Who remembers jewelry that looks like this? Who had jewelry that looked like this?
Today, I’m taking a break from my family’s history to bring you a very small piece of my own history. If you, like me, came of age in the 1980s, you can probably relate to this. As I was going through yet another container of family belongings, I came across these earrings, which are mine. If memory serves me correctly, I purchased these somewhere around 1984. They are made of some type of inexpensive metal (they couldn’t have cost much because I was a college student living on a budget then). Just for fun, I posted this photo on Facebook, and a couple of friends said they’d owned similar earrings, in fun colors like Pepto-Bismol pink.
All this got me thinking about ’80s fashion in general. Now, please understand that no one could ever accuse me of being a fashion plate. but when I was a young adult, I certainly followed the trends. Fashion, at the end of that decade, at least where I live, was very different from fashion at the beginning of the decade. About the time I bought those yellow earrings was when fashion was shifting away from preppy and toward neon.
In 1980, The Official Preppy Handbook was published, and I, along with many of my classmates had already embraced that particular style of clothing. The book seemed to spur things along, with more “preppy” clothing choices in the shopping mall stores than ever before. I bought a plaid kilt skirt, penny loafers, and button down shirts in many pastel colors. I also added beads to the add-a-bead necklace my mother had stared for me.
By the time I graduated from college in 1985, fashion was changing, rather dramatically. Khaki pants, a preppy staple, were being replaced by parachute pants (I did not own any of these), and stirrup pants (I’ll confess to owning a pair). Those add-a-bead necklaces were being replaced by neon colored jewelry, made from various metals and plastics. Actually, many clothing items were neon colored, as well. There were also the acid-washed jeans and the power suits with shoulder pads. And, who can forget those hair-pouffing perms, a trend I embraced as my hair was very fine and could be hard to style as a result.
Fashion, indeed, is a part of history. I’ve read many articles about how fashion is tied to what is going on in the world at a given time. So, what did these somewhat bizarre trends from the 1980s say about us as a society?
I went to Palmetto Girls State in the summer of 1981, which was the height of the preppy trend. The de riguer uniform was khaki pants or skirts, bright colored “polo” shirts, ribbon belts and headbands, and espadrilles. I can remember girls wearing green and pink plaid belts, and then swapping one shoe with someone else so that they would be wearing one pink and one green espadrille. My big feet never allowed me to do that.
I have never really escaped that preppy style. The big, elaborate hair and clothing styles of the later 80s never suited me. I couldn’t produce big bangs if my life depended on it. I wore professional, tailored clothing through the 90s, and since then I have gradually settled back into my comfort zone of polo shirts, jeans and khakis. As a matter of fact, just ordered polo shirts in two new patterns from Lands’ End for this spring. Everything old is new again!