Retro Rebels

Thatcher fashion

1980s and 90s fashions were all over London Fashion Week, and even the Beeb is getting in on it. Kirstin Innes thinks she smells revolution

This week’s shopping pages were inspired by Margaret Thatcher. Bear with us, here. This is not a dubious excuse to tie the current vogue for padded shoulders back into some monstrous 1980s power-dressing aesthetic, as fashion editors always do whenever designer goes for the pussy bow’n’pencil skirt fad. Nor are we suggesting that a return to that lady’s politics is a feasible suggestion. We’ve actually been inspired by the telly. Lindsay Duncan’s sterling turn in the BBC documentary Margaret, backed up by a cabinet of lookylikey Hurds and Lawsons and Clarkes (oh my!), left us feeling nostalgic for a time when baddies were baddies, goodies were goodies, and people didn’t feel so apathetic about politics. In fact, they wore their politics all over their clothes. Designer Katharine Hamnett (pictured, above), with the Iron Lady’s sloganeering T-shirts led the way for accessible, cheap and public rebellion; Spitting Image let the people know who the enemy was, and how to protest. People were much more engaged.

At The List, we’ve been predicting a revival of late 1980s–early 1990s fashion ever since ‘recession’ replaced ‘credit crunch’ as the newscasters’ buzz word. First of all, consumers historically veer towards brighter, cheaper, recycled clothes during economic downturns; secondly, as this is something that is going to affect all of us, even the most apathetic couch potato is going to have to get political. We hope. We hope.

It’s not just us, either: as well as their Thatcher biopic, episode three of the BBC’s excellent supernatural drama Being Human was comprehensively nicked by Gilbert the mournful 1980s ghost, protest pin badges attached to his donkey jacket, Walkman blaring Smiths songs surgically attached to his ears. The very recent London Fashion Week bore us out, too: Marc Jacobs started it, with neon graffiti-splattered bikinis; however, just daubing ‘Louis Vuitton’ all over yourself is the very opposite to what we’re getting at. Much better was Luella Bartley’s attempt to revive the skin-tight leather, artful slashing and DIY aesthetic of late punk and early dance culture; her models wore Mohawks, dyed their fringes with cheap neon paint, and walked with attitude.


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