“Styling was key to the 80s look. It was very much a multi-layered aesthetic, and this is something that carries through to today as well.”
Kate Bethune, Assistant Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum interprets the 80’s style and fashion as a well thought about creative movement. Items could have been worn in many different ways to portray different looks, making each outfit individual to the stylist wearing it. Layers are a way to add depth and interest within a statement piece, contrasting colours and fabrics to make outrageous and eye catching designs done on both the catwalk and in London’s clubbing scene. Clothing mimicked the eccentric personalities associated with this time. This is something that is still done today as Kate stated, for the same reasons as in the 80’s, but also for more practical purposes.
The Victoria and Albert Museum was first established in 1852 and moved to its present site in 1857. It was designed to educate and inspire the public as well as designers by making works of art accessible to everyone. All of its profits go towards improving the museum and attaining new and invigorating works of art, and to help create new and refreshing exhibitions for the public.
Curators at the V&A have debated for several years on whether to approach this decade since they have never held an exhibition solely on the 80’s. With recent interest in the 1980’s, it seemed great timing to approach preconceived stereotypes and correct them. Recent hype in the 1980’s hasn’t just been limited to fashion, as music and photography from this era have shown to be becoming popular again. The world of online social media has made it easier for the public to express their interests in different things, for example the 80’s, and to talk about it with like-minded people. Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter make it easy for things to trend by simple uses of hash tags. Trends that have seemed to be popular online are like a domino effect, the more people who see it, the more people who will re-tweet, follow and share whatever’s popular. This carries on until it becomes an actual trend not just seen on the Internet, but in people’s wardrobes and styles of life.
Claire Wilcox, Head of Fashion and Senior Curator of Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980’s reported that she had been inspired by the renewed interest not just of 80’s fashion, but of music and photography also. Wilcox has worked along side designers such as Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix and Stella McCartney during different exhibitions.
The exhibition fills two floors and is ordered so the audience progress through the lower ground of designs geared for the catwalk. This part of the exhibit showcases serious designers such as Willie Brown, John Galliano and Vivien Westwood challenging traditional fashions considered acceptable. The garments are organised carefully in glass-fronted cases according to the designer and style of the item. Each piece is concluded with a written plaque explaining who designed the item, what season it was aimed for at fashion week, as well as the year of production and the collection it belonged to. For some of the garments, the fabric was documented which helped you to imagine the textures of the pieces from behind the glass. Each pod captured the essence and style unique to the garments beautifully, the silhouettes complementing its surrounding outfits. The shapes were edgy and exciting, colours popping everywhere you looked. It was almost a challenge to concentrate solely on each item as there was just so much to take in. Popular 80’s magazine The Blitz had commissioned Leigh Bowery, along with 21 other designers to work with Levi Strauss to customize a range of denim jackets. Bowery’s ‘Jacket of Hair Grips’ produced in 1986 showed new levels of customization, showing how simple every day items can become beautiful. It took