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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Key to wearing '80s styles in 2002 is balance

By Samantha Critchell
Associated Press

The big shoulder pads, big belts and big hair that were, well, big in the 1980s have doomed the decade to an endless stream of fashion jokes.

But guess who gets the last laugh? All the people who saved their Madonna-wannabe outfits and "Working Girl" power suits.

These pack-rat types would have blended in at Betsey Johnson's spring preview, which featured lace tops in sherbet colors and ruffled skirts complemented by anklet socks and high-heel pumps. They also probably have the perfect high-neck blouse to wear with the prairie skirts and blazers that stores have stocked for spring.

Vivienne Tam says she put a 2002 spin on several 1980s styles for her current collection. The prairie skirt now hangs a little lower on the waist while the hemline came up, and soft stretch lace replaces the stiff netting that gave so many 1980s' garments their Lady Rock Star look.

"This is a much cleaner look. There was so much going on in the '80s, and this is a little less vulgar. But I tried to create the excitement of the '80s. The clothes were really fun, and I love the romanticism that we saw in the clothes," Tam says.

In fashion, there really are no "new" styles because there are a limited number of silhouettes, she explains. What makes something look fresh and modern is changing the fabric, the proportion, the color and pairing it with something new, according to the New York-based designer.

The key to wearing 1980s' styles now is balance, Tam says, which can be done by taking out the football-player shoulder pads from blazers, or wearing an oversized top or bottom — but not both. However, she wouldn't change the femininity or the bright colors that made the '80s stand out.

Clothes of that era were often loose and deconstructed, and many women are craving that after wearing the super-slim, formfitting styles of the 1990s, observes Melina Root, the costume designer for the new Fox sitcom "That '80s Show."

"There's a romance about the '80s now — things were looking up then and we were looking forward — and that looks good to us now," Root says.

And, she adds, for any woman who finds herself saddled by a few extra pounds, a loose outfit with a wide belt cinched at the waist is instant camouflage.

But there definitely still is a stigma. "There are ugly clothes in every era; the '80s just overdid it," says Root, although she admits she'd be happy if the kimono-inspired styles and scrunchy ankle boots become popular again.

Root says she's becoming a fan once again of the "big, teased, gelled, moussed hair" and of the short, spiky, new-wavish dos, but the '80s were "a terrible decade for makeup."

Lining the complete rim of the eye in black is not attractive, she says.

Stylist Charles Worthington says the bouncy hair so popular 20 years ago was much easier to care for than the pin-straight styles women are wearing today.