Blast from the Past! How Vintage Clothing is Experiencing a Fashion Revival


If you’ve been following fashion lately, you’ve noticed that there is an 80s nostalgia phase in full swing: big shoulders, dramatic silhouettes (Grace Jones redux, anyone?), exaggerated ruffles, shiny and see-through fabrics… and did I mention big shoulders?

Yeah, they’re everywhere.

Fashion in every era reflects the times in which it’s created. And as much as today’s media rails against conspicuous consumption, the fashion industry seems to be enamored.

Is Boho Back?

Personally, I think the 80s revival is going to be a hard sell for our generation, or any generation for that matter. Exaggerated shapes and in-you-face colors tend to have a short shelf life. And any silhouette shape that strays too far from utility tends to get sent to the recycle pile pretty quickly.

A designer friend once explained to me that whenever there is a fashion revival, you’ll find that some elements have been changed significantly from the original version. Otherwise, how would retailers sell you new clothes?

But that doesn’t mean you should toss out your high quality, classically elegant older items. It just means that this year’s boho dress is not the same as the 1970s version. So, let’s consider some guidelines for whether a nostalgic item in your closet is a keeper or a toss.


Textiles are often the best judge of whether an item can withstand the test of time. For example, something in an obviously synthetic fabric doesn’t have the same cache or staying power as one with more natural fibers.

Older synthetics also tend to absorb ‘vibes’ if not actual odors – meaning that they can be harder to refresh because the fibers tend to look kind of tired: pilled, pulled, or dull.


Patterns can also date us. A pattern that is clearly identified with a previous era can either be kind of cool or semi ridiculous. The classic patterns that tend to be perennial include stripes, animal prints and botanicals. The cool ones include things like Hawaiian and ethnic prints.

The patterns that border on dated tend to be exaggerated in size, juxtaposed or combined with unrelated patterns, like quilts. Or, they can be very “cutesy,” that is, something that would work for a very young person.

Silhouettes and Shapes

Actual shapes and silhouettes can be very tricky too, because with age our own shape and silhouette changes.

Anything that reveals a body part we no longer feel comfortable revealing just isn’t going to work. And, unless our personality is dramatic, exaggerated shapes of any kind will say, “Trying too hard to get noticed.”

Shoulder Pads

That brings us back to shoulder pads – an exception that a lot of my friends have mentioned. If you’ve found that your shoulders are sloping a bit now, a little padding in the shoulder area of a garment can add some needed structure. But that’s not the same as Mommie Dearest shoulders.

So what else lasts?

  • Leather and suede jackets in bomber or moto styles,
  • jeans in almost any style or shape, except very low rise or those with a lot of bulk around the waist and hips
  • classic sneakers, though high tops work only for those with a lot of high-spirited style,
  • blazers, trench.


Speaking of accessories, fanny packs, those utilitarian hands-free items, are back big time. You’ll find them not only at your local discount mass merchandiser but on the runways at Chanel and Gucci. They are definitely practical, particularly for your morning constitutional.

But are they really fashionable? Yes, maybe for a younger generation embracing minimalism. But a fanny pack bouncing on one’s belly is not all that attractive for a lot of us.

A small shoulder or cross-body bag can free-up your hands without emphasizing your waist line or bum in the same way.

If you’ve had something sitting in the back of your closet for a couple of decades that now seems to be back in fashion, examine it closely before you dust it off and wear it out the door. Or give it to your grandkids who might think it is cool. Sometimes vintage really is outdated.

Do you enjoy wearing vintage clothes? Do you think vintage clothes are flattering for an older body? What pieces of clothing have you saved from back in the 80s? Would you wear it now? Please share in the comments below.

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