I haven’t counted the magazines in the little room, but there are hundreds, though fewer now than this time last year. I’ve been removing them one small stack at a time, shuttling them across town to my home in the inner-city from my parents’ suburban basement, then scanning the images that strike me — as beautiful or odd or simply irresistible in their ’80s camp.
I’ve collected fashion magazines since seventh grade, possibly sooner. I was not a casual enthusiast, but a compulsive one who read each issue cover-to-cover, including bylines and photo credits. Even after the most thorough of readings I couldn’t — wouldn’t — toss out a single issue. Instead, my magazines were stored in the basement of the house I grew up in, in the little room, tucked away under the stairs, all thin carpet, dim lighting and utilitarian cupboards lined with shelves.
My mother threatened more than once to dispose of my collection, which continued to grow long after I moved out on my own in the late 1980s. When I finished with an issue I’d give it to my mother to file with the others, in the little room. Sometimes she’d sigh or scowl, but mostly she’d just roll her eyes and ask for the millionth time what on earth I was possibly going to do with all those magazines. It was impossible then to imagine a snappy comeback that involved a scanner and the Internet and having to explain that there is no “e” missing in Tumblr — that’s just the way it’s spelled.
As of January 1, 2013 I’ve posted over 2,000 images on the Periodicult Tumblr blog: eight pictures, five days a week, Monday through Friday. A following grew quickly. Some, like me, found delight in revisiting these images, while others discovered them for the first time.
Six months in I made the decision to expand the content, to launch a full-scale site. It would take another six months of planning, reading and research to arrive at today and this very greeting-welcome-post-manifesto.
Why, I’ve been thinking throughout these past few months, does ’80s’ fashion matter?
The answer is one I’ll continue to search for here, as part of this peculiar online magazine about magazines. For me, 1980s fashion is personal and I am, admittedly, quite biased. It’s the fashion of my youth and shaped my aesthetic preferences more than I knew before I started dusting off my collection and digging in. Hindsight has sparked a current of context that’s subtle but ever-present; it’s in every turn of the page, and something only a magazine can offer.
A single issue produces snapshot of time that’s thoughtful and considered, free of the manic immediacy of a newspaper or the steady plod of a book a year — perhaps years — in the making. The magazine exists firmly in the in between, amid the traffic of life and aspiration. The magazine of the ’80s exists, for me, in a parallel, more specific space between wistfulness and whimsy, memory and inspiration.
I have committed myself to this project for one year at the least, and as this experiment unfolds over the coming weeks and months, I will undoubtedly play favourites. I can’t resist the playfulness of ’80s Christian Lacroix, the exaggerated lines of Thierry Mugler or a black-and-white advertisement for a Krizia animal sweater. And rest assured that every single Claude Montana image I can find will turn up at one point or another.
But it’s not all couture and high fashion. Hard, Gaultier angles may be juxtaposed with the soft-focus of early-’80s JC Penney ads, images from slick Vogue editorials may bump up against the grainy downtown mode pulled from the pages of Details. Wink-and-nudge junior mall clothes may mingle with elegant Armanis. Periodicult aims to bring visitors interviews, reviews, personal anecdotes and visual stories — it’s all in the mix.
Periodicult is not about taste-level or the bore of the endlessly chic. It’s about reflection that’s free of sappy nostalgia, but not above occasional indulgence in a cheesy cliché. It’s about the great jumble of it all: new romantic, post-punk, prepster, power-dressing, all-out-glam. It’s neon, luxe, saturated and fun. And just as ’80s fashion design was unapologetic in its confidence, I proudly declare my status as an unabashed eighties magazine fangirl who takes strange comfort in the musty smell of old paper and age. I trust that I am not the only one.
1. American Vogue, May 1980.
2. Harper’s Bazaar, December 1981.
3. Vogue Patterns, September/October 1982.
4. Town & Country, November 1983.
5. Glamour, September 1984.
6. Seventeen, August 1985.
7. Elle, September 1986.
8. Mademoiselle, November 1987.
9. Flare, September 1988.
10. Mirabella, October 1989.