Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980’s

This summer, the V&A plays host to the most creative decade in London fashion – the 1980’s, exploring the impact of underground club culture with more than 90 innovative outfits by designers such as John Galliano, (Miss LF‘s favourite) Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett together with accessories by Stephen Jones and Patrick Cox.

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Elle magazine,November,1985

Jospeh Tricot Ensemble by Giles Tapie | Elle magazine,November,1985

The exhibition displays a snapshot of a time when Boy George, Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery were the ‘IT’ boys dedicated to tribes such as the New Romantics, Goth, Rave and High Camp culture, showcasing a substantial display of menswear by Jasper conran, Paul Smith, Workers for Freedom (at a time when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister) and Willy Brown. Textile design played an important part with English Eccentrics, Bodymap and Timney Fowler working to make print fashionable while Wendy Dagworthy first utilized Liberty prints.

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Bodymap, A/W 1984 | Cat in the hat takes a rumble with a techno fish. Model: Scarlett Cannon

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Joseph Jumper

In September 1982, the definitive style bible of the 80’s ‘The Face’ Magazine observed a ‘hardening of attitudes in music and fashion’ that reflected the economic conditions of Thatcherite Britain with ‘Ubiquitous Levi’s worn into holes, sweatshirts serving their purpose and losing their sleeves, leather dominating everything….t-shirts ripped and torn’ serving leftovers from the anarchic 70’s punk coinciding with a revival of rockabilly style leading into the 80’s ‘Hard Times’ look reflected in that of the Blitz denim jackets on display: In 1986, Blitz Magazine commissioned a group of 22 London-based designers to customise Levi’s denim jackets.

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Denim jacket ‘BLITZ’ by Levi Strauss & Co. | Customised by Leigh Bowery

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Denim jacket ‘BLITZ’ by Levi Strauss & Co. | Customised by Vivienne Westwood

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The most provocative outfits on display, were of course those of the fetishwear designed by Pam Hogg and Vivienne Westwood. From 1985- 86 Leigh Bowery’s Soho nightclub Taboo was where DIY fashion mixed with glamourous debauchery resulting in the androgynous High Camp look of the time. Bowery even famously once said of his dress code ‘Dress a though your life depends on it or don’t bother.’

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Trojan and Mark at Taboo

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Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980’s at the V&A until February 2014.

– Sufiyeh Hadian

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