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Robin Friedman : author and journalist

The ’80s strike back

Bygone era — minus the big hair! — returns to a store near you

By Robin Friedman | Fall Special Advertising Section of
New Jersey Jewish News | September 7, 2006

The ’80s are back, girlfriends, but this is no Brat Pack Convention.

The Me Decade that inspired FLASHDANCE-era legwarmers and ripped-up sweatshirts is all grown up, and while you may be skeptical about “1980s” and “elegance” being in the same sentence, this fall’s fashions have a freshness that’s all about stylish sophistication.

“It’s a put-together, organized look,” says Deborah Gilbert Smith, owner of Deborah Gilbert Smith in Millburn. “It’s a restrained season. It’s not anything goes.”

Marked by rich textures, such as cashmeres, wools, leathers, and suedes, and earthy tones, such as black, grey, cream, chocolate, and rust, as well as jeweled tones, such as plum, olive, hunter, and cranberry, this fashionable resurrection features a lean, clean look of familiar-yet-fashion-forward sexy-skinny pants, long tops, wide belts, chunky jewelry, big handbags, ballet flats, ankle and flat boots, platform shoes, and lots of layering.

“It’s a look that can be adorable,” says Cathy Abrams, owner of Cathy and Company in Maplewood. “I really like it a lot.”

The years that gave us Pac-Man, Boy George, and Rubik’s Cube weren’t exactly known for understatement — but that was then.

“Anyone who lived through the scary ‘80s will find it’s been refined,” says Elisa DePasquale, owner of Para L’elle in Mendham. “We were too young to afford to do it well! But it’s very wearable this time around. It’s not a bad look.”

Cute and comfy, this chic-for-chicks trend consists of leggings, tights, and tapered-look pants and jeans; longer sweaters and tunics bound by waist-emphasizing belts; slim-fit skirts and dresses; and exotic accents such as animal prints.

“It’s ‘80s-inspired, but completely up-to-date,” says Daniella Liben, co-owner with Beth Stricof of Ruby in Montclair. “We’re seeing darker washes in jeans, big buckles on belts, and straighter legs.”

The remarkable retro-renaissance can actually be described as classy.

“It’s a fun season,” says Suzy Frankel, co-owner with Gail Levy of Gotham in Millburn. “There’s a lot of versatility.”

“Fashion always comes back,” adds Levy. “But always in new ways.”

And you can definitely let your feet do the walking in fall’s faddish foot parade.

“We’re seeing all manner of boots,” says Stan Baum, co-owner with Phil Baum of Scott’s Shoes in Westfield. “We’re seeing dress and sport clogs, wedges, and platform shoes.”

In the accessories department, handbags and jewelry are both modish and smart.

“You can change a whole outfit just by changing accessories,” says Louise Webber, co-owner with Lori Sachs-Campbell of Elle Squared in Livingston.

The season’s jewelry, says Sachs-Campbell, revolves around meaning.

“We’re seeing medallions on longer chains inscribed with poetry and meaningful messages,” she says.

Sharron Minard, owner of Fabulous Fauxs Fashion Jewelry and Accessories in Mendham, is seeing a “regal trend.”

“Coats, wraps, collars, gloves, and scarves are trimmed in mink and fox — real or faux — and everything is rich and textured,” she says. “In handbags, we’re seeing rich texturing too, with a jeweled look.”

Accessories — and fashion in general — provide today’s on-the-go-woman with a well-deserved indulgence.

“Women have always adorned themselves,” says Tamara Diaz, co-owner with Tiffany Sikes of Scarlet in Mendham. “You’re always doing for your husband and children. It’s a nice outlet to treat yourself.”

Ruth Koch, co-owner with Lois Simon of Purse Strings in Millburn, says, “It’s a very eclectic season. Handbags remain large with hardware in gold rather than silver. But, on Saturday nights, it’s the clutch.”

And, so long as there are women, there will be fall fashion.

“Women love new styles and new trends,” says Linda Conti, who offers the Carlisle Collection out of her home in Bernardsville. “We love to look good and feel good.”

Helene Kirsch, owner of Lingerie by Seena in Millburn, agrees, “We dress our customers from the inside out. They’re busy people and they want to look perfect.”