The 1980s and the 1990s in fashion are often seen as two greatly different eras with two very opposing aesthetics. The 1980s are remembered by many as being the decade of excess with designers like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana creating bold, colorful designs with exaggerated silhouettes. The nineties however, are often chracterized by the stark minimalism seen in the work of Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander. In this blog we'd like to show that the 80s and 90s were linked by their freeing attitude towards fashion, with designers being able to be introspective and poke fun at the fashion system itself in a way that hadn't been done before.
Prominent Designers Include:
- Christian Francis Roth - created many humorous designs including a collection of 'Rothola' dresses, with one sleeve in the style of a crayon.
- Jean Charles de Castelbajac - Created fun, witty clothing for his own label and for the luxury Italian fashion house, Iceberg. Often using existing licensed characters from Looney Tunes, Charlie Brown and Disney etc.
- Patrick Kelly - An incredible African-American fashion designer who used surrealism and fun to tackle social and political issues like blackface.
Humorous or whimsical clothing in the 20th century has its roots strongly in the surrealist movement with its irrational placement of unexpected imagery and symbols. It was in the 1930s and 40s that the brilliant fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli that implemented surrealist techniques used by artists such as Dali and Ernst and applied it to fashion. Some of her most iconic surrealist designs include a wedding dress, was made in collaboration with Salvador Dali that was printed with trompe l'oeil rips and fabric strips as tears to create a distressed look and one of my personal favourite dresses ever, her 'Skeleton Dress'. This was a clingy silk crepe gown with trapunto quilting to create 3D 'bone' shapes that are perfectly placed to create a look that is both sultry and grotesque and that looks years and years ahead of its time.
Franco Moschino is a name that you cannot omit when discussing wit and humour in designer vintage clothing from the 80s and 90s. He started his fashion house in 1983 and became a controversial figure known for his use of satire to mock the fashion industry that he was a part of. This was a new perspective for the couture fashion houses that were starting to seem a bit stuffy and rigid and the fashion industry as a whole, which prior to this took itself very seriously. He was famously sued by Chanel for copying one of their suits - he saw that these brands were often bought only as status symbols and so created tweed jackets and suits with huge buttons and trimmings, exacerbating the ostentatious attitude he saw. Another of his great creations harked back to the work of Schiaparelli with its surrealist influences - he took a collarless blazer style jacket (most of his designs used classic shapes and silhouettes with a twist) and placed forks and cutlery instead of buttons to create a literal 'dinner jacket'. His wit and irony was seen in every aspect of his fashion house, with his second line named 'Cheap and Chic'.
Check out this Moschino 'Dinner Jacket', sold by VintageEnMonde on Etsy
Fashion that used humor in the 80s and 90s could either be completely flamboyant and maximalist such as Patrick Kelly's dice suits from Spring Summer 1989 which were printed throughout or appliqued with plastic dice with matching dice shaped headpieces to match. However, a piece could be just as clever and witty without the need for bright colours or heavy accessories, example: Moschino's iconic 'M.o.s. Chi? No!' dress, printed on a simple black bodycon with a clever play on words of the designer's own name. We'll link a few of our favourite humorous items from our store below, including a Moschino dress appliquéd with windows and a door to create the look of a house and a Moschino watermelon dress.
Want to see some of our favourite uses of humour in fashion from 1980-1999? Check out our pinterest board below.