As any faithful fashion magazine reader knows, January means resort. It’s a rare individual who can drop everything and escape to sunny St. Bart’s to beat the post-holiday blues (complete with a new wardrobe), while the rest of us are left behind to keep warm with mere blankets and magazines.
Like most new-year issues, the January 1984 edition of American Vogue is chock-full of swimwear ads, which always have my eyes glazing over and my fingers flipping fast through the pages. I’m not a beach person. The sun gives me hives. I am pale with a strong dislike of tropical insects. I am not doing “resort” any time soon, so the January magazines have long been a disappointment, a throwaway month.
My expectations were low when I settled onto the sofa to revisit January 1984, but I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.
First, my manic, skip-the-swimwear page flipping was stopped dead upon the sight of a Christian Dior Swimwear ad. Male angels! A baby! Kelly Le Brock in puffy-cloud heaven! Could there be anything more camp or possibly better?
I could say no — under anything but extraordinary circumstances I would say no. But I can’t.
It’s the editorial pages that make this issue my newest obsession. The issue has a theme: What’s Modern? The question is asked and answered in relation to art, architecture (in an feature by then-creative director Anna Wintour no less), diet, beauty and of course, fashion.
What’s most striking is that many of the images could run aside today’s without notice. What was modern in January 1984 is, all Christian Dior angel swimsuit ads aside, in many respects what’s modern now.
Let’s look at the Big Trends.
It was a short-hair moment, a time for menswear-influenced lines and a shift away from basic black to a full palette range of neutrals. Oversize tops were paired with skinny skirts; equally oversize jackets and coats were the keys pieces to have. There was a decided ease in dressing, and far fewer giant shoulder pads than you might expect. The relaxed, soft shapes of Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein were editorial favourites and quirky, layered, London-inspired, primarily knitwear looks warranted an eight-page spread.
But while the style of early 1984 had many parallels with what’s happening in fashion today, talk of street fashion in highfalutin fashion titles like Vogue was a novelty — and still obviously regarded with a certain disdain. “The best street fashion is getting calmer,” it’s reported in the magazine’s View section. “You see punk hair growing back to natural shade; kids washing off bizarre makeups in favor of a scrubbed-looking of paley made-up face.” The (uncredited) writer sounds so very relieved, and it’s these passages make me smile at their datedness and not once make me wish for a beach in St. Bart’s.
All images appeared in the January 1984 issue of American Vogue:
1. Jacki Adams, photographed by Denis Piel.
2. Christian Dior Swimwear.
4. Alfred Sung; photograph by Lothar Schmid.
5. Photograph by Eddy Kohli; clothing by Calvin Klein.
6. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe; clothing by Issey Miyake.
7. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe; clothing by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.
8. Photograph by Bill King; clothing by Oscar de la Renta.
9. Photograph by Bill King; clothing by Ralph Lauren.
Thirty-Year Flashback is a monthly feature on periodicult.com.