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Joseph jumper, from club to catwalk, V&A
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The six tribes of '80s fashion

As the V&A prepares to celebrate the decade that taste forgot, check out our guide to the sartorial scenes of the 1980s

By Dave Swindells
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All this is Bowie’s fault,’ wrote Boy George, ‘we were all Bowie kids.’ ‘Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s’ is a brilliant spiritual sequel to the phenomenally successful Bowie show at the V&A. Inspired by punk’s can-do spirit and Bowie’s alter-ego looks, onenighter events like Billy’s, Blitz and Club for Heroes helped create our underground club scene, inspire New Romantic music and kickstart a decade of wild events and outfits that climaxed with mad raving around the M25. These ’80s styles and their hardwired connections to the catwalk are celebrated at the V&A in the first major museum show to present club culture positively. Here are six looks that defined the era.
New Romantic
Steve Strange photo © Derik Ridgers

New Romantic

1979: As punk died, androgynous Bowie fans glammed up

Personified by Adam Ant, Steve Strange (pictured).
Catchphrase ‘Excess yourself!’
The look Back-combed hair, pale complexion and lashings of eye make-up and blusher.
Top three tunes ‘Das Model’, Kraftwerk; ‘Life in Tokyo’, Japan; ‘Fade to Grey’, Visage.
Essential accessories Purple lipstick, a bellboy jacket, ideally customised by Vivienne Westwood (pictured). Haunts St Moritz, The Blitz, Planets.
Seminal moment Bowie’s 1980 ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video featuring Steve Strange and various Blitz club regulars.
Designer heroes Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood.
The look lives on The New Romantic style continues to inspire make-up artists such as Pat McGrath. Go for Nars’s Volga lipstick, £18.50 (www.narscosmetics.co.uk).
Goth
Goth protraits © Derik Ridgers

Goth

1983: Post-punk perversity, religious iconography and occult lunacy, with dark songs and darker fashion

Personified by Robert Smith of The Cure.
Catchphrase ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die.’ (The Cure, ‘Pornography’).
The look Undertaker meets Victorian vampire.
Top three tunes ‘A Forest’, The Cure; ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, The Cult; ‘Temple of Love’, The Sisters of Mercy.
Essential accessories Black eyeliner, hair crimpers and pet rat.
Haunts The Batcave; The Kit Kat Club; Kensington Market.
Seminal moment Bauhaus perform ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ in the opening sequence of 1983’s chic vampire flick ‘The Hunger’.
Designer heroes Stephen Linard, Sarah Whitworth.
The look lives on Designers such as Clare Barrow continue to exhume goth’s corpse for inspiration. Mac’s Face and Body Foundation, £20.50 (www.maccosmetics.co.uk), should give you a suitably deathly complexion.
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Buffalo

Buffalo

1982: As the recession hit hard and New Romantic went overground, affordable classics took over

Personified by Ray Petri and the Buffalo gang.
Catchphrase ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!’
The look Angular. Ripped 501s, leather jackets, zoot suits.
Top three tunes ‘Hard Times’, The Human League; ‘Apache’, The Sugarhill Gang; ‘Temptation’, New Order.
Essential accessory Leather jacket, like this one (pictured), £100, www.riverisland.com.
Haunts Le Beat Route; The Dirt Box; Old Street warehouse parties.
Seminal moment The Face’s ‘Hard Times’ cover feature (September 1982), or Wham! dressing the part in their ‘Young Guns (Go for It!)’ video, October 1982.
Designer heroes Stephen Linard, Willie Brown.
The looks lives on Boy London, the clubbing label of the ’80s, has been revived, and is championed by Rihanna. Just add 501s and DMs.
Glam Fetish
Boy George © Michael Costiff, boy in gold © Derik Ridgers

Glam Fetish

1984: Designer Pam Hogg turned up the glamour stakes

Personified by Hot Gossip, Siouxsie Sioux, Boy George (above).
Catchphrase ‘No outfit, no entry.’
The look Buckles, gold and leather.
Top three tunes ‘Venus in Furs’, Velvet Underground; ‘Pretty in Pink’, Psychedelic Furs; ‘Flesh for Fantasy’, Billy Idol.
Essential accessory Gold body paint.
Haunts Skin Two Rubber Ball; Café de Paris; Hyper Hyper.
Seminal moment Skin Two magazine was founded in 1984 by Tim Woodward and photographer Grace Lau.
Designer heroes Lloyd Johnson (gold outfit, pictured), Pam Hogg (strappy leather outfit, pictured).
The look lives on Body-hugging leather continues to inspire catwalk designers including Simone Rocha. Get gold leather trousers, £66, at www.asos.com.
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High Camp
Leigh Bowery & Trojan and Mark © Derek Ridgers

High Camp

1985: Leigh Bowery and Taboo tyros dressed to the limit

Personified by Leigh Bowery (inset), Boy George, Trojan and Mark Vaultier (pictured at Taboo, left).
Catchphrase ‘Well, would you let yourself in?’ (To a Taboo customer.)
The look Fashion as performance art. Extravagance, body paint and clownish make-up.
Top three tunes ‘I Love My Radio’, Taffy; ‘Holiday’, Madonna; ‘Rocket to Your Heart’, Lisa.
Essential accessories Attitude. Alcohol. Drugs. Attitude (again).
Haunts Taboo at Maximus; Kinky Gerlinky at Legends; Jungle at Busby’s.
Seminal moment When Taboo was featured in i-D every month.
Designer heroes Leigh Bowery, Rachel Auburn, James Montgomery, John Galliano.
The look lives on A latex bodysuit by Lady Gaga’s favourite rubber couturier, Atsuko Kudo (www.atsukokudo.com) worn with a pair of Charlotte Olympia platforms, above (www.charlotteolympia.com) should help you through the door.
Rave

Rave

1988: Acid house + Balearic beats + ecstasy = rave

Personified by Adamski The look Baggy surfdisco meets new-age dayglo.
Catchphrase ‘Get on one, matey!’
Top three tunes ‘Pacific State’, 808 State; ‘Strings of Life’, Rhythim Is Rhythim; ‘Your Love’, Jamie Principle.
Essential accessory Smiley face anything.
The haunts Land of Oz at Heaven; M25 service stations; various fields in Wiltshire.
Seminal moment June 24 1989: sunrise party at White Waltham Airfield in Berkshire, dubbed ‘Ecstasy Airport’ by The Sun.
Designer heroes Nick Coleman, Rifat Ozbek, The Cloth collective (pictured).
The look lives on Rave continues to inspire designers like Fashion East’s Ryan Lo and his latest collection. The high street is awash with rave classics such as (pictured) dungarees, £55, and the spot dress, £26 (www.topshop.com). Add white gloves, a glow stick and a gurny grin.

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