Back to the future

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Gather ye bootcuts while ye may, girls – they may not be in the shops much longer.

Ungaro topIs anyone else getting a sense of deja vu about the way things are looking at present?

High unemployment, a Conservative government poised to take power, an energy crisis, postal strikes, first-time buyers unable to afford houses – and fashion suddenly going all hard-edged sexy again?

I’ve been looking at the collections from Paris fashion week, and if there is one message this season, it is sex. Short skirts, see-through fabrics, hot pants and killer heels. All well and good for the young. 

Balmain topBut more disturbingly, and seemingly less noticed by the commentators, I also see other trends that look equally familiar: holey fabrics, hard colours, power shoulders, full sleeves, androidy-looking outfits, military jackets, gold lame, underwear as outerwear, baggy jumpsuits, jacket sleeves pushed up to the elbow, cropped jackets, pleated trousers, high waists, big belts, tapered legs, cropped pants.

Ring a bell, anyone? It’s the 1980s all over again.

I suppose for the majority of young designers, the godawfulness of the 80s is something they didn’t have to live through and it may look romantic at a distance. But I remember it as a time of rampaging greed and social strife, much as I enjoyed all the dressing-up aspect of it.

Ungaro jacketI loved the whole New Romantic thing but the 1980s were also the era that made me political. That bitch Thatcher coming to power in 79, the needless making of war in order to secure an election, the sinking of the Belgrano, Loadsamoney, the miners’ strike, the salary hikes of the Big Bang and the deregulation of the City that led us, step by tiny step, to the bloody mess we’re in today. I went to college in a recession, worked my way through it during the miner’s strike (which affected my family very badly) and left it in another recession. 

VanSteenbergenJacketClearly, the designers think a boom time similar to the 80s is ahead, judging by the confidence they’re showing, so let us hope we can have it without the concomitant nastiness. Unfortunately, though, I don’t see many of these new looks suiting women over 40, even if we hadn’t all worn them the first time around. The best and cleanest are at Ungaro, such as this pink number, left and blue blouse, above.

I loved the full look when I was a teenager and could fish a pair of baggy yellow trousers out of a bin and tie them up with pink silk gaiters, and twin them with a ripped shirt, but really, those days are gone for me. A neat heel, black bootcut trousers and an ever-so slightly dropped waist are what I now ask of my clothes, but I don’t think those things will be around much longer – soon, everything that you and I own will look horribly, screamingly old-fashioned, whether we like it or not. It is the only way to get us all spending. 

So, it’s with some sadness that I say goodbye to the long, lean, 18th century oblong that suits so many women so well, and greet the new X-shaped Victorian silhouette. It is all cyclical, of course, and can’t be avoided – since fashion began, it has swung from the one shape to the other, but let’s hope we’re not stuck with the extremes of the 1980s for a decade or more this time.


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