Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The 1980's began with the election of a film star as president. Ronald Reagan understood the American media and how to look on camera. Below left his cowboy lifestyle in California and on right his presidential proper suit look with his wife Nancy who consistently appeared in red.

The 1980's saw the mass popularity of the personal computer, video games, cable television and a number of pop fads in clothing and lifestyle.

The 1980's were an important moment for American fashion as it was the first time that American designers received global recognition. The key figures were Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein as seen below, emphasizing American classics, urban chic and young sexuality accordingly.

Donna Karan was an important figure because she was designing mostly for the working woman and was herself a business CEO that embodied the power woman of the 80's.

The power suit is hits a peak in the 80's. Below American Gigolo (1980) emphasizes a tailored suit which helps the protagonist appear professional and appease his clients.

Ellen Mirojnick was the costume designer for Wall Street (1987) which created the fad in suspenders amongst the savvy downtown traders in New York.

Below Rain Man (1988) used the suit as part of character transformation. At left, Dustin Hoffman's character is first very simple and humble in dress but then as he grows closer to his brother and more confident he wears a suit, seen right.

Working Girl celebrated the new working women. Ann Roth studied the secretaries taking the Staten Island Ferry and noticed they were changing from sneakers to heels so she incorporated this element into the main character.

As the character succeeds at work she becomes more refined in hair and dress, especially as she grows closer to her male boss as seen below.

The emphasis on strong women, above in Coal Miner's Daughter about singer Loretta Lynn from 1980 and below Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985.

Desperately Seeking Susan includes another female character opposing Madonna who is transformed through clothing in the film. She begins above, very conservative and Wasp like and progresses toward Madonna's street style.

Tootsie (1982) cast Dustin Hoffman as a man who dresses as a woman on the job, reinforcing the social interest in working women.

Out of Africa was another 80's representation of a strong woman, this time in Kenya during colonialism. The Baroness begins in the film from a life of luxury as seen below in her fur.

Slowly she is transformed in the film which emphasizes cottons and a light beige and cream color palette.

Costume designer Milena Canonera asked locals about what clothing would have been worn in the era and allowed their local fabrics to be used.

The safari look popular in Out of Africa connects to the Indiana Jones films which focused on a rogue adventurer look. Costume designer Deborah Noolman created Indiana's hat custom to make it a bit larger than life and have a screen presence.

Some suggest that the above films resulted in an 80's safari trend in fashion and decor. Evidence of a colonial style can be found in YSL on the left in 1975, almost a decade earlier and safari aesthetics are still evident today.

The safari fever is evidenced in Banana Republic which began as a travel and safari clothing company in 1978 and then was bought by Gap in 1983 which continued the safari theme until the fad declined and then re-branded the store's vision.

Another popular clothing theme of the 1980's is fitness. Below Flashdance from 1983 with costumes by Michael Kaplan.

Above Flashdance and below Jane Fonda who began to produce work out videos for the home in the 1980's.

Below Steve Meisel's 80's inspired editorial for Vogue Italia in 2006.

Closing out the 80's is When Harry Met Sally from 1989. The film follows the characters over the decade of the 80's beginning with their quirky collegiate styles and ending with the more relaxed and simple forms of the 90's.


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  2. Good, fair 80's overview I think. Recently a friend and myself have been obsessing over the music aspect of the 80's and thus starting putting out a series of podcasts. :)