80's fashion is so of its time, so instantly recognizable from any other era. But it does not exist in a vacuum. Here are some pictures from 80's magazines paired with the historical fashions I think they draw from.
Vogue Italia | 1700s France
Seventeen Magazine, February 1987 | 1857 Fashion Plate
Seventeen Magazine, November 1984 | France, 1906
Seventeen Magazine, August 1985 | Coco Chanel, 1920s
Elle Magazine, November 1987 | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953
When I think of 1980's womenswear, I think of shoulder pads. It's a distinct reference to 1940s fashion, but what brought this on? In the 80's you were starting to see more women with power in the work force and they needed to look the part. In a way, the big shoulder suit strips women of their gender and puts them on an equal playing field in the office as men. The yuppies of the 80's were the pendulum reaction to the casual hippies of the 60's and 70's. People were interested in wearing more formal attire again, but the femininity of 50's dress would have made women appear weak, so they harken back to the 40's, the same era where you first get your workplace screwball comedies. Movies like His Girl Friday (pictured below) showed women as men's equals on the job. So why the emergence of the suit in the 1940's? The influence of war fashions and more women moving into the workplace. During the war, fabric availability was limited, clothes had to be more practical. Even though the US didn't enter the war till '41, changes in Europe affected fashion in the States. This style was popular through the war, but afterwards women were quick to ditch their angular suits for the New Look, using yards and yards of fabric to create a softer silhouette.
Vogue, September 1987 | Jean Arthur, circa 1940
1983 | His Girl Friday, 1940