The year 1977 marked the height of the disco era. By the early '80s, disco fashion was changing -- partly because of an anti-disco movement brewing on the radio airwaves. At the onset of the '80s, outfits still had elements of '70s fashion trends, such as flashy fabrics and androgynous styles. By the middle of the decade, a retro aesthetic began influencing disco fashion. Pop icons helped to fuel this fashion movement, which was inspired by 1950s and even the Victorian era.
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Sequins and Shine
If sequinned tube tops were the signature fashion item of the 1970s, then electric coloured lamé was the fabric of the early '80s. Lamé is fabric woven with the use of metallic threads. Keeping with the theme of shine and glitziness, women sported jumpsuits, miniskirts and full-on cocktail dresses in the metallic fabric. Shoulder pads on jackets were broad and tasselled, tops were spangled, bottoms were tapered and the pumps were patent-leather and pointy. In many cases, over-the-top gaudiness was celebrated in disco clothing, as '80s ostentatious clothing gave the appearance of affluence.
Women dressing with an air of masculinity (and vice versa) was one of the iconic styles of the '80s. Music artists such as Grace Jones made the style mainstream at the end of the 1970s with her severe and short hairstyle and outlandish futuristic clothing. By the 1980s, androgyny was a bit more toned down, with a heavier focus on men's wear clothing. Some women wore classically tailored men's suits and accessories -- in lieu of bright cocktail dresses -- to the late-night social events. The men's wear club clothing was an extension of what women wore to work -- power suits with broad shoulder pads similar to the 1940s "zoot suit."
A lot of fashion elements from late '50s were reinterpreted in the 1980s, one of the most prevalent being crinoline skirts. But unlike the era of the "sock hop", '80s skirts were shorter, bolder, with layers upon layers of teased crinoline underneath. Dresses, meanwhile, were sleeveless with tight bodices, sweetheart bust lines, and exceptionally full flounce. The perfect accoutrements to these bright satin dresses were a cropped jacket -- sometimes a bolero -- equally bright fishnet or opaque stockings, plastic jewellery and electric pumps.
Disco wear of the 1980s saw a resurgence of lace, pearls and corsets---all elements of Victorian clothing. These fragments of a bygone era resurfaced as long lace gloves and lacy petticoats -- with some '80s adaptations. The long gloves were fingerless and the laced corset-like bodices came in bright colours. Petticoats, which were worn as a top layer and not a slip, came in not one but several layers of lace. Hemlines were short and pearl necklaces were layered with other trinkets or plastic jewellery.
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- "Fashion, desire and anxiety: Image and Morality in the 20th Century"; Rebecca Arnold; 2001
- "Rock and Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development"; Joe Stuessy, Scott Lipscomb, Scott David Lipscomb; 2008