Almost two years ago now I celebrated my 40th birthday surrounded by a bunch of wonderful women who all bit the fashion bullet and trawled their local thrift shops, accessory stores and (some sheepishly confessed) their own closets, to dress like they had in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. As we bopped all night to the karaoke machine that could be heard for blocks in my downtown Toronto neighbourhood (I was later told by the disgruntled husbands who were left at home while their wives partied) I couldn’t help but notice that, given the choice, almost all of us had on some form of ‘80s fashion. Oh sure, we were decked out in neon and really bad hairdos but fundamentally, we all looked pretty hot for a bunch of almost-middle-aged chicks.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was slipping on a new little ensemble that I had put together and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, I think I wore this outfit in 1985!’ And yet, it looked great. So this got me thinking about what had changed between then and now to get me into the kind of outfit I had sworn I would never ever revisit outside of wild, drunken, themed karaoke parties, and to convince some of you ladies out there that you can do it too.
First off, it’s a matter of cut. Back in the day, we were buying men’s shirts and sweaters, throwing a slouchy belt on it or maybe a pair of tights under it and voila. Today, we have beautiful knits made to come down to mid-thigh. They fit in the shoulder and the sleeve. There’s room for a bust and not as much bulk at the waist. Try on a long sweater with a pair of leggings. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Second, I have to sing the praises of undergarments. How many of us owned a thong in 1985 (okay, never mind, I don’t want to know). But really, get rid of the panty lines with some good undergarments either of the skimpy or of the substantially elasticized, holding it all in place variety, and you’ve got a lovely silhouette.
Third, is the wide elastic belt. This little accessory is enough to make a doubter into a believer. There’s nothing better for concealing a muffin top, and they’re comfortable to boot. I would take a nice stretchy elastic around my waist any day over those horrible faux leather wide belts of the ‘80s that cut into your side every time you moved. My biggest tip would be go get a belt that fits generously though. Don’t try to use it to suck anything in because the belt will double up and fold on you. Not a good look.
Next, we must sing the praises of leggings and fitted skirts. The fabrics and styles we have to choose from now are staggering. The leggings are thicker, the elasticization is not as extreme, the skirts are cut properly to come just above your knee instead of the ‘80s ‘just covering your bum’ style. Skinny jeans are infinitely forgiving as well. They give you a slimming silhouette while the denim smooths lumps and bumps and doesn’t cling as much as a legging would.
And lastly, the boots. Oh, the boots. They’re everywhere this year and they’re gorgeous. Modernize the look with a knee high black boot with a bit of heel. Face it, pixie boots and skirts are for those sweet young things we see at the mall. But pixie boots and a hot pair of leggings? Why not?
I think what I learned by looking at myself in the mirror is that I can take a look that I rolled my eyes at even a month ago and make it my own. Even something ‘80s inspired can be so very flattering when it’s done right, with a modern twist, and with all the knowledge of fashion and our bodies that we have gained since back-in-the-day. So give the ‘80s a bit of a whirl. But please, ditch the neon. That was never right!