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Back to the ’80s, a decade style forgot

Frances Burscough

Published 01/10/2016

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

I have grave news to strike dread into the soul of anyone aged around fifty. Eighties fashion is making a comeback, so be prepared for continuous flashbacks to your worst sartorial mistakes from the decade style forgot.

Oh, the bat-winged sleeves! Oh, the harem pants! Oh the humanity!

Back in the day, I was a serial fashion victim. In the eighties, there was no such thing as "less is more". More was more. And I often wore all my fashion faux pas at once. On a typical Saturday night circa 1985 I'd wear glittery knickerbockers, winkle-picker ankle boots, a gold lamé jacket with huge shoulder pads, a silk blouse with a frilly jabot cascading down my chest and a string of beads diagonally across it like a sash. To accessorise I'd wear fishnet tights and matching fingerless gloves à la Madonna and carry a clutch bag containing my Opium eau de toilette and my Menthol More cigarettes and half a kilo of cosmetics for touch-ups.

Which brings us to the makeup. "Au naturelle" certainly didn't cut it back then. Oh no, you had to do the full slap incorporating the most garish colours imaginable. My personal favourite was a frosted glitter eye shadow in fluorescent pink which I'd team with violet mascara. Tasteful, eh?

Even that wasn't fussy enough for a slick chick of the eighties. Hell no. You had to top it all with big hair. As big as you could get it. Which led to my worst styling mistake of all.

When I was about 17 I succumbed to the call of the curl. So I went to the local hairdressers (appropriately named Curl Up & Dye) clutching a picture of Kate Bush from the Army Dreamers album cover, in the vain hope that I would leave looking like a blonde version of her.

Unfortunately Cath, the perm artiste, was on her honeymoon in Torremolinos. So I bought a home perm kit from Boots for one-fifty. Then, realising I would need not just eyes but arms in the back of my head to do it myself, I enlisted my sister Marie as my accomplice. She was fifteen, had no experience of hairstyling other than the occasional tong-up before church, but how hard could it be? Especially if we missed out the lengthy and laborious "strand test" for hair suitability, and grasped the nettle by the roots... So, four hours of twisting, snagging, swearing, eye-watering pain and scalp-burning, ammonia-stinking, peroxide-fizzing later, I was ready to behold my new incarnation.

Ominously, Marie ran downstairs immediately after handing me the mirror. Now although my emotional survival mechanism has erased the following memory from my mind for three decades, I feel obliged as a public spokesperson to inform you of the results.

My hair had spiralled completely out of control. I had big hair alright: it had reached Wuthering Heights, in fact. But it had all the appeal, appearance and texture of one of those yellow nylon pan scrubbers that your mum used to remove stubborn grease and grime from oven trays after Christmas dinner.

Instead of falling softly into glossy, bouncy ringlets, it was a single indiscriminate clump of lack-lustre frizz. I did my best to wash it out, umpteen times I might add, but then Marie helpfully pointed out that "perm" was short for "permanent" and I realised that we'd gone well beyond the point of no return.

So, for two weeks, until Cath returned from Torremolinos, I wore a fashionable floppy-brimmed hat, even in bed. Thank Heaven for small mercies it was the school holidays.

But I'm not the only one heralding the return of the Eighties. A friend is currently organising a fashion show with a difference. In fact it would be more accurately described as a Retro Extravaganza, as it will be all about the Eighties, featuring fashions from back-in-the day, worn by models from back-in-the-day including some of Northern Ireland's best-known fifty somethings who launched the Belfast New Romantic fashion scene thirty five years ago.

There will be a prize for the best-dressed 80s inspired audience member, a 1980s-themed disco and lots of retro touches to look forward to. It's not until next year, but I'll give you the details nearer the time, so watch this space!

Belfast Telegraph

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