History of fashion series: the 1980s

Welcome to the second installment of Simply Sewing’s vintage fashion blog – our time-travelling trip through style. We began in the 1990s, and this time it’s the turn of the much-maligned 80s.

Yes, there was a lot of bad stuff going down – shoulder pads, ultra-bright blusher, obnoxious neon prints, leg warmers – but step away from the aerobics mat and there were some influential trends that we’re still inspired by today.

Slogan T-shirts
Proclaiming your allegiances across your chest began with mid-century American sports fans and brands in the 60s and 70s, becoming super-controversial with Vivienne Westwood’s punk tees in the 70s, but in the 80s the slogan T-shirt hit the big time.

Designer Katherine Hamnett wore hers to meet the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher – and a striking way of spreading a message was born. Via Wham’s ‘Choose Life’ and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ T-shirts, slogan tops became a mainstream way to protest – or simply look cool.

While the passion for declaring your love of brands died a few years ago (remember those FCUK tops?) we say creating your own message is the way to go now.

Sew the look: Stencil your own slogan tee with this tutorial from The Homesteady, or use these iron-on letters from Hobbycraft. 80s slogan tees

One of the most influential style cultures of all time flourished in the 80s. Inextricably linked with music, including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure, goth emerged from the foggy streets of London with the clothes to match – lots of black, lace, net, corsets, velvet, studs, crucifixes and pentagrams, and even a cape or two.

It was a super-creative time and the goth style has remained, well, undead – think The Craft, The Crow, Twilight, and more recently Rick Owen’s gothic vibe, Illamasqua’s new In Disciple Deep Navy lipstick and this winter’s Dark Victoriana look.

Sew the look: Stitch Closet Case Files’ Nettie pattern in black-as-night fabric for a goth vibe.
80s style icon: Molly Ringwald
The star of 80s teen classics The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink sparked a fashion revolution that we haven’t quite got over.

Spurning the severe and ostentatiously prosperous look of the ‘Greed is Good’ generation (we’re thinking power-dressing suits, gilt buttons, massive hair), Molly had her own quirky style.

She mixed and matched feminine skirts and pirate boots with masculine bowler hats, oversized blazers and houndstooth check. Plus, of course, she took part in any sewist’s favourite cinema moment: the prom dress up cycle in Pretty in Pink.

We would go so far to say that she sparked the trend for vintage – and our 21st-century love for seriously massive spectacles.

Sew the look: Make Burda’s oversized boyfriend blazer in the ultimate 80s print, houndstooth, and channel Molly with this pink wool from MacCulloch & Wallis.Houndstooth 80s fashion

Katie Allen PlumKatie Allen is a writer, content editor and crafter based in London. She is the author of craft book Just Sew Stories and also runs ethical clothing business Plum. She loves reading, writing and all things kitty. Follow her at @KatieFQ. Photo copyright Leonie Morse. Read more posts from Katie’s history of fashion blog series here.