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Fashion is ever-changing. Here are 17 gorgeous, yet sometimes hilarious dressing styles that were part of the 80s fashion of my youth.
I was looking at some old photographs of my youth. Friends and me posing for photographs at various strategic ‘cool’ locations of the time. Of course we looked different 25 years ago, minus wrinkles and grey hair, but we also looked different because we were dressed in what was fashionable at that time. It makes me cringe to see some of those fashions, but some of those styles also make me nostalgic for an era which was the most hip and happening time in our lives- the 80s/ early 90s.
Here are some of the styles we wore with aplomb, some of the ‘looks’ which were ‘in’ at the time and some of the hot favourites.
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Women of a certain age will remember the time we all went crazy about French plaits. We learnt to tie other girls’ hair into these lovely, woven braids and then we practised on ourselves in front of the mirror until we got it just right. You started at the top of your head and progressed along the back of the head, until you reached the nape and then just tied it off, leaving a long, loose ponytail. You could do it even with neck length hair and we were such experts, we could do them in the dark!
This was a classic of the times. The film Aashiqi was a super hit. Mind you this was Aashiqi part I with Rahul Roy with his long hair, which was a novelty for the time and of course Anu Agarwal, the unconventional beauty who wore her hair in a French plait often, and in the film, wore a frilly, chiffon/georgette, hair tie. It was a cross between a ribbon and something that looked like bird feathers, but made of brightly coloured cloth.
Now we adored this fashion and sure enough, it was the thing to be spotted wearing an ‘Aashiqi’ ribbon. Those who have never heard of this were either not born in that era or were simply not fashionable enough!
Note: Many times it matched exactly with the dress, made out of the same cloth. Also note, we never bought ‘hair scrunchies’ because it was easy to just pick leftovers of fabric at the tailor shop, home stitch into a little cloth tunnel, put an elastic through and close both ends. Voila, a colourful scrunchie. In fact we instructed the tailor not to throw fabric left overs away!
As you must have realized by now, our fashions followed Bollywood, which in turn followed Hollywood. Power dressing was trending- women in the west were wearing padded shoulders.
Now, we in India did not wear power suits. But we wore salwar kameezes or churidars. So the next thing we knew, our heroines were wearing these clothes with shoulders extending at least 3 inches beyond the actual shoulders.The tailor very cleverly made huge puffs at the beginning of the sleeves to mimic shoulder pads. There were no pads, only billowing fabric scrunched together and poking outward from the shoulders on either side.
Think Madhuri and Juhi in their hit films and you will see what I mean. Of course we imitated the heroines and our tailors were very much in tune with all things Bollywood. There we were with broad shoulders on our kameez or our midis (another fashion of that era) and sleeves that tapered to the wrist.
Another fashion that was never seen again. Pants that extended to the calves and which had a draw string were very popular in my late school years. It was the ultimate thing to own a pair.
This fashion was a reinvention of the 60s. Really loose at the hips, with pleats at the front,then tapering to the ankles, this fashion was the rage when we were in college.
It was the 80s, Lady Di was the craze….we had watched her wedding on TV and of course we all wanted to look like her, even if we didn’t look like her one bit. So all we did was ask the beauty parlour lady for a Diana cut and she knew exactly what to do. Imagine us Indian girls, trying hard to look like clones of Lady Di.
Funnily , in the 80s, we all looked the same- boys and girls had a haircut that was short at the top of the head with the hair puffing up, the sides had little hair, but just behind the ears the hair suddenly got long and extended in tufts to the nape of neck or even longer to the shoulders. Think Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Hollywood popstars- we all looked like clones of each other.
This fruit shaped hair clip was meant for bunching together all the hair into one long sweeping mane of hair that made even the shortest, thinnest head of hair convert into a luxurious ponytail. The trend was to keep taking it apart in public and redo the ponytail, all the while flaunting the silkiness of the hair and trying to make an even longer ponytail with every new attempt. ‘Higher, longer, fluffier’ was the mantra for a great banana clip ponytail.
Only the ‘mod’ crowd wore these longish,knee length, very loose, shorts with a thick white cord and elastic at the waist. We bought them off the roadside vendors and they were usually unisex, but made mostly for men.
The really adventurous ones got this done. One day you had straight hair and the next you had a hair of curls. We wondered what some of these girls had had done. Not for the faint-hearted this one.
These were pumps shoes, that were something new in India. Up until then we only wore chappals or sandals or proper laced up sports shoes or school shoes. But ‘Ballees ‘were a new fashion. Nobody knows why they were called that. I think it was Bally shoes, Bally being an international brand name in such shoes (I just found that out). In India we happily called them Ballees and you could bargain for them at roadside shops. I remember buying Ballees bargained to Rs 10, which were all cardboard and cloth and magically lasted at least a year!
Somewhere in the early 90s, for some inexplicable reason, long sleeved saree blouses came on the scene. We had either a red or black one sewn and one had to wear it with saree draped in Gujarati fashion. We liberally borrowed and lended our blouses among friends for a bit of variety.
This was the epitome of all our fashion efforts. As if one wasn’t enough, we got an extra couple of holes in our ear lobes and studded them with all sorts of earrings- oxidised silver ones being the most popular!
Been there done that- worn a dhoti in public and not felt embarrassed. It was the thing to wear a dhoti pant as the bottom half of salwar kameez. Teamed with a shortish top, we were ready to take on the world. After all Madhuri Dixit, our fashion icon carried it off with such grace!
Wearing jeans was for the really fashionable ones. ‘Gin pant’ as it was called, could be acid or stone washed if you preferred. We also wore knee length pinstriped denim skirts which were actually really nice. But after a certain age, these were banned…pity!
To think that this could actually be a female apparel! Typically a man’s dress, this fashion came on the scene very briefly and exited just as quickly. So even before we had a chance to get it stitched from the tailor, it was gone. Thank goodness. It was taking power dressing to new heights!
One day I pulled out a really old kameez (top) from the past. Horror of horrors, the kameez was for someone 5 Ft 3 inches, but what had happened to the sleeves? They were for an Amazonian woman of at least 7 foot 2 inches! But even more horror of horrors, I remember wearing this kameez and rocking it at a wedding some 25 years ago! Now how could that be possible? Well, these sleeves were supposed to pulled up the arm, to the elbow, until you got lots of creases like multiple bangles (churis). Much like the churidar (bottom half of a salwar-kameez set) except a hundred times impractical and weird. What were we thinking? No wonder it took ages to dress up and get the damn thing off! A definite fashion faux pas,unlikely to make a comeback.
This was a time when there were no malls, no sizing (yes, one size fits all….lucky if you were 5 Ft 3 inches and 48 kg). Many of us were size zero thanks to living in a hostel and being malnourished. But we loved wearing abnormally loose clothes. In fact we wore comfortable tent like kameezes that could accommodate another human. We used lipstick on our eyelids and cheek bones. We used eyeliner on eyelids and to draw eyeliner bindis. Cosmetics had a multipurpose!
I recall those days with a mix of fondness, laughter and horror. My friends and I rebelled in our teenage to the best we could, to sport these styles, especially the ‘dhoti pant’. We wanted to wear the denim skirt for a bit longer but were admonished into wearing something with more coverage as we moved into late teenage. We rocked those days and those were certainly the wonder years!
Published earlier here.
Image source: 80s fashion by Shutterstock.
I love writing about anything that makes me laugh, cry, salivate, roll my eyes or
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