Style: V&A Club to Catwalk | London Fa-fa-fashion in the 80s – why aren’t we that free?

Guest post by Caner Daywood

Bowie beating his face

Bowie beating his face

As I write this post I am proudly blaring out some vintage 80s classics from Bowie (above), George Michael and even some Spandau Ballet because I felt so inspired and transported into this era after I attended the fantastic Club To Catwalk exhibition of 80s London fashion at the V & A. I had always wanted to be a teen in the 80s as a kid (I’m an 88 baby) and seeing the fashion, hearing the music, feeling the care-free rebelliousness, boundary breaking attitudes with the nuts drag queens and fetishistic fashions I was sure I would fit in with these gender f*cked up guys.

Ironically when we think of 80s fashion I think we sometimes mistake the silly garish thoughts of cheesy 80s-themed parties with lots of neon and Madonna (eekkk) as reality for this era, but it was never intended to be tacky or cheesy back then, quite the contrary, fashion was far more evolutionary in the 80s with edgy takes on evening wear and flamboyant prints and designs that sought to test genders and turn conventional ideas upside down.

Evening wear with some edge

Evening wear with some edge

Eccentric much?

Eccentric much?

Men wore tonnes of make-up and lots of colour and people weren’t afraid to stick out – in fact that was the name of the game. Some of the fashion pioneers of the 80s rebellious movement that exploded around London were Betty Jackson with her slogan print tops and dresses, Vivienne Westwood fronting the punk movement with her whalebone structured skirts done in contemporary fabrics such as denim, and John Galliano coining his iconic mad, theatrical structured suits and crazy head pieces as featured below.

Galliano pre-antisemitic phase

Galliano pre-antisemitic phase

Icons of the 80s were obviously totally unforgettable like Bowie, Boy George and Leigh Bowery and were stars everywhere in the exhibition in video content and images, including a wonderful catwalk of the leggy bombshell blond Jerry Hall walking for Anthony Price and the androgyny queen Grace Jones.

Jerry Hall and Grace Kelly - before Rita and Cara

Jerry Hall and Grace Kelly – before Rita and Cara

The funniest thing was that after I settled down a little from my euphoria of walking around this timewarp of fashion and culture, I started realise that so much of this fashion is inspiring current trends right now. Extremes in fashion are totally re-emerging with structured power suits and oversized designs featuring heavily next season for Celine and Dior and even crop tops/ fetishistic fashions are massively en vogue which were all showcased in the exhibition.

Come on rude BOY LONDON - pre-Rihanna hype

Come on rude BOY LONDON – pre-Rihanna hype

Get strapped in

Get strapped in

Is this not like a Saint Laurent moment right now

Is this not like a Saint Laurent moment right now

I think even if I haven’t inspired you to visit this exhibition through these images and content the most inspirational element I took from the show was the state of mind that came across through everything – a state of abandon, of rebellion, of true expression and fashion freedom, which felt so lacking when I left the exhibition and had a look around me in Chelsea. BUT things aren’t this bleak and as the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race TV Series shows fashion and true boundary-breaking expression is still around with great new gender-f*ck icons like Sharon Needles (below) paving the way for revolutionary fashion for men and women everywhere.

Sharon Needles

Sharon Needles (yes he is a boy)

Ultimately fashion back then wasn’t JUST about aesthetics and/ or even comfort (probably rarely so), it was rather the truest form of expression for people and conveyed their freedom in the 80s be that for gays, straights, trannies and everything/anyone in between, and this sense of purity and confidence to be so outspoken has become somewhat swallowed down in today’s PC society. SO what I suggest is that you *right now* go book your ticket to this show and express and enjoy the 80s fashion moment at the V & A and then take some of that freedom back home with you and apply it to your daily life….(thank me in fabulousness… and bags).

Advertisements