New Romantics - 1980s Fashion History
New Romanticism was a manufactured scene within London nightclubs in the
early 1980s. The posers within the group, often the
more creative people who had always been more interested in the sartorial
aspects of dressing up than the anarchic statement of punk anti fashion, looked for
new ideas to draw attention to themselves.
Adapted factual or fictional themes and Hollywood glamour were chosen by the
New Romantics to make a personal look. The flamboyant, colourful dramatic look
used frills and luscious fabrics associated with historical periods. In contrast
to punks the wearers made an effort to look flamboyant in an attractive,
luxuriant, beautiful, narcissistic way. Right - Adam Ant a new romantic pop star who
epitomised the more beautiful aspects of New Romantiscm.
London night clubs started to change their format from Friday and Saturday
nights as being the only important music nights. The club 'Gossips' in Soho began
to do Bowie nights on Tuesdays and then more one night specials for niche
tastes. That set the scene for special one night club evenings throughout
London. Narrow tastes could be catered for.
The former punk posers had taken to glamour and romance in clothing and the
club venues offered them a chance to show off that glamour at dedicated
evenings. Theatrical ensembles were worn to selected clubs in London such as
Blitz and St. Moritz. These were the recognised venues where the romantic
The early designers of the romantic look were Vivienne Westwood, Colin Swift,
Stevie Stewart and David Holah. Westwood began her romantic ideas with
adaptations of dandified Regency designs which later she developed into a Pirate
look. She designed especially for Adam and The Ants.
A Vivienne Westwood pirate design.
The look rapidly dubbed New Romantics by the media, moved quickly into
mainstream fashion and was reinforced by hot chart topping pop groups of the
time such as Adam And The Ants, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Visage. David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Boy George were all influential singers of the
Typical romantic glamour had the swashbuckling style of pirates and
buccaneers. Full sleeved frilled pirate shirts were made from luxury fabrics.
Theatrical brocade or hussar style jackets of velvet or silk complete with
braiding were copied and appeared on many jackets.
The New Romantic look was
intended to be individual, unlike punk which tended to have uniformity. New
Romantics longed for the fantasy of the nineteen thirties and fifties glamour of
Hollywood. Right - The Pirate Look.
Glamour became a 1980's norm and occasion wear was influenced by the romantic
idea of dressing up. Dressing up was in again and filtered every avenue of
fashion eventually influencing the world, through media uptake via television
soap operas like Dynasty.
Romantic dressing put a stamp on early 80's clothing especially for occasion
wear. The die was cast for the mainstream of mass fashion in the culmination of
the wedding clothes of Diana, Princess Of Wales with Charles, Prince of Wales.
Photographs of her romantic evening dresses and her wedding dress set the
romantic style for full ball gowns for almost a decade. Left - The flamboyant romantic wedding gown of The
Princess of Wales Diana - 1981.
Read more about Diana - 80's Fashion Icon
Occasion wear included a return of cocktail dresses and evening suits with
flared basque jackets, or Chanel line brocade jackets and just above knee short
Dresses in slinky satins and foulard silks or polyesters were often batwing
or with set in sleeves. Both styles had shoulder pads and frequently swathes of
fabric were gathered and ruched onto hip bands, with falling silk, crepe de
chine or chiffon asymmetric draped swirling skirts.
Lace was popular for evening, especially cream lace bound with cream satin
collars. Lace collars made an appearance after being worn by the Princess of
Wales. Mohair sweaters were oversized, but covered with lavish beading and satin
appliqué they could be worn for evening too. Highly styled intarsia knit
jumpers became fashionable.
Glamorous occasion wear was a reaction and an alternative to the dressing
down that was emerging from the wearing of sport and fitness wear as casual
wear. The 1980s in particular produced one of the most naff garments of the
The garment that still creates hoots of laughter and is often used by
television producers to typify elements of the era, was the
sports inspired Shell
Suit, the least likely outfit you would ever find in the wardrobe of a New
Romantic. However fashion oft repeats itself, bloomers and all. Skip a
generation or two and a frilly new romantic inspired shell suit, jump or flying
suit might appeal to
someone. Already there are collectors of 1980's shell suits.
If you like 1980's music this may be the music site for you at
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For related 1980 fashion and also 1990s fashion go to:-
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