The frenetic '80s are half gone--middle-aged--but still in a rush. This aggressive decade already has produced enough trends to offer inklings of what will be remembered in years to come.
So far, designer labels mean less. Chocolate-chip cookies mean more. While we're munching, we're aerobicizing, although not as strenuously as we might. The toothpick-thin figure loses ground to a curvier, less contrived female form.
Anorexia is out. The sensible woman is not. We admire the brisk lady who dares to wear flats (or state-of-the-art jogging shoes) and totes the sum of her travel wear in one carry-on bag.
The '80s have brought hipness to helping, proved by Bob Geldof's Live Aid. They've brought glamour to looking rich (Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana), chic to being 40 and acceptability to having babies at any age and, at times, regardless of marital status.
The word yuppie came and went. Madonna managed to lend logic to underwear worn as outerwear. All the while, MTV catalogued the trendies, ensuring that nothing and no one would last too long in the jaded public eye.
The '80s are nothing if not time-obsessed--reason to call this the decade of the watch. And reason to hold a meeting, while commuting to work, by cellular phone.
The Times talked to an assortment of culture watchers and culture makers, tracking the '80s, so far. Their comments:
Cathy Guisewite,creator of the comic strip Cathy:
"I write about contradictions, and the '80s are rich with them. The gourmet chocolate-chip cookie outlets; the pasta emporiums; pizza with goat cheese. That massive trend toward being obsessed with new, trendy food, versus the insistence that everybody have perfect bodies. It's amazing to me that we're doing this. That's why the baggy clothes came out--to wear between the pasta and the leotards. Cathy said in one strip that 'Everybody's pigging out, but I'm the only one who goes home and gets fat.'
"It also seems that everyone is a parent or about to be a parent. It's typical of the people I know, who 15 minutes ago were my role models of singlehood or young couplehood and who were never going to be tied down. It's like lemmings. Suddenly everybody's having babies. Not so long ago, people were very intent on being independent and self-indulgent. But it does seem as if people are managing to be both self-indulgent and parents at the same time."
Diana Vreeland,special consultant to the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art:
"The '80s haven't quite started. It takes five or six years to get into something. This century had no special face of its own until 1918, until World War I was over in Europe. Then another look came out: cropped-at-the-knee, backless, sleeveless clothes, which had been unheard of.
"In the '80s, there's a lack of very beautiful fabric. I think fabric is everything.
"The most noticeable thing about the '80s is that they are expensive. What will be valued is the designer of clothes that are remarkable and don't cost too much. I think it's outrageous what people have to pay. I think that people who can't pay a big price will be able to have good clothes, and I think they can today, if they're willing to shop. . . .
"I think the maid is 50% of a well-dressed woman. When I see the return of the maid to look over your clothes and make you feel great before you go out, then I will see a return to elegance. I don't see why more people don't want to be maids, handling such beautiful things. I'm talking about a person with exquisite taste who looks after exquisite things. That person somehow has been misplaced, and that's a shame. You can't just buy a dress that costs $10,000 and consider yourself elegant.
"You also have to have a place to wear those clothes. The ceilings are not very high, and the entries where you come in aren't very large. You have to have some space to come into. It also has to be private. I think people will live more and more at home, and that is very hopeful for good dressing."
Dianne Brill,menswear designer:
"The androgyny thing has been brilliant. But now fashion is going back into masculine and feminine. I like being adored. I like being precious. Goddesses like Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe are role models for me. I hope to promote a look for big girls. Real girls."
"The major trend is a return to more conservative, reasonable clothes; 1985 really established that the best looking clothes were the simple ones. It's a conservative period politically, and that indicates a return to conservative clothing.
"The thing that will be newest in '86 will be great fabric, great fit and quality. You still see a lot of glitz. It will be some time before that is diminished.
"Perhaps it's the body that emerges as one of the prime influences of the time. Certainly women who work hard on their figures want to wear clothing that indicates that. The working woman is no longer news. I think the body is."