Fashion: Never gonna give you up

Yes, believe it or not, the Eighties are back again. The decade that sported a mullet haircut and a thousand other sartorial follies has stormed the catwalk, and is now tottering down a high street near you in drainpipes and stilettos.
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The Independent Culture
Ra-ra skirts or power suits, Wham! or Kraftwerk, Gregory's Girl or Desperately Seeking Susan - what do you remember about the Eighties? In fashion terms, it was the decade that most of us would rather forget. But, believe it or not, the Eighties has once again (and again and again) resurfaced - even in fashion's hippest quarters.

This time around the look seems to have stepped straight out of the village hall disco, picking up a streetwise Nineties edge somewhere along the way. It appears to be all about wearing denim drainpipes with scarily high stiletto boots, second-skin leather with lace or fishnet, and even the mullet hair "do", last seen bobbing up and down the football pitch on Chris Waddle, has been reinstated as the new must-have coif. Call it a pre-millennial nostalgia trip or simply a fashionable whim, but the decade that launched a zillion trends, from Soul Seekers to Sloane Rangers, is refusing to lay down and die.

Fashion pundits claim that it has been Gucci god Tom Ford's mega influence over the fashion world, and his on-off love affair with Eighties gloss that has prompted the current revival from catwalk to high street to club scene and back again. A year ago Ford issued leggings (think Fame), clutch bags (Lorraine Chase) and shoulder pads (Krystle Carrington).

It should be noted for the record, even though the clothes won't be available to buy until August, that Ford's obsession continues for autumn/winter with pink and jet panne velvet (Adam Ant), ruching (festoon blinds circa 1983), and lace and leather combos (Madonna).

If any designer sums up the Eighties slick, overtly polished look, it is Ford himself, never without his black polo neck and sweetly smelling of Envy, the aptly titled Gucci fragrance.

But Ford is not alone in digging up the Eighties graveyard. British designers, young enough to have been ungainly jigging around their local discos in the mid-Eighties, have also unearthed wildly differing versions of their favourite decade.

Exhibit one: Andrew Groves' catwalk show, entitled Cocaine Nights, featuring a catwalk heaped with white powder, a dress made entirely of razor blades and white suits with shoulders the size of helicopter landing pads. Don't for one nano-second think of slipping shoulder pads under your jacket, or indulging, yuppie-style, in hedonistic nights out at Stringfellow's. (It's safer and cooler to be seen reading the book Cocaine Nights by JG Ballard instead.)

Alternatively, try exhibit two: stonewashed jeans, parachute silk parkas in emerald green or Jaffa orange, or batwing sleeved tops emblazoned with Club Tropicana prints, all seen on Anthony Symonds' (a self-confessed Eighties fan) spring/summer catwalk.

"I was more interested in using sportswear references from the likes of Body Map and Katharine Hamnett that still look relevant and modern today," says Symonds. "After all, the Eighties weren't just about power- dressing and Thatcher."

Perhaps the best way to achieve the look without having to try too hard is via denim. While stonewash may have been de rigueur 10 years ago, who wants to be reminded of boy band pop sensation Bros? Try dark indigo drainpipes, studded with a flashy silver seam for extra authenticity, pounds 45, by Wit and Wisdom from Top Shop (pictured), or any denim by Katharine Hamnett, since she is the designer who put it on the Eighties style-map in the first place.

Hamnett may have re-issued her customised denim for the Nineties, but for her, that's as far as it goes. "I've been there, done that," she says of the decade which saw her meeting Margaret Thatcher in jeans and a Stop Acid Rain T-shirt. The vintage alternative, if you're already over the rhinestone studded look, is Calvin Klein's recently re-instated white label jeans, first seen in the early-Eighties on Brooke Shields, who famously never let anything else come between her and her Calvin's.

If you're willing and able (or just very brave), there's always Madonna a la Desperately Seeking Susan, minus bangles and crucifixes this time around. Try fishnets and lace body stockings (note: a pair of fishnets can be cleverly customised and worn as sleeves), with lots of glossy leather, preferably in lurid pink or black, though beware the Liquorice Allsorts effect. If that doesn't turn you on, there's Eighties gothic - panda-ringed eyes and anything in black leather and lace, last sported by Siouxsie Sioux, who is also having a revival.

If this is simply all too much trash for those of you with more sophisticated style sensibilities, but you still want to give the Eighties a whirl, it's got to be a second-skin dress by Azzedine Alaia, the Eighties design guru who never went away. Just don't forget the black patent high heels, diamante studded stockings, scarlet lipstick - and the industrial-sized can of Elnett hairspray.

Main picture: Lace body, pounds 17.99, by Jonathan Aston, from department stores nationwide (0116-286 2388); leather skirt, pounds 35, jacket, pounds 95, both by Outer Edge from Top Shop (0171-637 9526); earrings, pounds 14, by Agatha (0171-495 2779)

Below left: Choker, pounds 110, by Jade Inc from Browns Focus, 38-39 South Molton Street, London W1 (0171-384 1907); aertex top, pounds 80, by Seraph from Selfridges (0171-331 1433); denim jacket, pounds 265, by Katharine Hamnett (0171- 823 1002)

Top left: Top, pounds 39.99, by Morgan (0171-383 2888); blue jacket, pounds 109, by Red or Dead (0114-273 7827); jeans with silver side-seams, pounds 45, by Wit and Wisdom from Top Shop, as before; boots, pounds 60, by Faith (0800 289297)

Below: Fishnet tights worn as sleeves, pounds 3.99, by Jonathan Aston, as before; fishnet dress, pounds 32, by Miss Sixty (0171-700 6470); top, pounds 24.99, by Morgan, as before; leather trousers, pounds 55, by Outer Edge, as before.

Photographer: Anna Stevenson

Stylist: Holly Wood

Make-up: Firyal Arneil using Christian Dior

Hair: James Mooney at Windel using Bumble and Bumble

Model: Erika at Bookings