Shoulder pads! Big sleeves! The spirit of the Eighties is back on the catwalk. And about time, says Dame Power hungry! Why I’m glad to see the return of Eighties style
Just when I thought today’s modern fashion couldn’t get any more hideous, along comes a whiff of sensibility: the return of so-called ‘power-dressing’ for AW17, a la Dynasty. So, hello and welcome back even bigger sleeves (Balenciaga, Tibi), small waists (Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant) and comfortable trouser suits (Ellery and Calvin Klein). Clothes that flatter a real woman’s body.
‘Excruciatingly tasteless’ is a common assessment of the Eighties in recent years, but I’ve always felt the decade was unfairly maligned and argue that overall, it was very becoming. Granted, Eighties fashion eventually degenerated into cartoon clothes such as floppy dolman-sleeved sweaters worn over massive shoulder pads, faux Chanel jackets covered in bling and dozens of gold military buttons. But at least no one went out in pyjamas.
In the Eighties, Dynasty became the most popular series on primetime TV, not least because of the gorgeous and glamorous outfits created by Nolan Miller for all the actresses. I enjoyed working with Nolan, helping to create the elegant and stylish outfits for my character, Alexis Carrington Colby. When Alexis had to command groups of men, either in her office or the boardroom, she needed to look feminine but ruthless. The look empowered women and, across the world, career women were taking to tailored suits and well-coiffed, lacquered hair.
Power-dressing even proved true for me in the Nineties, when I fought the Goliath that was Random House in a real-life US courtroom drama to protect my reputation as a writer, after they tried to take away an advance they had given me for a book.
I appeared each day in court wearing subdued colours and sober and simple outfits. I looked and felt vulnerable, and was bullied and harassed by the elderly prosecutor (who I thought was a total chauvinist, by the way). I eventually burst into tears because I felt so intimidated, and I thought I was losing the case. The next day, a lawyer friend suggested I ‘become Alexis’ both in attitude and outfit and stand up to Mr Prosecutor, so I did just that. I put on a vibrant blue pinstriped skirt suit, a statement pearl choker and white, V-necked silk gilet and I immediately felt, and consequently behaved, confidently and assertively. I was suddenly totally in charge, telling the old man not to come near me, to stop intimidating me and overall calling the shots in the cross-examination. I believed my clothes were my armour and I won the case. Princess Diana was also at the forefront of wearing trendsetting outfits of that decade and I must confess that Nolan and I sometimes borrowed a few of her ‘looks’ from pictures in magazines and newsreels. Although since she was given the moniker ‘Dynasty Di’, it was a fine line who borrowed from whom. I like to think that we collaborated in upping the stakes of that glamorous decade. That’s not to say I didn’t go too far sometimes. In Paris, I bought an extremely POWER DRESSING: GLAMOUR PERSONIFIED: avant-garde suit from Pierre Cardin with enormously high angel-shaped sleeves that practically covered my cheeks. I wore the suit in an episode of Dynasty but a problem emerged when I had to answer a phone, and struggled getting the receiver to my ear. Our esteemed producer sent me a memo the next day to the effect of, ‘Don’t wear that jacket again — it’s you we want to see, not your f ****** shoulder pads.’ Skimming through the August issues of glossy, trendsetting magazines, I couldn’t find anything to wear that would suit me, so I’m delighted that there is a return to so-called Eighties fashion. I say ‘so-called’ because all fashion is cyclical and, in fact, those broad shoulders and cinched waists were all the rage in the Forties, as worn by legendary film stars like Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall. In fact, the Forties is a well-admired decade fashion-wise, which is why I find it curious that so-called fashionistas have constantly derided the Eighties. I have never stopped wearing shoulder pads, big sleeves and long earrings. I strongly believe, as did the iconic Claudette Colbert and Bacall, that if you find a style that suits you, you stick with it, because fashion is ephemeral but style is eternal.
Joan Collins home in 1983 and left, still stylish and stunning earlier this year
The looks on the catwalk this season, reminiscent of Joan’s character in Dynasty (inset top) and with another style icon, Cara Delevingne