Clothing 19802003

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^The years between 1980 and 2003 present all the complexities of modern costume. These decades saw a rise and fall in the status of high-profile clothing designers and their extravagant clothes; the sudden popularity of certain clothing items, often associated with youth-driven music trends; the impact of new technologies; the influence of celebrities on fashion; all set against a general trend to favor comfortable, casual clothes. These trends were a continuation of the trends that had characterized the second half of the twentieth century. But what made the period from the 1980s onward different was the speed with which styles changed and the amount of money directed toward clothing.

Working days, glamorous nights

After the 1970s, a decade in which the world of high fashion had fallen into disarray and people picked and chose amongst several acceptable styles, designer fashions came roaring back in the 1980s. High-profile European designers like Giorgio Armani (c. 1934—), Christian Lacroix (1951—), Karl Lagerfeld (1938-), JeanPaul Gaultier (1952—), Azzedine Alaia (c. 1940-), and others introduced daring, expensive lines of clothes to the praise of the fashion press. Wealthy people across Europe and in the United States flocked to Paris fashion shows and New York boutiques to purchase expensive originals, and lower-level designers and massmarket retail stores modeled their clothing lines on the more conservative efforts of the top names. This was the traditional way that fashions had been set, with designers leading the way in the creation of clothing styles.

New fashion designers were able to be bought, promoted, recreated because of one thing: money. During the early and mid-

1980s business exploded in the West and in the increasingly westernized Japan. Stock market traders, corporate executives, and even second-tier executives grew extremely wealthy in a climate where success in business was celebrated as the ultimate mark of achievement. These new cultural celebrities used clothes as one of the ways to demonstrate their wealth and power. American president Ronald Reagan (1911—) and his wife, Nancy (1923—), wore designer suits and gowns, and corporate leaders proudly extolled the merits of their favorite designers. For men the "power suit," a tailored suit, preferably by Giorgio Armani, was the symbol of success. Women dressed for power by day, with designer suits and business dresses, and for glamour by night, with extravagant gowns in the richest fabrics. These wealthy people were held up as cultural models and their clothing styles imitated on popular television shows like Dynasty


American designers Ralph Lauren (1 939-) and Calvin Klein (1942-) both began their designing careers during the late 1960s, but it was in the 1980s that they became fashion superstars. At a time when designer fashion was identified with outlandish outfits modeled on Paris fashion runways, both Lauren and Klein created designer clothes for ordinary people.

Ralph Lauren

Lauren was born Ralph Lifschitz in Brooklyn, New York. Fascinated with fashion from an early age, he dropped out of college and apprenticed in the fashion industry by working at various clothing companies. In 1967 he got a job at Beau Brummel, designing the wide neckties in bright colors for which he would first become famous. By 1968 he launched his own line of men's clothes, which he called Polo. With the name Polo, Lauren said much about his design philosophy. The game of polo was associated with rich Europeans, and Lauren's designs came from classic European traditions. Often referred to as

"preppy English tweed" style, or "American country" style, Lauren's early designs, which included a variety of casual and semiformal wear, were updated versions of basic designs, sewn in classic materials, such as wool tweed and corduroy.

Besides his clothing, Lauren made other contributions to the fashion world. He licensed his designs (sold the right to manufacture them) to a range of clothing companies as long as the clothes bore his name, and he also branched out into many different areas of design. Following the success of his men's clothing line, Lauren introduced a line of women's clothes, followed by cosmetics, perfumes, bath towels, bed sheets, and even house paint, all with the unmistakable Lauren quality of traditional elegance. Though some have accused Lauren of being unoriginal and boring, many men and women find his designs to be comfortable and dependable. Other famous designers, such as Donna Karan (1948—) and Bill Blass (1922-2002), have praised Lauren for his contributions to classic style.

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein was also born in Brooklyn. As a boy his interest in fashion led him to teach himself to

(1981-89) and Dallas (1978-91). The choices of the rich and their favored designers thus had a great impact on clothing.

The fashion boom of the 1980s was more international than ever before. Though Paris, New York, and London remained the true centers of world fashion, designers from Italy, especially the city of Milan, and from Japan also exerted a real influence on fashion. The Italians became associated with rich fabrics and classic cuts, while the Japanese are credited with boosting the popularity of the color black.

Not everyone could afford the clothing made by the big name European or Japanese designers, but in the 1980s there were real alternatives for those who still wanted to follow fashions. Top designers, such as Calvin Klein (1942-) and Ralph Lauren (1939-), sew and sketch designs. He attended New York's High School of Art and Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology and, by 1968, he had established Calvin Klein Limited, his own line of clothing. Klein's designs were characterized by simple lines and subdued colors sewn in elegant, luxurious fabrics, like linen, silk, and cashmere.

Though Klein produced many different products, he is best known for his lines of underwear, blue jeans, and fragrances, such as Obsession and Eternity. One of Klein's major innovations in the fashion industry was his use of sexuality in advertising. Though many people were shocked and horrified by his use of sexual imagery, Klein became the first, and perhaps the most expert, at using sex to sell basic clothing like blue jeans at high prices.

During the socially conservative 1980s, Lauren and Klein helped create a major change in the way average people saw designer fashion. Where clothing designed by a high fashion designer was once seen as only for the wealthy, the styles created by Klein and Lauren were designed for everyday wear at the office or on a date. Their elegant styles succeeded simply because they made the average person feel like one of the elite.

Odeany Com
Calvin Klein is best known for his jeans, fragrances, and provocative ads. Reproduced by permission of Getty Images.

offered high-end custom clothes, but they also offered a ready-to-wear line that had the high status of a designer name but at a more reasonable price. Many designers built international design empires, selling their brand-name clothes, perfumes, and accessories throughout the world.

Sex sells

One of the most important trends of the 1980s and 1990s was the emergence of open sexuality as an important element in clothing design. A variety of causes lead to the growing openness with which sexuality was displayed in this period. Perhaps the most important was the ongoing fitness boom that encouraged people of all ages, but especially young people, to pay a great deal of attention to getting their bodies in good shape. People wanted to show off their newly sculpted bodies and there were a variety of clothing options for those who wanted to flaunt it. Calvin Klein celebrated the human form with his underwear designs, which were made famous with an advertising campaign centered on towering billboards on the side of skyscrapers in New York City. Spandex, a high-tech, stretchy fabric, was used to create formfitting biking shorts and tights, and the Wonderbra, introduced in the mid-1990s, pushed women's breasts up and in to show off their cleavage. Designers created extremely clingy dresses, and supermodels, or high-profile models, and music celebrities such as Madonna (1958—), in the 1980s, and Ricky Martin (1974-), Britney Spears (1981—), and Christina Aguilera (1980—), in the 1990s, made a great public display of their sexuality. A youth trend in the 1990s for hip-hugging, low-riding pants and bare midriffs brought sexual display as far as the pre-teen market. By 2003 little was forbidden in the display of flesh.

The 1990s flight from fashion

The designer-worshipping fashion excesses of the 1980s crashed along with stock markets in 1987. Although designers still produced annual collections and fashion magazines highly praised them, the world retreated from its celebration of wealth and haute couture, or high fashion, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With designers out of favor, the other dominant mode of determining clothing trends reemerged. As in the 1970s people took their clothing cues from popular music, from youth subcultures, from the more

successful mass-market retailers, and from their own desire for comfort and personal expression. Once again designers began to take their cue from the streets.

Young people and their music were especially influential in the early 1990s. The grunge, or alternative rock, music scene that emerged out of Seattle, Washington, created a fashion trend favoring flannel shirts and ripped jeans, and it wasn't long before designers offered their own grunge collections. Hip-hop or rap music, which had once been the music of African Americans living in the inner city, went mainstream and brought with it a craze for extremely baggy jeans.

For the great majority of people, however, choices about clothing were dictated by the wearer's desire for casual comfort and by the minor variations in styles offered by major retailers. The trend toward casual business dress began in the 1980s with casual Fridays, when business dress codes were relaxed for the day, and became widespread among workers in the booming high-tech industries of the late 1990s. At work, men could wear chinos (a type of khaki pants) and a shirt without a tie, and women could wear more casual dresses and pants. For leisure time both men and women chose cotton pants and knit shirts, tennis shoes, sweatshirts, and other athletic clothes. The most popular outer wear was made of a fuzzy, high-tech fabric called polar fleece, which came in bright colors.

People had a huge range of choices about where to buy their clothes, from designer stores and department-store boutiques such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein; to mid-range specialty retailers such as Gap and Old Navy; to mail order catalogs such as J. Crew, Lands' End, and L. L. Bean; to discount retailers like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target. These stores offered clothes of reasonable quality with trendy styling.


Oriental designs had appealed to Western consumers since the beginning of trade between the two regions. But it was only in the 1960s that a Japanese-born designer, Kenzo Takada (1940—), first found success with his own designs in Paris, France. By the 1980s Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo (1942-), Issey Miyake (1938-), and Yohji Yamamoto (1943-) dazzled the West with their clothing. Their designs were futuristic and defied convention; their garments were often elaborately constructed, with odd panels, uneven hems and, in the famous words of Kawakubo, came in "black, black, black." Their clothes were quickly adopted by style-conscious Japanese youth and then found success among Europe's more daring trendsetters.

The Japanese trio enjoyed strong worldwide sales for their lines for many years. Their styles strongly influenced other fashion designers, as well as musicians and artists, but never achieved mainstream success. By 1984 many mass-market apparel makers were copying some of their unusual design elements, especially the oversized look, for the younger market. The largest impact the Japanese designers had on mainstream fashion was to make black the most popular color for clothing for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Colors and details changed from season to season, but the basic garments remained the same.


Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade: The 1980s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Feldman, Elane. Fashions ofa Decade: The 1990s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Gaines, Steven S., and Sharon Churcher. Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein. New York: Avon Books, 1995.

Gross, Michael. Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren. New York: Harper, 2003.

Lomas, Clare. The 80s and 90s: Power Dressing to Sportswear. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, 2000.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a suit fashioned by the celebrated and influential Italian designer Giorgio Armani (1934—) became the outfit of choice for wealthy, style-conscious males. Armani suits were known for their simple yet elegant design, their striking look, and their comfort. They were custom tailored and were meticulously cut to fit the form of the purchaser. A typical Armani suit generally featured three pieces: a fully-lined, three-button blazer with padded shoulders; a matching vest; and single-pleated trousers that were lined only in front, down to the knees. The suit was black, charcoal gray, or navy blue; it was soft or textured; and it was made of the highest quality wool, cotton, cashmere, silk, or linen.

During the 1980s the Armani suit projected authority and self-confidence and became the ultimate "power suit," a name given to suits that were meant to display the power, or at least the ambition,

of the wearer. Armani suits were favored by Wall Street stockbrokers and Hollywood agents. They were regularly worn at the Academy Awards. The celebrities who favored them ranged from movie actor Richard Gere (1949—), who famously wore them onscreen in American Gigolo (1980), to basketball coach Pat Riley (1945—).

Armani's profile was so high that in 1982 he became the first fashion designer to appear on the cover of Time magazine

Power Suits The 1980s

In the 1980s, an exquisitely tailored Armani power suit was a symbol of success. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos/Fashion Wire Daily.

since Christian Dior (1905-1957) four decades earlier. Additionally, Armani employed his basic fashion philosophy, extravagant does not mean uncomfortable or overdone, in the simple, stylish suits he designed for women. His dark or neutral-colored jackets and pantsuits became standard attire for women in and out of the workplace.


Celant, Germano, and Harold Koda, with Susan Cross and Karole Vail. Giorgio Armani. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

Giorgio Armani. (accessed on August 27, 2003).

Baggy pants on young men could be spotted early in the 1990s, but they remained a largely "underground" style, worn only by a limited number of people pushing the edge of style, until hiphop replaced grunge as the dominant music form among urban teenagers. By the mid-1990s long baggy shorts became common. Youngsters now demanded that jeans, which had long been a major part of casual dress, be as baggy as possible, with waists several sizes too large revealing the upper band of underwear. Retailers like Gap and Old Navy introduced baggy lines of jeans. Designer Tommy Hilfiger (1951 —) created an "urban prep" line, copying a street style he observed in which baggy denim was paired with crisp white button-up shirts.

Explanations vary as to why baggy jeans became so popular. Some claim that trendsetters in the hip-hop community adopted the style to copy the pants that prisoners are issued when they are incarcerated. Sagging pants, according to this theory, reflect the fact that prison inmates are not allowed to have belts, for fear they will hang themselves in their cells. Others contend that the fashion for baggy jeans originated with black basketball stars like Michael Jordan (1963—), who objected to the short shorts mandated for many years by the National Basketball Association and began to wear longer,

baggier shorts. Still others believe that baggy jeans have their roots in the skateboarding and snowboarding communities, where participants needed freedom of movement but also wanted to look different from other people.

Whatever their origins, the baggy jeans trend had a profound effect on the sportswear industry. Jeans maker Levi's, which was slow to offer baggy jeans, saw its sales fall 15 percent from 1996 to 1998. While hip-hop fashions remained popular into 2003, signs emerged that the style was shifting back to formfitting and low-rise boot cut jeans, jeans that fit low on the waist and flare out at the ankle.


George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Westbrook, Alonzo. Hip Hoptionary: The Dictionary of Hip Hop Culture. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.

[See also Volume 3, Nineteenth Century: Blue Jeans]

As computer software began to receive more and more media attention in the late 1980s, informal office situations and casual, even eccentric, clothes became identified with the wealth and creativity of the highly successful computer executives. Managers of other successful businesses began to wonder if this informal atmosphere could work to improve their own offices.

In 1991 Levi-Strauss, manufacturer of blue jeans and other casual wear, joined with the United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCPA) to launch a nationwide fund-raising event. "Casual Day," as it was called, would allow employees to buy the privilege of dressing more informally for the day by making a charitable contribution to UCPA. Many businesses joined in the project, and it was very successful, leading not only to more fund-raising casual days, but also to many businesses establishing a regular casual day, usually on Fridays.

Casual Fridays steadily increased in popularity. By 1996 a Levi-Strauss study found that 90 percent of American office workers were allowed to dress casually on Fridays, as opposed to 47 percent in 1993. Many business owners and managers found that allowing their employees one day of informality did increase their productivity and gave the office a more welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. Some noted that fewer workers were absent on Fridays than before the introduction of the casual day. Many banks expanded the policy, introducing casual summers. Some clothing manufacturers introduced new lines of clothing just for casual work dress.

Others did not approve of the new policy, however. In 1995 a group called Dress Right formed to ban casual Fridays, and some business magazines spoke out against the policy as bad business practice. In addition, the definition of casual was often open to debate, and this frequently led to endless office memos, forbidding items considered too casual, such as ragged blue jeans and halter tops. For the employee, choosing the appropriate clothes for casual days could be more difficult than dressing for a regular work day. For many men, whose regular office wear was a fairly simple dark suit and white shirt, casual Friday was the only work day where they were required to think about what to wear.

Casual Fridays originated in the often-informal United States, but in the late 1990s the idea was successfully exported to other countries as well. Office workers in Japan and Great Britain, for example, welcomed the occasional chance to dress more informally, and the new sales of casual business clothes gave a boost to some clothing manufacturers. By the late 1990s many businesses moved to an entirely "business casual" dress code.


"Dressing Down: At the Firm, Casual Friday Is Anything But Relaxing." Los Angeles Daily Journal (May 14, 1999): 8.

Kemp, Kristen. "Casual Friday Clothing Fiascoes." Cosmopolitan (November 1999): 227.

Mannix, Margaret. "Casual Friday, Five Days a Week." U.S. News and World Report (August 4, 1997): 60.

Designer Jeans

Since their invention in the nineteenth century, the durable pants known as blue jeans or dungarees were commonly worn by cowboys and farmers and, later, children and teenagers. Starting in the late 1970s, however, a new kind of jean appeared in the marketplace. Called designer jeans, they were fashioned for style rather than practicality. They were worn skin-tight to accentuate the body's curves. Designer jeans were made with combinations of cotton, span-dex, and Lycra, which allowed them to move and stretch with the body. Some were even made of suede and leather.

Traditional blue jeans were so named for an obvious reason: they were blue in color. But designer jeans came in all colors, starting with several shades of blue, black, gray, brown, olive, tan, and white. They also featured various fabric treatments, including bleached, with the color faded; acid-washed, or extremely bleached,

Model and actress Brooke Shields shows off her Calvin Klein designer jeans. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.

Model and actress Brooke Shields shows off her Calvin Klein designer jeans. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.

Climber Jeans

with streaks; and stone-washed, so as to look worn. Designer jeans also offered a variety of pant leg styles, from very snug to very loose. Some pants had zippers at their leg bottoms, and others were purposefully ripped.

Arguably the era's highest profile designer jeans featured the name of Gloria Vanderbilt (1924—), a celebrated American socialite and heiress of the Vanderbilt fortune. (The Vanderbilt family had been one of the wealthiest families in the United States, building their fortune in shipping and railroads in the late 1800s and early 1900s.) The Murjani Company worked with Vanderbilt to design and market Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans and sales of the sexy, super-tight-fitting jeans skyrocketed. They featured the Vanderbilt name on their back pocket and a trademark swan logo above the front pocket.

Other popular 1980s jeans brands were EJ Gitano, Jordache, Guess, Girbaud, Sergio Valente, Chic, Zena, and Sassoon. As the result of a TV ad featuring a bouncy lyric, "Ooh La La Sassoon," Sassoon jeans had special appeal for young girls. The ad conveyed the message that, if you really wanted to be part of the "in," or popular, crowd, you had better be wearing Sassoon jeans.

Designer jeans generally were more expensive than traditional jeans. Calvin Klein (1942—) won name recognition when he became the first designer to market the jeans at affordable prices. Their subsequent popularity may be attributed to the manner in which they were marketed by Klein. In a celebrated 1980 television ad, fifteen-year-old actress/model Brooke Shields (1965—) seductively declared, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." The commercial was controversial, and sales of Klein designer jeans soared.

While specific designer jean types went out of style in the late 1980s, the range of available blue jean styles remained endless.


Finlayson, Iain. Denim: An American Legend. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Harris, Alice, and Bob Morris. The Blue Jean. New York: PowerHouse Books, 2002.

Rosenbloom, Jonathan. Blue Jeans. New York: Messner, 1976.

[See also Volume 3, Nineteenth Century: Blue Jeans; Volume 5, 1980-2003: Baggy Jeans]

Goth Style he term goth, short for gothic, was used beginning in the 1980s to describe certain rebellious youths who had a very distinctive way of viewing the world, and an equally distinctive style of dress. The term gothic had been used since the sixteenth century to describe medieval northern European architecture and later to describe novels that had a shadowy, mysterious atmosphere. That dark atmosphere, as well as the fashions worn by the characters in gothic novels, became attractive to many young people who did not feel connected to the modern society in which they lived. These young people adopted the pale skin, dark hair, and dark clothes associated with gothic novels, as well as a gloomy, mystical outlook on life.

Goths borrowed some of the fashion styles from the punk rock subculture of the 1970s, including the punks' big black Doc Martens boots and shredded clothing. However, while the punks seemed ultramodern, the goths were drawn to a gentler, old-fashioned style. Along with ripped black stockings or T-shirts, a goth might wear a crushed purple velvet skirt or vest, old-style high button shoes, or black work boots worn with fishnet stockings. Most goths wore only black or very dark clothes, and many dyed their hair black as well. Goths of both sexes often wore dark eye makeup, black lipstick, and black nail polish. As with the punks, piercings and tattoos were common among goths, and many chose ancient Celtic designs, all in black.

White Skin Celebrities
Modern goths, with their fondness for pale skin, dark hair, and black clothes, were inspired by the mysterious gothic novels of centuries past. Reproduced by permission of© Jonathan Torgovnik/CORBIS.

Most goths thought of themselves as rebels, misfits, and outcasts and were proud that their style of dress was viewed as very strange by mainstream society. In the early twenty-first century, however, goth style began to make its appearance on fashion runways, at Hollywood parties, and at the mall. Designers like Marc Jacobs (1964—) included elements of goth style in his 2001 show, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow (c. 1973—) wore a black goth-style gown to the 2002 Academy Awards. Many young goths are proud of being outcasts and dislike what they call "weekend goths," who wear goth styles but do not live a goth lifestyle.


Acker, Kerry. Everything You Need to Know about the Goth Scene. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2000.

Schoenberg, Nara. "Underground Goth Cult Rising to Surface." Chicago Tribune (January 13, 2003).

[See also Volume 5, 1961-79: Punk sidebar on p. 946]

^Grunge fashions, inspired by the look of popular Seattle-based rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were a fashion sensation of the early to mid-1990s. The casual street look eventually became incorporated into the designs of high fashion.

The term grunge was originally a slang term for the heavy guitar-based brand of rock music distributed by the Seattle-based independent record label Sub Pop. Once the Sub Pop band Nirvana hit the top of the charts with its 1991 album Nevermind, grunge suddenly became the hottest music style in the United States. With the music revolution came a fashion upheaval as well. Grunge style, a working-class look highlighted by the flannel shirts, combat boots, and ripped jeans favored by suburban teenagers, was suddenly seen everywhere. Nirvana posed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, while lead singer Kurt Cobain (1967—1994) and another grunge heartthrob, Eddie Vedder (1965—) of the group Pearl Jam, both re

ceived pin-up treatment in teen magazines. In 1992 grunge fashions came to the big screen with the release of Singles, a feature film about a group of slackers, or unmotivated, lazy people, from Seattle, Washington. Featuring 1980s teen idol Matt Dillon as a long-haired, flannel-clad, wanna-be rock star, the movie was a box office hit and helped popularize the grunge look.

The high point of the grunge style may have been the "Grunge and Glory" photo spread in the December 1992 issue of Vogue, the

Kurt Cobain Clothing Style

Grunge rockers Krist Novoselic, left, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana set the trend with their flannel shirts and ripped jeans.

Reproduced by permission of©

world's top fashion magazine. Designer Marc Jacobs (1964—) outfitted his models in $500 to $1,400 designer flannel and corduroy ensembles, supposedly representing a new style fresh from the thrift stores of Seattle. Jacobs followed that up with his Spring-Summer 1993 women's collection featuring over-sized flannel shirts, slouchy sweaters, and chunky army boots paired with floral print, vintage-looking dresses. The fashion line proved to be a commercial disaster, but few can deny its impact. For the next few years flannel shirts and other grunge staples could be seen on the racks at such massmarket shops as K-Mart and J. C. Penney.


Azerrad, Michael. Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Clancy, Deirdre. Costume Since 1945. New York: Drama Publishers, 1996.

True, Everett. Live Through This: American Rock in the Nineties. London, England: Virgin, 2001.

^Zip-front jackets, vests, and other clothing items made from polar fleece, a trademarked synthetic, or man-made, fabric with a soft pile, emerged as tremendously popular cold-weather apparel for men, women, and children in the late 1990s and into the twenty-first century. The fad for polar fleece and related fabrics reflected widespread interest in outdoor adventure sports and the rugged lifestyle.

Polar fleece was the product of a Massachusetts textile company called Malden Mills that had enjoyed some success with fake-fur products over the years. Around 1979 the company began devoting resources to creating a lightweight synthetic fabric similar to a baby blanket it made. It began a partnership with Patagonia, a California-based maker of outdoor gear for hiking enthusiasts. The result was a fabric originally called bunting, which managed to retain body heat, keep moisture away from the skin, and still be lightweight and durable. Patagonia's first pile jacket, made from the

1980s Climbing Fashion

Maiden Mills bunting, was its first big selling item for the hiking-gear company in the early 1980s.

Over the next decade outdoor-sports enthusiasts rose in number, taking up white-water rafting and mountain climbing in large numbers, and the outdoor apparel market blossomed to an estimated five billion dollars by the late 1990s. Fleece pullovers and other items soon emerged as a mass-market trend, advertised by companies like Old Navy. Even American designers like Donna Karan (1948—) and Tommy Hilfiger (1951—) began using polar fleece and its knockoffs in a range of items. Many of the garments seemed unisex and to denote the wearer as an outdoor-sports enthusiast. An increase in books recounting extreme-adventure exploits in the late 1990s captured the public fascination at the time, as did a marked trend toward adopting another symbol of the rugged outdoorsy life: the sportutility vehicle.


Espen, Hal. "Fleeced." New York Times (February 15, 1998).

Developed to keep outdoor-sports enthusiasts warm, polar fleece became a mass-market trend.

Reproduced by permission of © Rick Gomez/CORBIS.

Forstenzer, Martin. "On and Off the Beaten Path: Outdoor Gear Isn't Just for the Adventurous Anymore." New York Times (May 16, 1998).

Mott, Patrick. "With Enough Versatility to Put Polyester to Shame, Polartec Has Become the Synthetic King of the Textile Industry." Los Angeles Times (January 28, 1997): 5.

Spandex, also known as Lycra, is a synthetic, or man-made, stretch fabric that gained immense popularity in the 1980s in a range of clothing items, beginning with biking shorts. Its formfitting properties quickly caught on with a younger, body-conscious crowd, and by the 1990s the apparel industry was using spandex and spandex blends in tights, bodysuits, T-shirts, pants, skirts, and even men's shirts. Spandex leggings, usually in black and worn with a baggy sweatshirt that covered the hips, were a popular casual style for young women throughout the 1990s.

Spandex is often known by its trade name, Lycra, which was introduced by American chemical company DuPont in 1959. Technically, Lycra is a fiber that DuPont researchers developed as an alternative to the latex-based rubber used in women's girdles and bras of that era. Lycra was a vast improvement over latex, for it could stretch to six hundred times its original length but return to its original shape, unlike rubber, which could overstretch. It was used in support pantyhose in the 1960s and then in swimwear later that decade. The French Olympic ski team wore Lycra garments for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games, and soon athletic-gear makers began using it. It proved especially popular in mid-thigh-length shorts worn by bicycle racers. By the 1980s, as the fitness trend reached a peak in the West, trendsetters began wearing the shorts on the street. French designer Azzedine Alai'a (c. 1940—) and his revolutionary formfitting dresses, which often used Lycra blends, gained a following among fashion models in the mid-1980s. In 1985 American designer Donna Karan (1948-) launched her first collection, which included Lycra-constructed bodysuits and skirts that were proclaimed as the first major innovation in some years.

Spandex proved such a popular fabric in the garment industry that by 1987 DuPont had trouble meeting worldwide demand. In the 1990s a variety of other items made with Spandex proved popular, including a successful line of body-shaping foundation garments sold under the trade name Bodyslimmers. As the decade progressed shirts, pants, dresses, and even shoes were being made with spandex blends, and mass-market retailers like Banana Republic were using it for menswear.

Lycra Spandex

Originally used in women's undergarments and swimwear, spandex came to be a principal fabric for athletic-gear makers.

Reproduced by permission of © Royalty-Free/CORBIS.


Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade: The 1980s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Dullea, Georgia. "The Lean Look on the Beach." New York Times (July 6, 1988): C8.

Hamilton, William L. "Lycra's New Reach: Et Tu, J. Crew?" New York Times (August 27, 2000).

"Spandex." Newsweek (Winter 1997): 24A.

Worn by athletes in the 1920s, sweatshirts got the designer treatment in the 1980s. At the turn of the twenty-first century, sweatshirts were a part of almost everyone's wardrobe. Reproduced by permission of © Jeff Curtes/CORBIS.


So oft, long-sleeved pullover garments usually made of a cotton or cotton/polyester blend knit fabric that is soft and fleecy on the inside, sweatshirts have long been worn by athletes while warming up, watching from the sidelines, or cooling off after exercising. They began to be worn by nonathletes as well during the 1960s and were actually adopted by designers as part of their collections in the 1980s. By the 2000s sweatshirts were one of the most common parts of a typical person's everyday wardrobe and came in many different fabrics and styles.

The word sweatshirt was first used during the mid-1920s to describe the simple pullover jerseys, usually gray, that athletes wore before and after workouts. During the 1930s Abe and Bill Feinbloom, who owned the Knickerbocker Knitting

American Football Outfits 1920s Images

Company, came up with a technique for applying letters to the knitted sweatshirts. They also designed a sideline sweatshirt, with a hood and a zipper, intended for football players to wear while sitting out of the game. Their company eventually became Champion, one of the best-known American manufacturers of athletic wear.

Sweatshirts were still worn mainly by athletes until the 1960s, when sweatshirts displaying the names of colleges and universities became popular with students. The trend toward informal fashion during the 1960s brought sweatshirts out of the locker rooms and onto the streets, as young people began to dress for comfort instead of following formal dress codes.

It was in the 1980s, however, that sweatshirts went from casual wear to high fashion. During the 1980s fitness fads like jogging and aerobics became very popular. The layered look was also fashionable during the 1980s, and sweatshirts layered well over T-shirts and jeans or spandex leggings. The popular 1983 movie Flashdance even started a craze for ripped sweatshirts such as those worn by the movie's star, Jennifer Beals (1963—). Many people did not want to wear just any sweatshirt; in the image conscious 1980s they demanded sweatshirts with a designer brand name. Upscale designers and retailers filled that need. An extreme example of the designer sweatshirt was a silk sweatshirt, designed by French designer Hermes, which sold for $650. American designer Norma Kamali (1945—) spread the sweatshirt's appeal even further when she designed a range of women's fashions made out of soft, fleecy sweatshirt material. Loose and comfortable, sweatshirts became a basic part of almost everyone's wardrobe, and their popularity continued into the twenty-first century.


Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade: 1990.

Feldman, Elane. Fashions of a Decade: 1992.

The 1980s. New York: Facts on File, The 1990s. New York: Facts on File,

The Wonderbra is a push-up bra that plunges at the front center, pulling the breasts together to create an elevated cleavage line. Based on the concept of the padded brassiere, the Wonderbra was introduced in the United States in 1994 and was quickly imitated by numerous competitors. The bra encouraged the trend in the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s favoring high, pushed-up breasts.

The first padded brassieres were introduced in the 1960s, at a time when full-breasted women like actresses Jane Russell (1921—), Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967), and Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) were considered the sexual ideal. Females who were not fully endowed in the bust area began stuffing their brassieres with facial tissues to enhance the look of the breast size. Recognizing a possible market for those women who wanted to look bustier than their natural figure allowed, lingerie manufacturers began designing lines of bras with cups that were padded with synthetic, or man-made, fibers. Since the 1960s padded bras have been so popular that one style or another has remained on the market.

The Wonderbra was created by Canadian designer Louise Poirier in 1964. With fifty-four separate elements, the bra was designed to dramatically alter the shape and direction of cleavage. The bra was not marketed for nearly thirty years. In 1994, after becoming a huge hit in Great Britain, the Wonderbra was introduced in the United States by the Bali Company, a division of the Sara Lee Corporation. The bras became an immediate sensation, drawing much media attention for the dramatic reshaping they gave to even small-breasted women.

Wonderbras are designed in three shapes, referred to as "degrees," so that women may choose the desired degree of enhancement. The first degree is found in lift bras that are lightly lined. The second degree appears in the padded and add-a-size models. The third degree, the design with the most dynamic shape enhancement, comes in the form of push-up bras. Push-up bras feature puffy padding known as "cookies." On some models the cookies are actually removable.

In 2001 Wonderbra introduced the Air Wonder model for "high altitude cleavage." With this futuristic model, a woman can pump up her bra cups to the size she chooses. A mini pump is included in each package.


Fontanel, Beatrice. Support and Seduction: A History of Corsets and Bras. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

"Our Heritage: How It All Began—Wonderbra." Sara Lee Intimate Apparel. (accessed on August

27, 2003). [See also Volume 4, 1900-18: Brassiere]

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100 Fashion Tips

100 Fashion Tips

One of the most important things you need to take note of about becoming fashionable is to get fitter. Therefore, if you are carrying some extra pounds, then you should lose some of it soon. You can do it through dieting, working out, or a good combination of both. Find more fashion tips like this one within this guide.

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  • liisi
    8 years ago
  • filippa
    What were preppy looking clothes some popular mail order catalogs for teens in the 1970's?
    4 years ago

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