Book: Decades of Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, The Boyfriend earned some real Brownie points by buying me this book from our local Oxfam. I saw it in the window on my way home on the Friday when they were already closed. He then went out on the Saturday morning to get bread and milk and came back with the book, before I had a chance to buy it myself! Aw!

I love this picture of the woman (in I think the 20s) running on the beach! Also fair warning, there are a lot of photos in this post!

The book takes you through each decade of the hundred years from 1890-1990, looking at fashion, beauty and hair trends as well as a brief outline of the historical happenings and social norms for each period.

Each decade gives you 3 style icons that typified the fashion of that era, or were perhaps a bit groundbreaking for their time. I love that Calamity Jane and Princess Alexandra are both there for the 1890s!

You also get hair and beauty trends for each decade – shame I’ve got such short hair, some of these look like fun! Especially the giant ‘do on the far left hand side!

Any clothing that requires first of all help to get into and second of all someone else’s foot in your back cannot be comfortable!

At least they weren’t likely to get sunburnt! I’m tempted to recreate one of these beach outfits…

I love this photo of women at work – in the US in 1908 – it looks like it’s some kind of textile work, though I can’t tell what they’re doing exactly – any ideas? The caption just says ‘women at work’. Helpful.

Here are the icons of the 1900s. The only one I’d heard of, shamefully, was Lillie Langtry – and that’s mostly because there’s a pub named after her in Norwich, where I went to university! Also one of my friends lived near Newmarket for a while and Lillie Langtry’s house was on the corner of the track leading to her house.

The below product looks like it will help you look healthy without needing make-up, presumably. But it contains arsenic, so I don’t think the ‘healthy’ glow would make you that healthy in the long run!

I refer to my above comment about corsets – no matter how much they might hope it, I’m sure it was no ‘a dream of comfort’! She’s so comfortable she’s taking a nap, after all!

And we think unrealistic body image is a new phemonenon……No-one could possibly have had a waist that thin and been still able to breathe, let alone admire oneself in the mirror.

Of course the 1910s was the era of the Suffragette and it’s good that this book covers the social context of each decade as well as the fashion and beauty trends.

This is the first decade where I recognise all 3 of the icons!

I love that in the earlier decades in the book there are fashion illustrations instead of photographs (obvs!). These ones are particularly great. There are also some designers who were particularly influential in each decade mentioned – I didn’t realise Lanvin was so early!

Also Elizabeth Arden started in the 1910s! No idea she – and the brand – were that old.

Oddly after I took all these photos of the book, I discovered a new podcast called You Must Remember This, all about the unknown and hidden stories from classic Hollywood. The first few episodes are random, but then she goes into themes – like dead blondes, blacklisted, stars at war – and one of the episodes is about this woman, Theda Bara. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it was great timing because I thought she would be an interesting woman to know more about!

Black Ascot sounds super creepy, but I thought I would post this photo of the text that explains it – and how it influenced My Fair Lady!

 

I think 1920s fashion illustrations are definitely my favourites!

I love pretty much everything about this photo of Clara Bow – I especially want her shoes. And he hair actually – I’m thinking of growing mine out and this slightly frizzy ball might be achievable for me!

I absolutely love this! And it shows there must have been a bit of variety in the clothes people wore – there wasn’t just one shape or style that everyone wore, though there are, of course, similar elements.

Having said I loved the other photo of Clara Bow, I think that might have been in part because I can’t see her eyebrows. Check these out for a brow style! I’m not totally sold on them to be honest…

Another huge, famous make-up name which has been around much longer than I thought! Max Factor started in the 20s, who knew?

Having watched all of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries about 3 times, I knew from watching a clip talking with the costume designer that she was desperate to do a tennis episode because tennis – and the associated clothes – was hugely popular in the 20s, it was pleasing to see this photo in this book.

There’s not really much to say about these icons! Except I fancy wearing a tux one day. Maybe when I’ve sewn everything else I can think of, I’ll make myself a tux?!

I read a whole book about Jean Harlow a few years ago – she had a very short life and a fairly tragic end, but she did pack in quite a lot! She was the first platinum blonde bombshell.

I couldn’t not include a photo of my namesake! Shamefully I don’t know much about her except that she disappeared. Though recently it was in the news that they thought there was a photo of her and her navigator on an island in the Pacific. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course in the 40s women went to war.

It’s funny to reconcile the above photo and the 3 women below – the reality of life for a lot of people during World War 2 and the continuing glamour of Hollywood.

I pretty much only know Veronica Lake from her hair, so it’s funny to see this photo in the book – maybe that really was what she was most famous for?

The advent of the bra much had been a huge relief for all concerned – though I’m sure I read somewhere that the bra Howard Hughes made for Jane Russell was incredibly uncomfortable, so maybe sticking to corsets wouldn’t have been so bad, at least temporarily!

I didn’t seem to take so many photos of the 40s. Weird. Well, onto the 50s…. I like the contrast in the 2 photos below – black and white vs colour, austerity vs plenty.

And we get 3 of the most iconic actresses of all time in one decade! I definitely have a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe – Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films. It was also the biggest decade for the Hollywood musical, but that doesn’t really get a mention here.

Ah, Givenchy and Balenciaga. I’m going to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A in September and I am really excited!

And onto my favourite decade 😀

I love how different some of the 60s icons are – Jackie Kennedy vs Twiggy vs The Supremes. All great, in their own different ways.

Edith Head is definitely someone I want to read more about – I read recently about the brown evening gown Bette Davis wears in All About Eve and how there was a mistake in the measurements so it ended up being off the shoulder when it wasn’t supposed to be. I bet there are loads of make it work moments like this throughout her career.

I think I might add all of these designers to my list of ones to cover in future posts.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but this has to be the most iconic haircut of the 60s. I might grow my hair into this finally, and take the plunge!

I kind of love/hate the 70s. Some of the style is great but some of it less so!

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole book is that Miss Piggy is one of the style icons of the 70s!

I might also cover all of these designers in future posts too.

It seems that the 70s was when jeans really took off, so I guess we do have one thing to be grateful to the decade for.

The photos for the later decades definitely got fewer….

Dynasty has to be the most quintessentially 80s programme.

The gown on the left, from the 80s I think must be Valentino because it looks quite like the gown Julia Roberts wore when she won her Oscar, which was a vintage 80s Valentino dress. Apparently this kick-started the trend to wear vintage dresses on the red carpet.

I feel like the 90s was kind of the start of fashion being comprised of multiple trends.

I think it’s fitting that the last photo I’m posting is of the Spice Girls, the most 90s of groups! Apparently Geri’s union jack dress was made by her sister out of a tea towel – if that’s true, it’s awesome that something made at the last minute became so iconic!

Do you have a favourite fashion history book?

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Fashion History: 1930s

I thought today I would take a closer look as fashion from the 1930s. As I mentioned in my post on my book Vintage Fashion, the 30s was the era of Hollywood glamour. Gowns were elegant and draped and with an elongated silhouette. Women had been liberated from corsets in the 1920s meaning the evening-wear was freer and was cut on the bias to show the natural curves of the body. In terms of undergarments, they favoured separates with few seams so they wouldn’t show through the outerwear. Madeleine Vionnet was the first designed to use the bias to make these kinds of gown.

Madeleine Vionnet gown(image source)

In terms of daywear, the suit was still king. After the waist had completely disappeared in the 1920s, it came back in the 30s. After the Great Depression in 1929, people didn’t have so much money (obvs!) so fashion had to last longer – they mended things rather than buying again. Costume jewellery overtook real jewellery and it and accessories became the way to update a look where they couldn’t afford a new suit. Daywear became more and more practical, too, as women led busier lives.

1930s Suits(image source)

It was lucky timing that synthetic fabrics, like synthetic silk, were being developed during the 30s as it meant clothes were cheaper, so people could actually afford them. Don’t the women above look thrilled to be in their suits! As you can see, berets were a big trend, worn on a jaunty angle.

1935 Sears Fashions(image source)

After the boyish styles of the previous decade, the 30s returned to a feminine, hourglass silhouette. Although the suits weren’t super feminine, there was a big fashion for pussy bows and feminine necklines. Also frills and flounces on the blouses.

Meadowbrook Illustrations 1930s(image source)

Following Chanel’s lead, a  lot of daywear styles were more sporty than they had been before. In 1930 Prunella Stack started the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in Britain.  Their motto was ‘Movement is Life’ – and they acknowledged the importance of a healthy mind and a healthy body.

1930s Fashion Illustration(image source)

And of course fur is always elegant! Though these days I would go to faux rather than the real thing….

1930s Furs(image source)

I thought I’d share a couple of Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs, after discovering her in the Vintage Fashion book. Her label was first popular because of her trompe l’oeil knitwear designs, like these two (the bottom one was on the cover of a book about the history of knitting):


Schiaparelli jumper(image source)

She had no formal pattern-making training, so like her mentor, Paul Poiret, she draped her clothes directly on the body/ dress form. I love, love, love, this coat – I can’t believe she draped it! Want!

Schiaparelli faces gown(image source)

Designers like Schiaparelli and Chanel were, as now, the domain of the wealthy – especially in the shadow of the Depression – so people started to make knock-offs and ready-to-wear versions for the less wealthy to buy. Still the majority of women made their own copies of the latest designed based on what they saw in magazines and in movies. This means there are lots of great sewing patterns from the 30s!

Vogue 1934 Sewing Pattern(image source)

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 2110 1930s(image source)

McCalls Sewing Pattern 8690 1930s(image source)

New York Pattern 137 1930s(image source)

Simplicity Pattern 1860 1930s(image source)

I couldn’t really do a post on the decade of Hollywood glamour without mentioning some of the era’s film stars!

Katharine Hepburn was a champion of the menswear trend. She made the wide-legged trousers and shirt look popular and it’s still a fashionable look now. And she knits!

Katharine Hepburn knitting(image source)

Katharine Hepburn beret(image source)

Katharine Hepburn(image source)

Bette Davis said “Hollywood wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” ‘Nuf said! Although, if you haven’t seen All About Eve, you have to, she’s amazing!

Bette Davis(image source)

Jean Harlow died very young but did manage to become a film star in her short life. She also wore some amazing gowns!

Jean Harlow gown(image source)

Jean Harlow gown 2(image source)

Jean Harlow red gown(image source)

Marlene Dietrich said “I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” She was the first major female star to wear a tuxedo. She definitely rocked the masculine look!

(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit 2(image source)

The last woman I’ll mention, though not a film star, was one of the most influential woman of the 30s style-wise. She was famously photographed by Cecil Beaton in a Schiaparelli dress, designed with Salvador Dali, with a giant lobster on the skirt – it was quite a scandalous dress at the time!

Wallis Simpson by Cecil Beaton in Schiaparelli(image source)

Here’s a better, colour, picture:

Schiaparelli lobster dress(image source)

In writing this post I’ve definitely reignited my love of 30s fashion! Who is your favourite screen icon of the decade?

Book: Vintage Fashion

Since moving to the Cotswolds, The Boyfriend and I have made an effort to explore little villages and towns, including Stroud, which has some excellent vintage and second hand shops. There are quite a few bookshops too and in one of them I found this book:

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I had to snap it up, obviously! It’s about the history of clothing in the 20th century and also about collected and wearing vintage clothes – there’s a glossary in the back of loads of vintage shops. The introduction is by Zandra Rhodes, who says:

“Vintage – what wonders this word now conjures up when linked with fashion! A magical harvest of wearable art! A wind from a past season that must be dipped into, sampled and tasted; old yes, but the garment is a survivor of the twentieth century and as such has become a classic of importance.”

The book covers each decade of the twentieth century up to the 80s – 1900-1929 are lumped together into one chapter. In the introduction they talk about the move from couturiers setting fashions and seamstresses reproducing this to mass manufacturer by the end of the second world war, removing individuality to some extent as people bought more off the rack (and made things themselves from commercial sewing patterns). The book points out, though, “why choose from ready-to-wear options produced for you, when the whole history of fashion is available?” I feel this way about sewing my own clothes – although I don’t want to look like I’m going to a costume party every day, it does mean people are less likely to have the same clothes as me because even if they use the same pattern, the chances of them using the same fabric too are pretty slim. This wouldn’t be the case if I bought all my clothes from Primark…..

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I love this dress on the first page of the 1900-1929 section. It’s a black peplum-bodiced velvet dress, trimmed with bands of velvet, with a white turnover collar, by Paul Poiret, 1924. It represents the change in this era – from Victorian/ Edwardian fashions of corsets, frills and flounces, worn by the wealthy and titled in society, to the move towards modern silhouettes, the loss of the corset (as women became (slightly) freer after the First World War) and the birth of the jazz age and the increasing influence of the media; women took their fashion cues more from film stars and by reading Vogue and Vanity Fair, rather than from Kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies.

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I love this dress too – I think it looks much more modern then First World War era! It was designed by Henri Bendel, who owned a shop in New York which originally sold designs by Chanel and Schiaparelli, then made own-label versions. I love the close up of the embroidery pattern on the fabric – it looks like running stitch you could do on any modern machine! Maybe I should make a copy…….not sure I’d have the patience, though!

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These silhouettes are ones I particularly recognise as being from the 1920s. I wrote a whole post on the early 1920s, if you would like more information about it. By 1924 the flapper was in full swing – they were known for their behaviour as much as for their fashion – the smoked and put on their make-up in public! The waistline of dresses dropped dramatically in 1925 to below the hip, and by 1927 it had disappeared entirely. Hemlines rose as the waistline dropped, to a scandalous 15in, to just below the knee. The flapper style crashed, along with Wall Street, in 1929.

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The 1930s is the ‘Hollywood glamour’ era. The style of cutting on the bias to show off the natural curves of the body was an almost compete reversal from the boyish, loose, straight styles of the 1920s. Designers also experimented with different fabrics (and new synthetic ones starting to be developed) because people could not afford luxury after the crash and between the 2 wars (though, of course, they didn’t know they were between 2 wars!).

Chanel (above, right) and Schiaparelli (below, right) were the 2 most influential designers of the 30s. Chanel had revolutionised day wear by seeing the potential in wool jersey as a comfortable, cost effective fabric. She focused on easy-to-wear sporty styles in neutral colours, including black. Where Chanel thought couture was a profession, Elsa Schiaparelli thought it was an art. Born in Italy, she was a close friend of Picasso, Dali and Man Ray, and published a book of poetry in 1911. She created clothes in bright colours, with an exaggerated silhouette – high waisted and broad shouldered to elongate the body – this was probably her own style as she was barely 5ft tall.

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Below is a floor-length harlequin wool felt coat from Schiaparelli’s 1939 Commedia dell’Arte collection. She had a shorter career, retiring during the Second World War, and although she was very successful at the time, dressing stars like Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, she is less well-remembered now. Perhaps because Chanel’s house kept going under Karl Lagerfeld? I think the below coat is quite 60s in a way, so maybe she was a bit ahead of her time.

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I think the 1930s are my second favourite decade for fashion, after the 60s, obviously. These dresses just look effortlessly elegant. Maybe I’ll have to give McCall’s M7154 a go finally!

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At the end of each chapter/ decade of the book is a round up of key looks, and coloured squares to show the palette of each era. It’s a handy quick reference!

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The 1940s was all about the suit, which echoed the military uniforms seen on service men and women. They were cut with a quite masculine shape, emphasising the shoulders, to show how women meant business. Utility clothing was also an important movement in this era. Called the Victory suit in America and Everyman’s clothing in Germany, most countries had their version of the restricted fashions designed to save materials and labour.

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Of course, the end of the decade was all about Dior’s New Look. According to the book, the below outfit is from a Vogue Pattern by Pierre Balmain, rather than being an actual Dior. I love that the book acknowledges how many women sewed the latest fashions for themselves.

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One thing I hadn’t really thought of before, when thinking about the history of fashion, was the influence of countries and cities. Paris was the centre of the fashion universe up to the 30s but when it was occupied by Germany in 1940, America had to step up and find it’s own way stylistically. Their Victory suit was less austere than the British version – I guess they weren’t as restricted with materials as Britain, on the ration, was. And obviously the influence of Hollywood was really starting to take off.

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The 1950s was a decade of hope – after the Second World War and the positive reception of Dior’s New Look, women began to want to dress in more luxurious, feminine clothes (after enduring the masculine tailoring of the 40s). There was a slight backlash against this move back to the feminine, though – women had been liberated to some extent during the war, working as landgirls and in factories, and they didn’t like the idea that they would revert to being feminine and restricted to a romantic ideal.

There were 2 main silhouettes of the 50s – fit and flounce, both intended to emphasise a small waist, which could be achieved with underwear and strategic padding. This was the last decade when Paris still dominated, and I feel like it’s one of the last slightly old-fashioned decades (at least from a modern point of view) where women were still expected to have hats, gloves, and matching shoes and bag. I love these drawings of the different silhouettes,.

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Dior himself experimented with many different silhouettes throughout the decade – he wasn’t a one-trick pony. The below picture is from his last collection before his death in 1957. You can see he had started to move away from the hour-glass shape and I think you can start to see the emergence of what I would consider a more 1960s style, especially the red coat on the right.

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Although the 50s isn’t really a decade I am particularly drawn to in terms of my own style, it was undeniably an elegant decade! I can’t get over the flawless make-up and hair in this picture!

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I do like the 50s colour palette, though! Lovely turquoise, pink and yellow.

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Now my favourite decade – the 1960s!

Vintage Fashion 1960s Twiggy

In the 1960s London took over from Paris as the city everyone looked to to set the styles, especially Carnaby Street and the King’s Road. For the first time young people had money to spend and wanted to spend it on clothes, music, and their whole lifestyle. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were changing music, models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton were becoming stars and the way fashion was photographed (by David Bailey and others) meant it appealed to the young.

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I feel like I want a bright, patterned suit, like this one by Biba. The dress is also Biba and is equally fabulous! I love the print of the fabric. Biba was the cheaper end of the fashion scale in London and she capitalised on sales by selling whole outfits, including make-up and tights, so people could get everything in one place. Mary Quant, Ossie Clark, Zandra Rhodes and many others came out of the London scene too. If I could have lived at any time, I think I would definitely choose London in the 60s!

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Although London led the way, Paris was behind the space-age fashions of the 60s, including this red and white collection of 1968 by André Courrèges. The space age look was inspired by the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States – Yuri Gagarin successfully orbited the earth in 1961 and the moon landing was in 1969. The designs were minimal, both in style and in colour palette and were modelled on what we would be wearing in the year 2000.

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Towards the end of the 60s, the hippy look started to creep in. Pop music gave way to rock and at the same time people started to find a new style to wear to festivals and elsewhere. It wasn’t a designed look, but was about buying things second hand and items from other cultures (such as Indian kaftans, and Afghan jackets) and looking like an individual. This doesn’t mean that fashion didn’t follow and create new versions of this hippy look, though. The above look is a sort of lux version of the hippy look, in my opinion – I do love the combination of colours, though. This is by Bill Blass in 1965.

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The ‘mod’ look was all about simplicity of style – simple shapes which were comfortable to wear. Then you had the rockers, and the hippies and psychedelia. It seems like the 60s is the first time it’s creeping in that you could express yourself through fashion and not just wear the same styles as everyone else. This gets more extreme in the 70s and has maybe led to today’s fashion being about ‘trends’ rather than any particular style.

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I’ve included the round-up of the 60s because look at the colour palette! Orla Kiely anyone?!

Ah, the 1970s. I should pay a lot of attention to this decade as it’s apparently back in style this season. Does anyone else feel like the decades of the past just cycle around every couple of years?

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The 70s was definitely about lots of different styles. The bohemian flavour of the 70s was epitomised by Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, who designed together until their divorce in 1974. The above coat is one of theirs – she tended to design the prints and he showed them off to their best in the clothing designs. Clark carried on the bias legacy of the 30s, showing off the female form again after the straighter, simpler shapes of the 60s.

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A review of 70s fashion wouldn’t be complete without mentioning punk and Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. Coming out of bondage gear – rubber, leather, studs, chains – Westwood and McLaren mixed these elements with more traditional fabrics like muslin or cotton t shirts, cutting them up and pinning them together to create new shapes. Where flares had been getting wider and wider, punk reigned the trouser in and went back to drainpipes and skintight leather.

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Glam- (or glitter-)rock music dominated the charts in the early 70s – the likes of David Bowie, T-Rex, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. They dressed in shiny, luxurious fabrics, platforms and make-up.

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One of my favourite fashions of the 70s is Disco. Starting in New York and Studio 54, the music was made to be danced to. The clothes followed suit – those that would look best being danced in inside clubs. They favoured shiny fabrics like satin and lame and bright colours like fuchsia, pink, and electric blue. In the clubs the silhouettes were loose and flowing and on the street it included drainpipe trousers and boob tubes.

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It seems that most of the fashion trends of the 70s had an associated music style. I was watching a programme about music in the 70s and it was the decade when consuming music was at its highest and in pretty much every genre there was great music being produced – The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Eric Clapton, Jackson 5, Queen, Donna Summer, Dione Warwick, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Sex Pistols, ABBA, David Bowie etc. It seems like it  really shifted in the 70s to people dressing as individuals rather than following the only fashion that was on offer. I haven’t even mentioned the continuation of the hippy style, the revival of decorative arts and crafts, and the influence of Japan.

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I think the 80s is probably my least favourite decade in this book. I just think it’s the decade style forgot – sorry if you love the 80s! Feel free to convince me why it was great if you think so.

At the beginning of the decade, young people were feeling the pinch of the Reagan and Thatcher governments so fashions were created out of necessity and lack of funds. By the middle of the decade, though, people were better off and the 80s saw the beginning of an obsession with labels – like Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Versace. Tailoring took it’s masculine queue from the unisex looks of the 70s, such as in Annie Hall and from androgynous stars like Annie Lennox and Grace Jones. The suits above, right, are Chanel! I think it’s just the styling that makes them look 80s, if you look at the shapes of the jackets and skirts, you could almost be looking at the 40s.

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The skirt went kind of mental in the 80s – puffball, ra-ra and mini-crini (which I assume means mini crinoline, demonstrated by the Westwood one above, middle). These were paired with cropped jackets and over-the-knee stockings. The ready to wear copies were apparently appalling as they were not as easy to replicate as people thought!

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I didn’t take photos of many of the 80s pages – I just find it too ugly and boring to write about! Sorry not sorry.

What’s your favourite decade for fashion? Do you collect vintage clothing?