What Does 1980s Fashion Tell Us About London?

This is a sponsored article on behalf of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

V and A Club to Catwalk

Oversized suits, colourful knitwear and a whole lot of lycra; the style legacy of the 1980s is a bold and instantly recognisable one, and it found its centre in London. Do not miss the final month of the V&A’s Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s exhibition, which explores how London’s fashion scene exploded during the decade and threaded a powerful connection between music, club and catwalk.

With more than 90 outfits on display from the most experimental young designers of the 80s including Betty Jackson, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano, you can discover the distinctive looks that defined the decade and the extent to which they provide a social commentary on London at that time.

Take leather, for example. In September 1982, The Face observed that the economic conditions of Thatcherite Britain had produced a “hardening of attitudes in music and fashion”. The result? The public adopted “Levi’s worn into holes, sweatshirts serving their purpose and … leather dominating everything”. This ‘hard times’ look – arguably a social product – can be found reflected in leather designs by fashion entrepreneur Lloyd Johnson.

Such stories behind the styles are fascinating and visitors can find out more as they travel through the exhibition’s distinct areas: the lower floor where the era’s cutting edge catwalk creations are celebrated, and the mezzanine level which recreates the atmosphere of the 1980s London club scene. Using mannequins, photographs, sketches and film, each area traces how London’s vibrant club scene, from Blitz to Camden Palace, influenced a daring new generation of designers.

More than just a display, this colour-explosion of an exhibition is an in-depth look at a defining fashion decade. Now where’s that hairspray?

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s is at the V&A until 16 February 2014. Tickets cost £5 and can be booked online at  www.vam.ac.uk or via the box office on 020 7420 9736.

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