My '80s Fashion Flashback

by Julie Vick
Originally Published: 

In Nordstrom Rack the other day I saw a display of plastic sunglasses with squared, black lenses and neon temples. “I don’t need to buy a pair of these,” I told my friend. “Because if I go over to my parents’ house and rummage around in their basement long enough, I can find the pair I owned in junior high.”

The sunglasses are not the only ’80s fashion memory that haunts me. Sometime in approximately the sixth grade, I remember saving up my money and purchasing a round acid-washed denim purse. It was about the size of a salad plate and featured pleats, a puffed out middle and long skinny straps to throw over my shoulder. The fact that I bought it in the first place isn’t the crazy thing; it’s the fact that I distinctly remember thinking to myself: I don’t see how this could ever go out of style.

Over 20 years later, I watched ’80s fashion trickle back into popularity with amusement. Retro style seems easier to warm to when you haven’t lived through the decade in which it originated. If you remember donning Hammer pants in the ’80s, you aren’t likely to be rushing to American Apparel to find a pair of them today. Apparently, the current term for these is “harem pants,” by the way–but we know the truth. This does not make them any better. As I watched the different trends come back around, I thought to myself, These leotards and Members Only jackets are all fine and good, but I don’t see acid wash ever making a comeback.

Then it did. This spring, I saw a young woman wearing an acid-washed pair of overalls. The funny thing is, she didn’t look completely crazy in them. They were well-fitted and made from a tasteful dark gray denim. I’m not about to rush out and buy a pair, but she was pulling them off.

After bypassing the rest of the sunglasses at the Rack, I headed over to a rack of what looked like maxi skirts. When I pulled one out, I discovered it was actually a pair of pants—a pair of long, flowing, wide-legged pants in a bold Southwestern print. Then another fashion memory surfaced: me, in elementary school, sporting pleated pants with a pastel Southwestern print. The Internet and women I have seen on the street tell me these flowy palazzo pants are a popular thing. I appreciate that the name gives them a nice European flare, but I don’t see myself ever putting a pair on.

Of course, I have been known to go back on my word. A few years ago, I remember talking with some friends about the new skinny jean trend. I said something like, “I can’t wait for those to go out of style. I’m never buying a pair.” Now I’ve got four pairs hanging in my closet. I may have also left the Rack that day with another pair.

Sometimes I just take time to warm up to a trend. I start to see women in magazines and on the streets pulling off a certain look, and I convince myself that it may not look all that horrible on me too. I grew to like the skinny-jean-plus-tall-boot combo for fall, because it turns out that it does not look all that cool when I try to shove wide-leg jeans inside boots.

But the clothes from the ’80s that I remember wearing are different. Some are sprinkled with nostalgia: jelly shoes, for instance. If I had a girl, I would totally buy her a pair. Others are so painfully awkward, I try to block the memories of them out as soon as they emerge. Sorry, I have to tell my sixth-grade self: Hard as it is to believe, much like the double spaces you are being taught to add after sentences in keyboarding class, some of these clothes you are wearing really will go out of style.

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