Book on ’80s fashion fails to hit the mark

By  |  0 Comments

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you should at least be able to surmise whether its content is credible enough from the first two sentences.

Here’s the beginning of the first paragraph from 80s Fashion: From Club To Catwalk, a book edited by Sonnet Stanfill, curator of fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London:

“The fashions of 1980s London have never really been written about properly. People seem to think that it was only about power dressing and large shoulders pads!”

Stop right there.

Never really been written about properly? I’m not surprised if the past scribes on the subject of British fashion possess diction as bad as this. Stanfill ought to know that it’s shoulder pads – without the redundant ‘s’. Or perhaps the writer was too preoccupied with contemplating to include the obtrusive exclamation mark.

Now you may think that picking up on this – and highlighting it – is being little pedantic on my behalf, but it is difficult to take the opinion of posh museum curator seriously when she criticises all literature on the subject of fashion that came before this slapped-together text, only to stuff up in her own diction – and in the very first paragraph.

Indeed, not only does the design of 80s Fashion look as though it were put together using a photocopier and fax machine (and I don’t think they were trying to be ironic), the paper stock is shockingly bad (a definite no-no in fashion literature publishing) while the selection of images is limited, to say the least.

As for the book’s prose, there’s nothing fresh or innovative about it. Instead it’s about as recycled as a Vivienne Westwood catwalk collection. I’ve read deeper stuff in books that focus solely on slogan t-shirts or humble denim.

These publishers could have featured some of the best fashion editorials – should they have turned more to iconic Eighties periodicals like i-D and The Face but instead they’ve scanned tatty club flyers and recycled runway photos so lacking in contrast, they might well have been taken by a blind man.

The Eighties were an amazing decade in terms of fashion. Aside from big shoulder pads, it boasted a brilliant multi-culture of attire mixed and often unmatched, mostly in the name of postmodernism.

That this book hones in on the tackiest of an already cut-and-paste medium leaves you wondering why it was conceived in the first place, which is most likely to conicide with an exhibition taking place at the V&A.

Anyway, these publishers ought to go back to the drawing board, as they say in the world of design. Self-starting blogger, Tavi, could have done a better job in curating a book on this particular subject. And she wasn’t even born in the ’80s. 


80s Fashion: From Club To Catwalk is published through V&A.