Boomerangs, fads and icons…

Sep 08, 2019

Fashion favourites from the past four decades uncovered by centre:mk on its 40th anniversary.

THE COUNTDOWN is under way to centre:mk’s 40thbirthday later this month. Here its staff take a look back over the last four decades of fashion and style to uncover the trends, fashion fads and celebrated influencers and enduring style icons since its auspicious opening in 1979.

As part of the project Four Decades of Style – 1979 to 2019,the fashion team at centre:mk have collaborated with fashion & culture expert and former Vogue features editor Jo Craven on a Boomerangs, Fads and Icons report which identifies fashion headliners and boomerang trends as well as the fleeting fads revealing the cyclical nature of four decades of fashion.

The report has also analysed the responses from 1,000 survey respondents who have cast their minds back to the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, drawing out the vibrant popular culture and style moments that they feel madethese eras what they were. 

Jo Craven reflects: “Four decades ago, when centre:mk first opened, mobile phones were a futuristic fantasy, the final episode of Fawlty Towers was aired on TV, Harry hadn’t even met Sally and Blondie’s Heart of Glass was Top of the Pops.

“40 years on, we may still be listening to Blondie, but the world has changed substantially. But it’s so much fun to identify the icons who still inspire us, the trends we still can’t quite believe were popular and the much-loved and surprise comebacks.”

The ‘Boomerangs, Fads and Icons’ Charts – 1979 to 2019

And the winner is….the swooshy 70s

  • Asked if they could turn back time, as Cher phrased it so well, over 40% of respondents chose the seventies as their decade to revisit, while 29% wished they’d actually lived through it.
  • Along with other key Seventies trends like bell bottom trousers, which 29% of respondents voted as needing to stage a comeback, along with platform shoes, the love for seventies style is real. 

“The 70s, with its disco vibes, slinky jumpsuits, knee high platform boots and swooshy midi skirts was a fun and flamboyant era, the fashions are feminine, flattering and easy to wear –  more so than any other decade,” says Jo.

“Streetwear and punk are there in the background but the mainstream iconic fashions are typified by images of Farah Fawcett and Bianca Jagger. This is why 70s fashion favourites come back time and again and will keep on coming back in their many forms.”

Bianca Jagger, who epitomised the iconic fashions of the 1970s.
(Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The Era of Excess – the 80s was our second favourite decade

  • There was a surprising enthusiasm for 80s style from our respondents: 27% thought power shoulder pads were a stand-out 80s trend but 20%opted for big hair… all of which has to be saying something about the way women still feel about wanting to take back the boardroom, says Jo.

“More was definitely more in the 80s. The charge was led by enduring female icons Madonna and Princess Diana who come out top as the most iconic fashion influencers of the last four decades. While there were some very hard to wear fashions in the 80s, from cycling shorts to shell suits and pussy bows to puffballs, there was also power-dressing glamour in the extreme. 

“Structured blazers with shoulder pads, voluminous hair, lace overload and strong make-up. Like the 70s trends, the power look was feminine and flattering and most importantly the 80s didn’t take fashion seriously. It was all about fun and bold statements.”

Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a dress designed by fashion designer Bruce Oldfield.
(Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Queens & Kings of Style

  • In 1983 Madonna released her eponymous debut album and went on to define the era’s fashion. 22% of style-loving correspondents thought she was one of the most iconic influences on fashion and beauty in the last four decades.
  • 30% of respondents credited Diana, Princess of Wales with having a huge influence on the way we dress today and you can see it even in the cycling shorts that supermodel Bella Hadid wears at almost every opportunity, with no gym in sight.
  • The late David Bowie with his androgynous, chameleon-like appearance made him the most influential male style icon of the four decades.

Fads & One-hit wonders

  • 17% thought puffball skirts were one of the funniest trends of the decade… 33% thought they should never return.
  • Survey respondents were adamant that the mullet hairdo – short on top, long down the sides and so beloved of footballers and actors on Neighbours – must be banished.

“There will always be one-hit wonders,” says Jo “but they hold a special place in the cultural landscape. We never realise their short-lived nature until later and the fact that we embrace them wholeheartedly at the time shows how much we love fashion.” 

Pop Culture Sensations

  • Small wonder that both Britney and the Spice Girls are back on tour, and that Geri Halliwell wearing that sequinned Union Jack dress is deemed one of the most iconic moments in pop culture by 27% of style survey correspondents.
  • Many of us ironed our hair into sheets of layered, blunt perfection emulating Jennifer Aniston in hit TV serial Friends, which started in 1994 and which in turn 38% of style respondents consider as one of the most influential moments in fashion and beauty.

centre:mk is curating a pop-up exhibition dedicated to the last 40 years, covering the various fashion styles as well as people, retail and facts about the centre.

It is open in centre:mk from September 22 and shoppers will also be treated to a weekend of fashion fun at Style Fest (September 25-29), with catwalk shows, beauty demonstrations, panel talks and seminars taking place in Middleton Hall.

“It only seems right that we mark our 40thanniversary with a celebration of the epic looks that our shoppers have enjoyed and embraced over the years, and are stillembracing today,” Four Decades of Style – 1979 to 2019 project director Kim Priest tells

“So many of the iconic trends from the last four decades keep on boomerang-ing back, season after season, and have resurfaced on the high street. Just like these fashion and beauty trends, the centre also keeps reinventing itself to offer the best for shoppers. We have over 190 top retailers, independent traders and thousands of fashion and beauty brands at centre:mk.”

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