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Angelina’s ‘80s Archive: In Defense of a Decade’s Fashion

People love to make fun of things that are different, and clothes are certainly not immune to that ridicule. Maybe we would change the way we think of past fashion if we considered that people in the future are likely to feel the same way about what we wear today, or the fact that current clothes trends came from the style of the decades before us. Today, I’m writing in defense of ‘80s fashion. Here are five pieces you probably have in your closet that prove you shouldn’t be so quick to judge it:

High-waisted Jeans

Most jeans women wear today are high-waisted—especially popular are those of the “Mom Jean” variety. Though high-waisted jeans existed long before the 1980’s, their popularity rose throughout the decade. Many consider the ‘90s their inspiration when they wear mom jeans, discrediting the true origin of the style, but the ‘80s takes the cake when it comes to a variety of designs, washes, and exciting outfit possibilities. Today’s pairs may come with fewer ALF appliques, but their origins are clear.

Scrunchies

An accessory which has been appropriated by VSCO girls everywhere, and another item that has become associated with the ‘90s, the side ponytails of the late 1980’s would not have been complete without colorful, hair-holding scrunchies. The coolest thing about the scrunchie is that it was invented by a woman, Rommy Revson, to reduce the damage caused to hair by typical elastics. 

Oversized Blazers

They add structure to an outfit. They can be dressed up with a dress or slacks, or down with jeans or (if you are as bold as some celebrities)… bicycle shorts? Their colors and patterns are endless. I have had a plaid oversized blazer for a few years, which I bought because it reminded me of Ducky from Pretty in Pink. It also came in handy in 2018 for a Heathers Halloween costume I put together. (I think some of the best pieces in my wardrobe are ones that can double as day-to-day outfits and costume pieces.) These blazers add a bit of power to every ensemble, and we have the ‘80s to thank for that.

Double Denim

Also known as the “Canadian Tuxedo,” denim-on-denim has made a comeback within the past few years, and being as I love it so much, I am not mad about it. It is an extremely versatile look, from high-fashion runways to grocery shopping. We all deserve to appear and feel, at least once in a while, as if our lives are set to Huey Lewis, and like we are about to hop into a DeLorean to mess up, and subsequently save, our parents’ relationships.

Leggings

You know about athleisure, but what you really should know is that, although the term has come into use fairly recently (that is, in everyday conversations—Merriam-Webster actually dates its first known use to 1979!), the trend is not a new concept. The ‘80s brought leggings, once worn only for exercise or as an undergarment, to the forefront of fashion. Sure, they have existed in some form or another since the 14th century, but the type of legging that this generation knows and loves is indebted to Madonna and, yes, Jazzercise. Even the beloved combination of long sweater and leggings has its origins in our era of focus.

“Professional” fashion critics, stylists, and typical consumers alike tend to flip flop on fashion based on what is considered trendy at the moment. Nowadays, for example, Tan France of Queer Eye fame (of whom I am a fan) always advises men who wear athletic sneakers to switch to nicer sneakers or boots. However, I watched a YouTube video in which he styled a woman for streetwear in the exact same type of shoe he is known to condemn, all because of the so-called “Dad Shoe” revolution. I love that people can change their mind about style; what I don’t love is the tendency to abandon individuality and begin to hate or love something solely because everyone else does. (Perhaps that is not the case in this particular video, but it does seem a strangely abrupt shift.)

The above attire represents only a small sample of what the ‘80s have done for today’s fashion, but I think still more can be done. Getting ready back then was exciting, each person truly expressing their unique personality through subtle differences in pattern mixing, statement jewelry, hair, and makeup. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to swipe on neon eyeshadow and Capezio jazz shoes, but if that’s what a person likes, then they should not be judged for it. Fashion today could benefit from taking more cues from a time when people weren’t afraid to be bold.   

You may think that the styles of the ‘80s are just another version of the uniform-like closets of today, and you may be right, but I find something different in them. We weren’t all built to be the same. We especially weren’t built to be boring.

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Angelina is a senior at BU, studying English in the College of Arts and Sciences, with a focus on Shakespeare. She is from Somerville, MA. In addition to writing for HCBU, Angelina is the Director of BU On Broadway Off Broadway and has been involved with theater through BU Shakespeare Society, Wandering Minds, and Stage Troupe. Outside of school, she enjoys dancing, music, baking, and movie marathons. Her pop culture heart lives in the 1980's.
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