Maggie Alderson: Why the '80s are hideous and the '90s will never die.

I just can’t feel nostalgic about the 1990s. Not because I didn’t like them – I bloody loved them – but because they don’t seem long enough ago yet.

Which doesn’t make any sense, because the 1980s seems like pre-history. The other night I tried to watch the original Footloose film (1984) with my 13-year-old daughter and after about 15 minutes we gave up.

Watch the iconic footloose warehouse scene below to refresh your memory. Post continues after video.

It was so dated and lame we couldn’t bear it. The clothes were hideous, the hair was worse and the ‘teens’ as depicted seemed like alien life forms. Not just American, other.

I found it as cringey and irrelevant as Meet Me In St Louis (1944), another old film we’ve recently given up on.

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So the 1980s seem properly old to me now. They’re filed in that ‘other country’ part of my head. But if I carry the film comparison on to 1994 the first thing which pops up is Pulp Fiction.

How is that old hat? It’s legendary.

Other big films of that year include The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hugh!) and Muriel’s Wedding. Fine cinematic moments all of them.

Muriel's Wedding.

I can’t even find the clothes tragic. Even though they are now well into official vintage status (which is anything more than 20 years old), things I’ve had since the '90s still look great to me. And on me.

The other day I was ‘shopping my closet’, as American Vogue once termed it, seeing what I already have that’s suddenly right to wear again, when I came across a fabulous Donna Karan top I picked up from the David Jones designer department sale rail. In 1995.


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It’s a gorgeous crushed beetroot colour, so perfect for this season’s berry palate - and it even still fits me. I won’t think twice about wearing that again, it’s only the colour that’s made me pass it over for a while. If it were navy blue it would have been permanently fused to my body for the last five years.

The very idea of 1980s clothes makes me want to vomit.

The only garments I have left from that era are a Schott Perfecto classic leather bike jacket and a nicely faded Levis jacket, with sleeves wide enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s thighs, both of which I’m saving in case my daughter wants them one day. I think they’re hideous.

“I haven’t been bored since the 90s."

When I look at the fashion pages of magazines I worked on in the 1980s I can’t imagine what we were thinking, but a quick tool around on Pinterest with the words ‘Peter Lindbergh Helena Christensen Amber Valetta’ in the search box sent me off into a thousand swoons.

The series of Amber with the wings on? I die. 1993.

'90s model Amber Valletta.

So were the 1990s just a more tasteful era than the previous decade? And the 1970s, I may add.

That style moment is currently going through one of its many revivals and while I’ll never stop wanting to be one of those dreamy huge-eyed endlessly-legged women in Sarah Moon’s ad campaigns for Biba, in real life the 70s were mostly ghastly beyond belief.

Sarah Moon’s ad campaigns for Biba.

It was a man-made fibre, chocolate-brown-and-beige tank top, loon-pant, platform-boot melt-down.

The 1990s, by contrast, was fabulous in the flesh – and the 1970s has never looked better than when Tom Ford re-did it for Gucci in the 1990s...

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I can do the sums. I know the fabulous year of 1995, when Tom Ford did that collection, is now 20 years ago and as distant to my daughter as the 1950s were to me at her age, but for me that decade will always be chic and cool.

And if that makes me ‘a 90s person’, stuck in a decade past, I can live with it. Me and Jen and Tom and Uma and Hugh… we’ll all be fine, thanks.

Don’t agree? You’re terrible, Muriel.

Click through the gallery below to see our favourite beauty icons from the '90s.

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