Topics in the News
Attire for Women
Eclecticism Led by Individuality and History.
After a decade of fashion freedom in the 1970s, women had become accustomed to creating an individual look from many options rather than conforming to the dictates of the fashion runways of Paris and New York. And in the 1980s women were practically forced to call on their individuality, rather than try to keep up with the quickly changing fads: in a decade that reveled in the past, stylistic revivals formed a dizzying parade. Each fashion season designers brought out styles that borrowed from a different historical period, modernizing them with new fabrics and colors. Among the revived styles were nineteenth-century bustles and crinolines, turn-of-the-century cami-soles and petticoats, 1920s drop-waisted chemises, 1940s large shoulders and shirring, 1950s toreador pants and off-the-shoulder stoles, and 1960s and 1970s Day-Glo minis and ethnic fabrics. An eclectic style resulted when designers mixed decades: a contemporary miniskirt with a 1950s-inspired bustier, for example. But women themselves also created variety by combining and modifying trends, mixing them with longtime personal favorites—for example, a trendy flippy skirt with a T-shirt and a worn denim jacket decorated with antique pins. Another example of the freedom women felt from fashion authorities was the lengths of skirts. No single length dominated in the 1980s, and when the...
(The entire section is 1772 words.)
Clothing for Men
Bye-Bye, Leisure Suit.
In the 1970s the emphasis for men, as for women, was on leisure; but the 1980s man returned to work. The open-necked shirt and wide-lapelled, loosely tailored suit of the previous decade reflected a leisurely lifestyle and relaxation of roles for men. In the 1980s gender roles for men and women were changing as more women contributed financially to their families and gained power in the professional world; the traditional housewife and male provider were relics of the 1950s. But rather than reflect these changes, 1980s menswear suggested a reaffirmation of traditional values and gender roles. The 1980s suit meant business: suit lapels and obligatory ties were narrower; trousers were straighter; and colors were subdued blacks, grays, and blues. The style reflected a return to 1950s masculinity—a conservative, professional man with no time for leisure. Even men's hairstyles became more conservatively short after the longer, more androgynous hair of the previous two decades. Neat and clean shaven—unmistakably masculine—was the desired look.
Hello, Power Suit.
By 1980 the quintessential 1970s leisure suit had nearly disappeared. In 1975 John T. Molloy had written in his book Dress for Success that the suit is "the central power garment." In the 1980s yuppies applied this idea, and the "power suit" became...
(The entire section is 1058 words.)
Clothing for Youth
Rebel Clothes—Street Fashion.
The 1980s saw the mainstreaming of fashion from the street, that is, the gradual permeation of adult chic by youthful rage. The evolution began in the 1970s with the breakdown of the traditional divisions of fashion. It continued into the 1980s as high-end designers and wealthy pop stars appropriated street fashion, thereby defeating the style's original purpose: inexpensive, functional clothing. Whether Americanized punk, urban rap, or Madonnaesque sleazy, these styles made a lasting mark on the way Americans dressed; street fashion became high fashion. Oversized clothing, worn jeans, T-shirts, leather, and multiple ear piercings, once limited to youth, were in the mainstream of adult fashion by the end of the decade. Women with ripped jeans or gel-spiked hair, combined with the more elegant yuppie style of a blazer and Chanel bag—or other such combinations—represented the merging of the styles.
Punk Style Comes to the United States.
The punk influence had its roots in England in the mid 1970s. A style that was conceived when teenage unemployment first began to rise drastically, it carried the message of being on the outside looking in, of being rejected. What began as an aggressive and even sadomasochistic style worn by alienated youth became a tremendous fad, led by the British designer Vivienne...
(The entire section is 1661 words.)
Designers of Apparel
Design for Design's Sake.
In the 1980s, as American designers abandoned synthetics in favor of natural fabrics and gained new respect from their European counter-parts, their designs were becoming increasingly expensive and impractical—much to the dissatisfaction of the people who were supposed to buy and wear the clothes. Despite fashion-industry growth, especially in menswear, and retail success (until 1987) as shopping became a national pastime, the design industry became more distanced from the populace. Fashion shows became stages rather than places to find styles, and a disparity developed between the clothes that were featured on the runways or in the press and the clothes that women actually wore. The editor of Vogue magazine during the 1980s, Grace Mirabella, recalls the decade: "Clothes were about labels, designers were about celebrities, and it was all…about money." Indeed, designers seemed to be designing for design's sake rather than for wear ability; many women were rejecting the fashions and prices of the elite designers and, instead, buying their conservative suits and classics from catalogues or discount department stores. Mirabella observes: "At the very same time that women were really emerging as a potent economical and political force in America, there were no clothes for them at all." Mirabella is referring, in particular, to the lack of suitable clothes for...
(The entire section is 1398 words.)
Designers of Buildings: Postmodernism in Architecture
What Would Happen to Postmodernism?
In the late 1970s the postmodernist movement had made a tremendous impact on American architecture. Observers wondered whether the postmodernist architectural upstarts of the 1970s, such as Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi, would effect a wholesale architectural revolution in the 1980s. A hint of what was to come in the 1980s could be discerned in Philip Johnson and John Burgee's postmodernist design for the AT&T Building in New York City (1978). A white neoclassical skyscraper capped by a cornice borrowed from eighteenth-century furniture, Johnson's "Chippendale skyscraper" portended a shift from the modernist ethos of austere, sterile, form-follows-function minimalism to a new postmodernist eclectic, playful, and accessible style. Johnson's shift to postmodernism signaled a sea change; he had been among the most influential architects in introducing modernism to America in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1980s almost the entire profession followed suit.
Postmodernism Eclipses Modernism.
In the 1980s the founding leaders of postmodernism—Venturi, Denise Scott, Charles Moore, and Michael Graves—continued to design, integrating historical forms with new decorative and functional designs. They had established the movement that brought ornamentation, history, and contextuality back into American...
(The entire section is 2049 words.)
By the 1980s a computer revolution had taken hold of America. Its influence on fashion and design was tremendous. From clothes to cars, computers were changing the kinds of designs produced, how they were produced, and how newly computer-literate Americans interacted with one another.
The Fashion Industry.
Increasing mechanization and advances in computer technology were major influences on the direction taken by fashion in the 1980s. For instance, clothing stores began to use computers for customer services, such as answering questions about merchandise. Computers were used to analyze buying trends and determine marketing strategies, which—to the relief of some customers and the annoyance of others—resulted in fewer salespeople on the floor. Salespeople began to use computers to allow potential customers to see themselves with a makeover, a new hairdo, or even a facelift.
Shift in Design.
In 1988 approximately nine million Americans worked at home, hooked up to a computer. Throughout the decade, as more and more homes and offices became equipped with computers and other electronic gadgets, designers worked to accommodate the devices. In what were called "intelligent buildings" designers created workstations, desks, and chairs with the needs of computer users...
(The entire section is 580 words.)
Dwelling Places: American Homes
The understated interior style of the 1970s was replaced in the 1980s by the decadent tastes of the yuppies. While the town house early in the decade reflected the largely single status of the baby boomers in the 1970s, in the 1980s many detached homes were built to house affluent professionals who were starting families—or increasing existing ones as a result of divorce and remarriage. The yuppies tended to build two-story Georgian homes that dwarfed existing houses in their neighborhoods; much to the annoyance of academic architects, the exteriors were embellished with historical references, such as arches and dormers, purely for decorative reasons. Inside, homeowners filled their rooms with expensive tokens of their wealth, such as teakettles designed by the architect Michael Graves and overstuffed couches with Laura Ashley floral or Ralph Lauren classic patterns. To attract yuppie buyers, the homes included features such as kitchen islands, cathedral ceilings, and master-bedroom suites with whirlpool baths. The 1970s open-space concept continued its influence: to encourage family unity in a time when computers and other technological advances were promoting isolation, the kitchen and family room were linked and called a "great room."
Safe, Isolated Neighborhoods.
The new houses were built in suburbs, edge cities, or...
(The entire section is 736 words.)
As a result of the Arab-induced oil crisis and rising gasoline prices, cars in the 1970s were built with conservation and moderation in mind. In the 1980s car manufacturers wanted to sell to affluent yuppies, and upscaling became the trend. With the 1980s focus on work, it was no surprise that Americans began equipping their cars with cellular phones. Portable computers and fax machines were popular by the end of the decade, allowing cars to become minioffices. But the focus was also on making cars more fun, comfortable, and luxurious. Oldsmobile offered a $225 dash-board option that included colored bar charts and a zoom-in display to inform the driver of fuel level; Buick offered a screen that let the driver control radio, interior temperature, and trip computer with the touch of a finger. Safety features were also improved with computers; antilock brakes became a popular feature in expensive cars, and Cadillac designed a computerized rearview mirror that diminished nighttime headlight glare. Many automakers began introducing computerized power steering. Of course, with these high-tech improvements came higher prices and a need for more-specialized mechanics; an automotive analyst suggested that "mechanics will have to be trained like doctors." On the other hand, with computers under the car hood to monitor performance and remind the driver of proper maintenance,...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Arquitectónica—the name means "architectural" in Spanish—was responsible for placing Miami on the contemporary architectural map. In 1982, when the firm was only five years old, its row of fashionable condominium towers was completed on Brickell Avenue, and the people who could afford the $400,000 per unit could not move in fast enough. One of these towers, the Atlantis, became an icon—Miami's answer to an Eiffel Tower—partly due to its weekly appearance on the popular television show Miami Vice, This $11 million project was preceded by townhouses in Houston, a theater in Key West, an art gallery in Philadelphia, and an amusement park in Nigeria. Arquitectonica had its origins in the collaboration on the Pink House of Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia, who would later become founding members of the firm, as well as husband and wife. As a student Spear, with the Dutch architect Ren Koolhaas, had received a Progressive Architecture award for the Pink House design in 1975; after Spear and Fort-Brescia's revisions, it was built in 1978 and received worldwide attention. The firm was overwhelmed with commissions by 1982.
The original firm was made up of a group of architects from Ivy League schools who were either friends or spouses. Spear,...
(The entire section is 642 words.)
Brinkley, Christie 1953-
Athletic, blond, blue-eyed, and classically stylish, Christie Brinkley embodied not only the all-American look of the 1980s but also the fantasy life of many 1980s women. Brinkley had it all: successful career, wealthy husband, and beautiful child. As a supermodel, her life was well publicized: her swimsuit covers and $5-6 million a year salary, her marriage in 1983 to pop musician Billy Joel, and the birth of their daughter, Alexa Ray, in 1985. She became the envy of many professional women, who admired her ability to juggle family and career. Her repeated Sports Illustrated covers made her the object of many men's affections, as well. By the end of the decade Brinkley's wide smile and blue eyes had appeared on more than two hundred magazine covers. She held contracts with Noxell and with the Simplicity sewing catalogue, and she had acted in a movie (National Lampoon s Vacation, 1983) and a music video (husband Joel's pop hit "Uptown Girl," 1983—a song he had written for her). Her classic good looks and "regular life" as spouse and mother made her an accessible celebrity and, therefore, one whom...
(The entire section is 713 words.)
Eisenman, Peter 1932-
Rebel Turned Success.
Peter Eisenman, long known by his peers as the incomprehensible rebel of architecture, flourished in the late 1980s. He is recognized as a member of the postmodernist group called the "New York Five," who collaborated on an influential 1972 publication. Eisenman had not been as productive as his peers, creating four houses in two decades, but in 1989 he designed (with Richard Trott of Columbus) the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts on the campus of Ohio State University, which resulted in more major commissions. Not only an architect but also an educator and theoretician, he is the leader of the deconstructivism movement in architecture.
Eisenman was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1932. After completing a bachelor's degree in architecture at Cornell University, he received advanced degrees at Columbia University and Cambridge University. His early influences included the unconventional dean of architecture at the Cooper Union School, who led Eisenman to study other disciplines such as philosophy and literature. In reading the works of the philosopher Jacques Derrida, Eisenman became intrigued by the theories of deconstruction that he would translate into architecture.
Eisenman's early houses, which he designated by...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Ellis, Perry 1940-1986
Perry Ellis, often grouped with other classic sportswear designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, designed for both men and women. Eternally antitrendy, he refused to join the label fad of the 1980s. He showed much talent in carrying out a theme, whether inspired by an artist such as Sonia Delauney (winter 1986 collection) or by Chinese export ceramics (spring 1986 collection). He was particularly known in the 1980s for his popular female silhouette: an oversized, boxy jacket worn, first, with long pleated skirts and, later in the decade, with shorter, narrower skirts. He borrowed from the 1920s, showing pleated straight linen skirts, loose linen jackets, and jumpers with puffed sleeves, all in white, cream, or pastels. Ellis's clothes captured a young, adventurous spirit, and he was known for the use of natural fabrics and painterly colors. Ellis's loafers and his trademark hand-knitted sweaters in cotton, silk, and cashmere were coveted in the 1980s. He received many Coty American Fashion Critics' awards, including several Return awards. He entered the Hall of Fame for his women's lines in 1981 and for menswear...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
Galanos, James 1925-
James Galanos, known as "Jimmy," is considered one of the finest American designers working today. Galanos's clothes are known for their luxurious quality, flawless crafting, and imported fabrics. He prides himself on creating clothes that endure: "I have women tell me that they still wear dresses that are fifteen, twenty years old. Women who wear my clothes year after year wait for me." Galanos sells his expensive lines in specialty shops around the world, making personal appearances with his assistant and their stainless steel standup trunks to show gowns that range from $1,500 to $15,000; these appearances can result in $500,000 in sales. His clients include Diana Ross and Nancy Reagan.
Galanos and Nancy Reagan.
Although Galanos had been well known in the fashion world since the 1950s, his name became more familiar when Nancy Reagan became first lady. His elegant, elaborately made clothes were in great demand by wealthy fashion enthusiasts in the decade of opulence, and Nancy Reagan was no exception. But Mrs. Reagan and Jimmy Galanos were acquainted long before she wore his gowns to the balls at both of her husband's inaugurations, as is evident from the signed photograph of the Reagans in Galanos's office. She chose a white satin one-shouldered gown for the first ball and a...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Gehry, Frank O. 1929-
Frank Gehry's radical and unusual style is not easily defined, although he has long referred to the past, borrowing from both Eastern and Western architectural traditions, and is usually ranked as a postmodernist. His ties to minimalist and conceptual art are apparent, as well. He blends architecture with qualities of art and sculpture, creating playful homes and buildings that push the limits of design. He is especially known for his use of inexpensive and unusual building materials, coining his own term for this style: "cheapscape architecture." One of his goals is to create a look of incompletion. This unfinished, minimalist quality, coupled with materials such as metal panels, plywood, and chain-link fences, often gives his buildings the look of industrial structures rather than the homes and museums that they in fact are. Although Gehry works in an avant-garde, and even antiarchitectural manner, he has increasingly designed major public buildings and has received international recognition and respect. His steady work in the 1980s is reflected in his receipt of the prestigious international Pritzker Prize in 1987.
Gehry established his own practice in 1962 in Santa Monica, California. His interest in industrial building materials began when he was a GI at Fort...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
Kamali, Norma 1945-
Cotton Fleece Line.
In 1980 Norma Kamali became a household name as a result of her collection of cotton fleece coordinates inspired by dance and exercise clothes. Her line reflected the essence of 1980s clothes for women: comfortable, body-conscious, and affordable. The separates, made of sweat-clothes material, included minis, leggings, and big-shouldered tops in unassuming gray, pink, or striped fleece. They were widely copied. Kamali became particularly well known for her giant removable shoulder pads, a fad that lasted for the whole decade.
Life and Business.
Of Basque and Lebanese descent, Kamali was born Norma Arraez in New York City on 27 June 1945 and grew up on the Upper East Side, where her father owned a candy store. She studied fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating in 1964. With her husband, Eddie Kamali, she opened a small shop in 1969, selling European imports and her own funky designs. In 1974 they moved to a larger store on Madison Avenue; by then Kamalis designs were less funky and more delicate, featuring suits and...
(The entire section is 551 words.)
People in the News
In 1988 and 1989 Barbara Bush and Ivana Trump were referred to by the fashion commentator Mr. Blackwell as "Fabulous Fashion Independents."
In 1984 Cher, known for her bold, alluring Bob Mackie-designed dresses and her overall fashion individuality, was featured in an article in Glamour in which she expressed her desire to be taken seriously: "I'm not what I wear," she said.
By 1986 supermodel Cindy Crawford, 20, had made curvier, "voluptuous" bodies and facial moles acceptable, even sexy.
In 1987 James Ingo Freed of I. M. Pei and Associates unveiled his design for the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
In 1982 Halston designed a line of reasonably priced clothes for J. C. Penney. The clothes sold, but Halston's top-scale lines suffered as a result.
In 1981 internationally known beauty Carolyn Herrara started a couture-caliber clothing business in New York. She designed Caroline Kennedy's wedding dress.
French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier shocked American critics with his theatrical clothes that explore the myths of masculinity.
In 1989 architect Michael Graves unveiled his third proposal for an addition to the Whitney Museum in New York City. Graves's previous designs would have...
(The entire section is 555 words.)
COTY AMERICAN FASHION CRITICS' AWARD
(The "Winnie"—to an individual selected as the leading designer of American women's fashions; award was discontinued in 1985)
(Award to a designer whose work merits a top award for a second time)
1981—Donna Karan and Dell'Olio for Anne Klein
* for Menswear
HALL OF FAME
("Winnie" designer chosen three separate times as the best of the year)
1982—Donna Karan and Louis Dell'Olio for Anne Klein
* for Hall of Fame for Menswear
(The entire section is 317 words.)
Laura Ashley, 60, English designer and distributor of interior design products and women's clothing, 17 September 1985.
Pierre Balmaine, 68, French designer of quietly elegant clothes for women, 29 June 1982.
Cecil Beaton, 76, English artist and costume and set designer who created sets for many productions, winning Academy Awards in 1965 for costumes and sets for the film My Fair Lady, 18 January 1980.
Aldo Cipullo, 48, Italian-born jewelry designer who, while working at Cartier, designed the gold "love bracelet," 31 January 1984.
Enzo Ferrari, 90, Italian sports-car manufacturer, 4 August 1988.
Anne Fogarty, 62, fashion designer best known for her crinoline petticoats under full-skirted shirtdresses with tiny waists, and lounging overalls, 15 January 1981.
R. Buckminster Fuller, 88, industrial designer and futurist who held more than two thousand patents for inventions meant to be solutions to social problems, 1 July 1983.
Rudi Gernreich, 63, Austrian-born fashion designer known as one of the most original American designers of the 1950s and 1960s, whose daring clothes—such as the topless bathing suit—were often controversial, 21 April 1985.
(The entire section is 304 words.)
Charles Boyce, Dictionary of Furniture (New York: Facts On File/Holt, 1985);
Lois Fenton, Dress for Excellence (New York: Rawson Associates, 1986);
Paul Goldberg, On the Rise: Architecture and Design in a Postmodern Age (New York: Penguin, 1983);
Simon Jervis, The Penguin Dictionary of Design and Designers (London: Penguin, 1984);
Jim Kemp, American Vernacular: Regional Influence in Architecture and Interior Design (New York: Viking, 1987);
Diane Maddex, ed., Master Builders: A Guide to Famous American Architects (Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1985);
Richard Martin and Harold Koda, Jocks and Nerds: Men's Style in the Twentieth Century (New York: Rizzoli, 1989);
Colin McDowell, McDowell's Dictionary of Twentieth Century Fashion (London: Muller, 1984);
Caroline Rennolds Milbank, Couture: The Great Designers (New York: Stewart, Tabouri & Chang, 1985);
Milbank, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Fashion (New York: Abrams, 1989);
Jane Mulvagh, Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion (London & New York: Viking, 1988);
Lisa Phillips and others, High Style: Twentieth...
(The entire section is 224 words.)
Important Events in Fashion and Design, 1980–1989
- American designers abandon synthetics for natural fabrics and more-expensive weaves.
- Skirts become shorter and shorter.
- Knits in a wide variety of textures, and colors take a significant place in fashion—even as dress-up clothes.
- Norma Kamali shows her successful collection of cotton fleece-sweats separates modeled after exercise-dance clothes.
- The Official Preppy Handbook, edited by Lisa Birnbach, is published.
- The preppie look reappears—navy blazers, button-down shirts, and challis skirts.
- The latest fad is the Rubik's cube.
- Yellow ribbons are everywhere in memory of the American hostages held in Iran.
- On November 21, an estimated eighty-three million Americans watch an episode of the television series Dallas to find out "Who shot J. R.?" T-shirts printed with the question had been appearing in stores all over the country.
- Postmodernist slogan "Less is a Bore" replaces modernism's "Less is More."
- Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House is published; the book criticizes the architectural profession for creating abstract buildings that do not properly celebrate American capitalism....
(The entire section is 1122 words.)