Dressing in the ’80s was a blend of hyper-femininity and power—extreme shoulders, big hair, wide-cut suits, and gold jewelry. It was Claude Montana’s sculpted silhouettes and aforementioned angular shoulder pads that revolutionized womenswear. Whether intentional or not, Olivier Rousteing’s almost-cartoonishly exaggerated suits seemed to pay some homage to Montana.
Balmain’s return to couture after 16 years was a futuristic take on power dressing with looks reminiscent of super-chic evil stepmoms, like the Parent Trap‘s Meredith Blake or Michelle Pfeiffer’s white suit in Scarface. It was couture on overdrive that seemed to announce “We’re BAAAAACK” in swaths of cocaine white, giant balloon sleeves, nipped-in waists with silver adornments, big hats that dipped and folded, and suits with bride-like trains.
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The unfortunate and bizarre decision to use some controversial face-painting detracted from an otherwise exuberant, very excessive show. The suits were out of this world, both noir and Blade Runner-ish in their retro-futurism and that blend threaded throughout couture week. At Givenchy, this same masculine take on ultra-feminine shapes gave us a black sculpted jacket with a white collar slashed across. It was paired with latex pants, an ideal suit for the modern woman. Backstage, Vogue quoted designer Clare Waight Keller saying she chose latex for its strength and sensuality.
At Armani, the stand-out piece was a silver jacquard suit, worn with flapper-inspired fringe caps. Celine Dion, current icon of Fashion Week, wore a version of the power suit with flared shoulders to the Ronald van der Kemp show.
I think the consistent appeal of fashion nostalgia, ’80s Vogues scanned and uploaded to Instagram accounts like @virgomood, is that it does take us to a more dressed-up time for women—sort of like what you thought you’d dress like when you were younger and playing make-believe. The breathable cotton and efficiency of athleisure and absence of tailoring in ubiquitous fast-fashion makes that perfect fit feel elusive.
But maybe we can look like fancy, powerful women we wanted to grow up to be. Channel your own version of the evil stepmom or Sigourney Weaver’s conniving CEO in Working Girl below.