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Return to the Eighties

Bubble-Era Fashions Reinvented with New Twists


A style accented by a belt. (C)PROM

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The all-black look is classic 80s fashion. (C)PROM

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Outfits with the look and feel of the 1980s are currently prominent on the streets of Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Mod clothes, destroyed jeans with studded belts and other punk wear, dresses and items with a wide belt around the waist, and other individualistic styles are all part of the current trend of giving new life to 1980s-style items by arranging them to suit contemporary tastes.

Flamboyant and OriginalWhat was the Japanese fashion scene like in the 1980s? At the time, the country was riding the wave of the bubble economy, and the world of fashion reflected the lavish spending of this era. Designer-brand outfits costing tens of thousands of yen (hundreds of dollars) sold well, as did showy, individualistic styles. Homegrown Japanese fashion labels known collectively as DC ("designer and character") emerged in the latter 1970s and 1980s, and charismatic Japanese brands, such as COMME des GARÇONS and Y's, were extremely popular. More and more people acquired a taste for avant-garde-like clothes, such as garments with unusual forms and all-black outfits.

In the mid-1980s, sexy, body-hugging outfits known as bodycon ("body-conscious") came into vogue. Women went to their jobs and to discos in tight-fitting suits and dresses sporting heavy make up and one-length hairstyles.

The late 1980s witnessed the rise of antiestablishment punk fashions. Tokyo's Harajuku district, in particular was filled with young people sporting skinhead and Mohawk hairstyles, riders' jackets, and bondage trousers.


Coordinating a colorful shirt with destroyed jeans. (C)PROM

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The Look Today Though the current trend has been labeled a revival, there are a number of ways in which it diverges from the 1980s styles. Essentially, outfits are a blend of 1980s elements and contemporary tastes. Today's black mod-style dresses, for example, are distinguished by a hem that rises on one side. And skirts with a well-defined waist, meanwhile, are being coordinated with a jacket or worn over a pair of destroyed jeans. Tailored jackets are finding favor as well, particularly long jackets with rolled up sleeves and jackets with some volume in the shoulders. The textile and makeup tones today are not as showy as during the bubble era.

One factor behind the revival is the 20-year cycle in clothing styles. Some also see it as an expression of originality and innovation in reaction to the recent boom in "fast fashion," which has led to increasing homogenization. People may also be growing tired of casual wear, which has been popular for a long time, and finding something refreshing in strong, clear fashion statements, such as bodycon designs with belted waists and assertive punk outfits. (August 2009)

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