Â Â Â by Giulia Cassano
Â “’Cause we are livingâ€¨in a material worldâ€¨And I am a material girl”
The dress comes from my aunt’s cabinet, worn to a wedding. My childhood memories surface when I look at it.Â It is definitely emblematic of the 1980s: a knee-length, shoulder pad shift dress, toned down by a very precious fabric – silk and wool – and its colour is so sober and hip that I must use it for my next experiment.
If I let myself be carried away in certain thoughts after a brainstorming session inspired by this dress, my mind would be filled with images of hoodies, acid colours, ugly dungarees with synthetic and garish colours and even vaguely spacesuit-like, very large shoulder pads, leggings, extremely large sequin sweaters, make-up and accessories ranging between dark gothic and punk style, and the colour fuchsia! Fast food restaurants, neon signs, discos, weird hairstyles, aerobics, stretch leotards! Thoughts triggered by visual memories, photos, Japanese cartoons and a childish and irrepressible passion for leggings.
To get an idea of the 1980s fashion, although a little exaggerated, one need look no further than the photos of some rock stars of the time: Madonna,Â Guns n’ Roses, Europe etc., even if they dressed up more soberly in their “real” life. The 1980s mark a clear break with the past, i.e. with the 1970s, with the destruction of ideals and values and the birth of a new ideology based on appearance. Harmonious forms and warm and natural colours are replaced by the triumph of artifice: golden and silver fabrics, lurex, sequins, the body shape altered by huge shoulder pads that make women more similar to men, emphasizing their fake virility and power and depicting them as fierce women workers competing against men for executive jobs. The successful woman in the 1980s is the working woman as portrayed in Hollywood movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith as a young girl struggling to climb the ladder of success in the financial field.
Designer clothes and accessories (Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Gucci etc.) are ostentatiously exhibited.Â Brands start to put labels on the outside of their clothing and it becomes cool to show off what you are wearing so that everybody can notice it is a designer cloth or accessory, which is not valuable because of its quality and fine workmanship but just because it is a branded product. By showing off luxury goods you can show what you are. The “material girl” in Madonna’s namesake song summarizes all this:Â in the music video for this song Madonna plays the role of Marilyn Monroe character in Gentlemen prefer Blondes singing Diamonds are a Girl’s best friend.
The feminine beauty and essence in the 80s is embodied by a sensual and seductive woman wearing tight-fitting clothes made ofÂ stretch fabrics (just think of AlaÃ¯a womenswear collections). Stretch fabrics become widely used in sports clothing as well:Â leggings, leotard and colourful leg warmers are the perfect workout outfit, which Olivia Newton John embodied perfectly while singing her famous song during an intense workout session, thus evoking double entendre. Lingerie becomesÂ a realÂ importantÂ item in a woman’s wardrobe, aÂ pieceÂ ofÂ clothingÂ to show off. DesignersÂ start putting greaterÂ emphasis on women’s underwear: one such designer is Vivienne Westwood, who is the first to use corsets as outerwear. Jean Paul Gaultier follows in her path and in 1990 he designs Madonna’sÂ iconic cone-shapedÂ corset inspired by designs from the 1950s, 1960s andÂ 1970s. Pop star Madonna embodies the 1980s and her iconic looks are representative of all aspects and facets of this decade. Lace, studded jackets, cuts in clothes and earrings draw inspiration from the punk movement, while the use of religious symbols draws upon the Neo-gothic fashion style marked by conspicuously dark and mysterious features with a pale complexion and a heavy make-up.
The famous Barbie doll produced by Mattel is another nice example:Â Dance Club Barbie, Dream Glow Barbie, Fashion Jeans Barbie etc. etc. .
Nonetheless, the dress in question still remains a lady dress, a rather sober one. It could be worn for a dinner with Mrs Fletcher.
The dress must be made fashionable again – as usual – without revolutionizing it too much, as it is already well-made. I follow these STEPS:
I take off the huge shoulder pads that even exceed the sleeve stitching
I take in the upper part of the dress (by cutting quite large pieces of fabric), the shoulder area in particular.
I cut the sleeves up to three fourths and shorten the skirt slightly.
I pick out some stones and decorative crystals and then I put them on the front of the dress so I create a symmetrical decoration that gives the dress a brilliant touch.
Bibliography & Webgraphy:
History of Fashion and Costumes by Vincenza Maugeri & Angela Paffumi (Original title: Storia della Moda e del Costume). Publishing company: Calderini Editore, Milan 2005.
Fashion and Design. 20th Century Styles and Accessories by Gabriella D’Amato (Original title: Moda e Design. Stili e Accessori del Novecento). Publishing company: Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2007.
Virus Fashion by Francesca Alfano Miglietti (FAM), (Original title: Virus moda). Publishing company: Skira Editore, Milan 2005.
Popular song by Madonna released in 1985, from her album “Like a Virgin” of 1984.
Working GirlÂ is a 1988 romantic comedy-drama film written by Kevin Wade and directed by Mike Nichols
Gentlemen prefer blondes.
Azzedine AlaÃ¯aÂ (1940)Â Tunisian fashion designer, French by adoption.
Jessica Fletcher is the main character of the popularÂ AmericanÂ television mystery series Murder, She Wrote starring Angela LansburyÂ as a mystery writer and amateur detective.