Don't even bother trying to hide — '80s fashion has crept back into the mainstream. (Cue bloodcurdling scream.) The formerly-unfashionable decade is suddenly cool again, and the styles that some prayed would never return — like shoulder pads, neon, and stirrup pants — are back in full force.
Utopia owner Beki Crowell sums it up best: "The '80s are definitely happening. I just got back from a trade show, and I'm like, oh my God. It's a little scary."
We'll go ahead and note that just about everyone we spoke to used some form of the word "scary" when talking about the resurgence, and not always in a bad way.
"Everybody was so afraid of the '80s coming back in," says Anna Lassiter, co-owner of Eden Boheme. "But now it's done with a modern twist, and I don't even think they're realizing they're loving it so much." The Lower King shop is currently stocking '80s-inspired items like a sweatshirt with a cut-out back, gold leggings, and jumpers, whose comeback Lassiter calls "a shock."
"You know that saying that fashion always repeats itself? I think that we're just kind of at that point where it's time to repeat the '80s," says Leslie Lupisella of Mt. Pleasant boutique II Brunettes. "I think it started to slowly come back last fall, and now it's so much more. Last fall people were too scared of it, and now people can't get enough of it ... It's just that cycle of fashion.
"I think things were just boring for awhile and designers figured they had to do something to spark people's attention with the economy," she adds. "What better than big flashy '80s stuff to get people's attention, to give people something to get excited about?"
Stacy Smallwood of Hampden Clothing, however, points the finger at a specific designer. "Alexander Wang I think led up this whole '80s revival with the kind of oversized T-shirts," she says. "Everything's kind of oversized and messy, so I feel like a lot of designers were inspired by his look."
The reason for the reincarnation is debatable, but most people don't even care. Apparently, some don't even realize there's a revival going on.
"The funny thing is, the people who are really into it don't really know it's '80s-inspired because they're so young," says Beli Hrivnak, manager of Willy Jay's.
Some customers don't realize that the peplum dresses, jeggings (jean leggings), and off-the-shoulder tops at Willy Jay's were key '80s trends. But at Utopia, the trends may not be as recognizable because they've been reinvented.
"All the pieces we're carrying are much more flattering than much of the '80s styles that I recall from my youth," says Crowell. "I always say that when a trend resurfaces, it tends to be a new and improved version of the long past decade it is emulating. From my observation, trends always seem to recycle every 20 years or less. I'm not sure why, but maybe a few designers of the present have a certain affection for a particular decade and are inspired to reinvent it. Then it catches on."
So how do you avoid looking like you're dressing up as Madonna for Halloween? Moderation, folks.
"I think I would pick one trend," Smallwood says. "Don't layer up with a boyfriend blazer, leather leggings, and an oversized T-shirt. Pick one of those three trends. Keep it your own. If you like fitted pieces, stay fitted and do one modern piece to mix it up. I think it's always bad to dress in one complete trend."
The verdict is still out on how long this resurgence will go on ... but it's sure to last beyond the next full moon.
"Going into spring as well, it's so '80s," Lupisella says. "Everything is neon, shoulder pads are huge, crop tops — everywhere."
Smallwood, however, is already looking forward to the next decade.
"There's still a lot of '80s influence for next spring, but I feel like some of the designers have kind of moved on to the '90s Gap," she says. "The white blouse is really important next spring and there's a lot of army green and kind of a blush pink and chambray."
Who knew that all you had to do was mention the '90s, and suddenly, the '80s don't seem so scary anymore.
Dressing Room of Horrors
The trends we'd rather see stay in the crypt
Erica: Clown makeup. Perms. FUPA jeans. Jumpers ... oh wait, they're already back.
Anna: Lace gloves. "I'm not terribly opposed to those, but I don't want to wear them myself."
Leslie: Lace. "Personally, I don't like lace. But it's coming. It's on its way, and it's all for spring. Like cut-outs, leggings with lace on the side. It's very Madonna."
Stacy: Leg warmers, short gloves.
Beli: Sweatbands, athletic-inspired. Leg warmers.
Beki: '80s hair and shoulder pads. "Not a good look. Definitely not flattering to a woman's body."
Leggings • Off-the-shoulder tops and dresses • Skinny jeans with ankle zippers • High waists • Motorcycle jackets • Wayfarers • Neon • Punk rock details • Booties