Fashion's Retro Inspirations

Looking ahead, looking back: fashion inspirations

Current fashion trends seem amusingly focused on past fashion trends. All reports from fashion magazines, fashion blogs, experts from Paris to New York to Los Angeles report that today's fashions are retro, retro, retro. And lately the decade of inspiration is reported to be the 1980s! The editor of Harper's Bazaar magazine, Glenda Baily, noted in the September 2008 issue that "...many designers are embracing the '80s with a zeal I haven't seen since, well, the 80s." And here I was thinking that most of us who were around back then consider that to be a time of, well let's just say ‘unfortunate' style choices. But I see the popular singer, Rhianna, in her assymetrical haircut - so 80s. Then I see Sarah Jessica Parker with her huge silk flower covering up her shoulder, collar bone and most of one earlobe - completely 80s. And I see peplums on suit jackets! Peplums!? Unbelievable!

It's hard to imagine that designers of the 1960s and 1970s would choose to look back to the 1910s or 1920s for their inspirations. I don't know what's caused this fascination by highly paid designers and their often exorbitantly expensive creations to rely on past fashion decisions ... but it's fascinating to watch that "everything old is new again" as the song lyric says. This is Part Two of a series that explores the retro influences in today's fashions. For a recap of all the fashion highlights featured in this series, see the end of this column.

SJP styled in a fresh take on 1970s 'Annie Hall' fashion

Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Carrie Bradshaw in 'Sex and The City' in retro-inspired fashions
Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Carrie Bradshaw in 'Sex and The City' in retro-inspired fashions

Style to inspire

Maybe the young women strolling the red carpets and appearing on the talk shows to promote their movies or music are too young to know their attire is based on really old styles! I'm sure if someone told them to climb into a 1972 Cutlass or Impala, they'd completely revolt! But to don an outfit that's inspired by a 1986 Vogue fashion layout ... well, it's a bit deflating to say the least. Simultaneously, it's fascinating to see the fashions when a 30 year old style is copied almost stitch for stitch, and the styles that heavily imitate yesterday's trends, but still infuse a fresh 21st Century quality.

The recent movie "Sex and the City" incorporated over 250 outfits for the four starring ladies - amazing! And most fans of the original TV show know that the stars of this production are the character Carrie Bradshaw, her three best friends, the scenes and energy of Manhattan, the next to get top billing is the FASHION on these four women. Shown here is actress Sarah Jessica Parker in a scene from SatC attired like a modern Annie Hall (from 1972). The fashion role models that all four characters offer to women is wonderful! For the price of a movie ticket, or soon a dvd, any viewer can get a head-to-toe fashion education. Granted, the styles might be extreme if copied completely from long dangly earring to platform stiletto sling-backs, but the basics of many of the movie's outfits could serve as fashion inspiration for a nation that seems populated by far too many slogan'd t-shirt wearing, muffin-top exposing females.

Cattrall in full out 1980s fashion

Kim Cattrall dons 80s shoulder pads, wide belt, peplum and bright 80s inspired color
Kim Cattrall dons 80s shoulder pads, wide belt, peplum and bright 80s inspired color

Will this look catch on...again?

Kim Cattrall plays the over-the-top character, Samantha, in SatC but this red outfit is so not fashion-forward...this suit is totally ready to make an appearance on Linda Evans or Joan Collins from the 1980s TV show 'Dynasty.' First, the bold color... dozens of current fashion articles report that the colors of the 80s are back...the hot magentas, deep sapphires, fire-engine red and the entire spectrum of copper, pumpkin, rust, peach oranges. Next, the wide belt -- which is a complete homage to 1980s fashions. And check out the obvious broad shoulder on Cattrall's outfit. Back in the 80s shoulder pads grew so large that many coats and jackets required two sets of shoulder pads to extend the shoulder! But the element of this outfit that really screams 80s is the peplum! If this is a new term for you, a peplum is that swirl of fabric below the waist. Even a slender woman's derriere gets exaggerated when an extra layer of fabric is draped over it! And despite the current 'bootylicious' obsession, most of us --at least those over 30 -- don't want to add more emphasis to this area than absolutely necessary. I for one am hoping that this look stays safely in the fashion archives...but it will be interesting to see how much of this look returns to popularity. The big belt already has; it's a hugely prominent accessory on the fashion scene these days.

Retro Fashion, the colors of the 1980s

Popular 1980s TV show, 'Designing Women' displays 80s color trends
Popular 1980s TV show, 'Designing Women' displays 80s color trends

Check out all the 1980s colors in video. And now on HBO On Demand, an 18 minute video 'Fabulous Fashion,' about Patricia Fields and the Fashions of 'Sex and the

SJP's color choices ready to go back in time

Sara Jessica Parker attired in Magenta, Yellow, Navy
Sara Jessica Parker attired in Magenta, Yellow, Navy

Color, color everywhere -- jumping the decades

The photo above is a nice reminder of the colors of the 1980s. And remember Michael Jackson's bright red leather jacket? This male 80s fashion moment was spoofed in the Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler retro 80s movie, 'The Wedding Singer.' Would any sentient man today show up so obviously stuck in a 30 year old fashion warp? Are mullet haircuts on the verge of making a comeback? Uh..NO!

So how and why is it that fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker can confidently slip on fashions so rooted in 'the old days' yet look so fresh and current? How does she, and her stylist(s), get her choices 'so right' when based on trends most would assume 'so wrong'?

Will this look make a comeback?

1980s prom dress, photo from thefashionpolice.net
1980s prom dress, photo from thefashionpolice.net

The really big flower, not for everyone!

Sara Jessica Parker manages to keep a straight face, even with this gigantic flower. The dress, vintage, was a find by Patricia Fields, costumer to Sex and the City.
Sara Jessica Parker manages to keep a straight face, even with this gigantic flower. The dress, vintage, was a find by Patricia Fields, costumer to Sex and the City.

Alterations from the past

The cream-colored confection on Sarah Jessica Parker may look completely current, but it has much in common with several 1980s fashion elements. First, the big flower. Big silk flowers adorned the lapels of many a suited female office worker throughout the 1980s. Second, the metallic attachments...metallic anything was very 80s, eye-shadows, purses, fashion embellishments like those on SJP's dress. Third, the ruching that runs vertically along SJP's midsection. Check out the 1980s prom dress above, what do you see on the bodice? Ruching! The term applies to the gathering of fabric along a seam for a gathered, faux-wrinkly appearance.

Obviously the most visible element on this dress is the flower...so let's all watch to see if this accessory makes a strong fashion comeback. Even though this one is outrageous in size, a silk flower or two wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to fashion ... not compared with some other 80s fashion trends. Remember visible bras and crazy freaked-out perms and fingerless gloves? Let's hope those don't return to mainstream fashion!

For more background on fashionable movies, check out these two additional columns : Fashionable Movies and Fashion Forward.

A Really Big Flower Dress at Affordable Price...$32.80!

Trace the history of white sunglasses, a current trend!

Looking at fashion's retro influences

The dress at right is an affordable version of Jessica's really big flower creation. Available from Forever 21... retails for $32.80. (At that price, don't be expecting quality fabric, stitching, or produced in any country that's concerned with air pollution, employee safety, employee benefits, etc. )

This column is part two of an eight part series.

Part One: A fun look at the history of white sunglasses, from Grace Kelly to Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss. A great Audrey Hepburn video included, and it's NOT from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Click here.

Part Three: Checking out 'then' and 'now' photos of a newly popular color...some call it Cobalt, some call it Sapphire. It's really really blue and it's competely an 80s retro fashion influence. Video from Elle magazine too. Click here.

Part Four: Is Madonna's 80s ConeBra making a comeback? Click here for a fun review!

Part Five: The Scarf...a great accessory to that can add style even to t-shirts and jeans! Click here to see how Katie Holmes, Kate Hudson, Sienna Miller and others "do" a scarf.

Part Six: Choosing Leopard prints to update your wardrobe. See "dos" and

"don'ts" from celebs and fashion labels. Photos of Katie Holmes, Queen Latifah, Paris Hilton and more! Click here for some purrrrfect styles!

Part Seven: Hot trend!!! The orange coat! Whether inspired by Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's or not...it's a trend that designers and fashionistas are bringing to the streets. Click here to see more.

Part Eight: Ruffles are BIG fashion trend for 2008 and in advance shows for 2009. Big loose ruffles, tight crisp ruffles and more ruffle fashions than you could imagine. Even leather ruffles. See photos of high-profile women from Michelle Obama to Victoria Beckham decked out in ruffles. Click here.

Eva Longoria with Shoulder Flower

Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" TV shows follows flower fashion
Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" TV shows follows flower fashion

Stars continue to pick up on 'flower shoulder' trend. Here, Cate Blanchett

Even Courtney Love being styled for Italian Vogue with the big shoulder flower

Vote here and have your fashion opinion heard

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Comments 17 comments

gjcody profile image

gjcody 8 years ago

I just love your hubs.  I enjoyed this one about the Annie Hall look.  The Annie Hall look was my favorite of the trends.  I dressed the look and just loved the times. I even saved a tie from The Limited that I could not part with as it reminded me of the fun times.  The look is fun to dress in and I hope it comes back again.  I will be ready for it.

I just have to say ..thank you for sharing and you are doing a great job with your research.  My best to you!


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub, You see history really does repeat itself!


Brenda Smith 8 years ago

Those are girls to look at. I love those styles.

Best Hub ever......


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

Your hubs are always so fun to read. I remember my mom telling me, when I was very young, that styles came back. It wasn't until I lived a little and saw it my self that I understood what she meant. Sometimes you wonder if anyone will ever have an original idea again. I love the idea of designing your own clothes, however one wonders if they will just get odd looks or if others will like what they've come up with. Either way, it takes a long time to design and create the actual clothing.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France

I am a fan of the 20s and 50s styles, but the 70s and 80s... they give me the "hives". I also liked the hub on Blue, it looks great on white porcelain skinned women.


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen Author

Princessa, I agree with you! That's why so surprised to see so much 80s influence on today's fashions!


cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

It seems to be a cycle, the design keeps repeating, but the 80s styles are still lovely.


kuhlcat profile image

kuhlcat 8 years ago from Boston, MA

as a child of the 80's...it's kinda scary to see these fashions come back! i've even seen jelly shoes on some feet out there....what's next, slap bracelets and scrunchy socks? ;)


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen Author

Huge bows and crimped hair might be on the horizon too! And just saw where the Autumn fashion shows in Paris are showing peplums on suit jackets!


victoria 7 years ago

i think its gonna be up do's and jeans with classy tops possibly shoulder pads retro witrh eightys look plus a bit of the fifties with the updo's and big hair.


AmyLee3 profile image

AmyLee3 7 years ago

Wow, great post! when I was very young, that styles came back. It wasn't until I lived a little and saw it my self that I understood what she meant. Sometimes you wonder if anyone will ever have an original idea again.


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 7 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen Author

Updos and Big Hair ... at least not seeing that look too prevalent as current fashions rely on 80s inspiration. And as Victoria says above...the fifties retro is already around....I can't see a teen or young woman in her skinny skinny jeans and stilettoes without thinking of Olivia Newton John in the 70s movie GREASE, which was about the fifties! AND, those platforms on all these outrageously high heels....can anyone say early 70s....our shoes, male and female, had huge platforms! My mother would tease me that if I fell, it'd be like falling off a 12foot ladder, my platforms were so high back in the 70s! Where would the Shaft character be, as an example, without his huge Fedora hat and his huge platform shoes?


gr8archer45 profile image

gr8archer45 7 years ago from Pakistan

You r a true fashionista my dear!m sure u have an amazing personal style urself!


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 7 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen Author

Thanks for stopping by and the compliment, I try to have a bit of pizzazz with my personal style...where's the fun in just being plain ol' 'clothed' when one can have 'style'?


Jadee 7 years ago

you ar right, why have just plain clothes when you can have style?? I think its fine not to have style as long as you're comfortable and if you can add style to your clothes then it's just a bonus.


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 7 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen Author

Style is a bonus, like you say...a confidence building bonus, I believe.


AAAHHHH! 7 years ago

I need to see the back of Evas Hair!!!!!

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