily imitated by teens, as a mish mash of layers and lace, three quarter length leggings and ankle boots. She was also responsible for the outbreak of fingerless gloves. Madonna had the ability even then to reinvent herself, but her popular poodle perm and streaked hair was copied by girls in UK and US. She wore multiple necklaces and super dangly earrings, often bearing a crucifix. The teen scene also lapped up the New Romantic image of swash buckling pirates, lace, frills and theatre. The alternative to this look was the shell suit, in fashion as the new casual sports look and responsible for so many casual looks right up to the present day. Leg warmers appeared in vibrant acid yellows and pinks. Stretch pants with stirrups under the feet looked fantastic on a size 8, but showed the lumps and bumps of everyone else that donned them. Big sweaters, tee shirts and shirts were worn with these or leggings and were belted with low slung and brashly coloured belts.
1980s fashion clothing appeared unable to make up its mind. So many styles were worn, but they all had a common element of getting yourself noticed.