My daughter is celebrating “Spirit Week” at school, and a theme for one day is 1980’s work-out clothes. If you can remember Jennifer Beals and Flashdance with nostalgia, then read on baby, because, I’m about to bring up a topic that might make you laugh.
I was skeptical that we’d find what she was looking for as we shopped around the discount stores, on the hunt for fluorescent leggings, over-sized t-shirts, and leg-warmers. When it took us exactly two places to find everything on her list, I realized that current style is a spin-off from the decade that gave us Dallas and, be-still-my-beating heart, Magnum PI. My husband says that fashions return every thirty years and let me tell you, it’s pretty darn humbling when you realize you’ve been around long enough to anniversary yourself— even if you are minus the big hair.
The sorry part of this is, I recall loving the fashion of that period. At the time, I was convinced I’d never look at a picture taken during the decade and consider the style dated. And, though my wardrobe choices from then do look silly in photographs now, here’s something that wasn’t. The clothes were comfortable—and not just because I was a few (okay, okay, more than a few) pounds lighter. If we weren’t wearing sweats, then the stirrup pants we donned underneath long tunic tops had elastic waists. Why not? No one could see them under shirts that draped to our knees. They could however, see the leather flats with tuxedo-bows we slipped on our white-stockinged feet—as if that would dress up the entire ensemble.
The parachute pants we wore didn’t squeeze us to death; the flowing, floral print skirts were easy to walk in. We emulated Linda Evans on Dynasty and her princess styled dresses, and copied the trends depicted in—I confess I’m hyperventilating a little here—Miami Vice. Not only did I love the um, music from that show, I also adored—okay, here goes—the shoulder pads. Yep. As a bony, round-shouldered young woman, I still shivered in mortification when recalling the back-brace I was required to wear in sixth grade. That pre-teen humiliation dictated that I grow up despising all cardigans, T’s, oxford cloth or form fitting shirts. If it wasn’t bulky enough to hide my posture, or broad enough to make me look like a weightlifter, get rid of it.
But then jackets that fit linebackers became the rage. Forget how “hot”—to use the current vernacular—Don Johnson looked in his colossal outerwear; Sonny Crockett's wardrobe sense saved the day for me too. A blazer or a shoulder-enhanced sweater could fool the world into believing I carried myself like a dancer.
Well into the next decade, I couldn’t let go of big shoulders. For years after that particular fashion retired, I Velcroed shoulder pads to all my tops. Then one day, the nylon teeth gave on one of those things at work. I spent a cringing day wondering where in the building I’d lost it, until with a gasp of relief I found it in my own desk drawer. After that, my daughter used the old blazers and the muscled-up tops for dress-up. One time her friend came over, yanked on one of my old favorites and said: “Look. I’m a football player.”
Over the ensuing years, I’ve been able to forgive myself for a lot of physical imperfections. That said, if fashion is really going retro Flashdance, my hair is too short for the teased and sprayed look that was popular back then, and a pair of white socks with black patent leather shoes would cause me to howl at the mirror. Tunic tops, well, yea, they are forgiving after all, but I’m not sure a pair of stirrup pants will ever grace my not-so-girlish figure again.
But here’s the thing. In one of life’s little unfair tricks, no matter how many pounds have attached themselves onto my heretofor petite frame, nary a one has graced my shoulders. Hallelujah and praise the Lord if this 1980’s rerun becomes a total repeat. That bag of mismatched shoulder pads hiding at the back of my closet may receive a promotion to the front of the shelf.
It's Friday. Let's have some fun. Care to confess your fashion faux pas?