V and A exhibition – Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s


I love fashion so whenever I am in London I go to the V and A and spend hours and hours looking at the clothes worn in each era. My favourite was probably the Edwardian Era (from 1901 to 1910).

This time when I was there I arrived just in time for the ‘Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s’ exhibition.

I have a very ambivalent attitude towards fashion in the 1980s. I was born in the 60s, went to school in the 70s and was at university and travelling around the world in the 80s. I always love it when current fashion is inspired by the 50s, 60s and 70s (though I do believe if you wore it first time round, don’t go overboard when it comes around again) but the 80s have been a sartorial no-man’s land for me. Everything just seemed so hideous to me afterwards – stonewash, RELAX t-shirts down to your knees, shoulder pads, bubble skirts, rubber bangles, laddered tights, jelly sandals, fingerless gloves, powersuits. I get cold shivers just thinking about it.

But to my surprise, when I went round the exhibition I could see the beauty of those days. There were really nice things to come out of the 80s- The new Romantic frills and Boy George’s outfits. Adam Ant’s pirate wear and Vivienne Westwood’s fashions. I was lucky enough to go round the exhibition with Stephen Jones which gave me brilliant insight to the fashions of that time. I don’t think anyone else knew who he was but I made a beeline for him as soon as I saw him and it was fantastic. He said to me ‘you know what was the best about those times? Everyone felt free’. He was so friendly and willing to chat – I felt honoured!

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Adam Ant from an earlier V and A exhibition
Adam Ant from an earlier V and A exhibition

Adam and the Ants live in 1981 – they had two drummers which really made a difference!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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