Steal from the fashion books of the past and go retro this National Day as you look back at 50 years of nation building
Steal from the fashion books of the past and go retro this National Day as you look back at 50 years of nation building

There is something about celebrating a milestone that makes people a little nostalgic. With Singapore marking its Jubilee this month, there is no better time to honour the past than now.

One great way to do this is by injecting a little retro into your fashion. You won’t be the first to channel the styles of eras past. Think Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift. But getting the vintage look right without mixing the eras or looking like you raided grandma's closet requires a little finesse. Here is a journey down the fashion runways of yesteryears to help you get the right look for each decade.

Swinging with the 60s

The 60s was when Singapore came into its own. Just as Independence split local history into pre- and post-1965, fashion of that era was also divided into the early and later part of 60s. In the first half of the 60s, styles of the 50s prevailed. Boxy shapes typified by suits with short jackets that American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy favoured were the rage then as did dresses that nipped the waist and had a little swing to them as popularised by the US television series, Mad Men.

From the mid-60s onwards, the conservatism of the earlier years was shaken off. The skirts got shorter and the hair-dos got higher. Dresses skimmed the body, colours burst onto the scene alongside a resurgence of edgier monochromatic outfits; and geometric patterns dominated.

By the later part of the decade, fashion had swung to the extreme. Colours exploded in psychedelic hues, and bell bottoms and paisley or tie-die tops of the hippie movement took centrestage. The boxy shape and narrow waist that the decade started out with loosened into more relaxed silhouettes, reflecting a loosening of social mores of the time.

Step into the 70s

As Singapore focused on nation building, fashion in the 70s focused on the self. Variously called the Me Decade, the Decade of Decadence, and the Disco Decade, the 70s was the time when women joined the workforce in greater numbers. That sense of liberation was reflected in the increasing popularity of the easy-to-wear jumpsuit.

Pants were the fashion favourite with the new woman. As the decade wore on, pants legs got wider and wider. It was not uncommon for women (and even some men) to be sashaying in 32-inch wide bell bottoms.

Of course, these have to be supported by clunky platforms, the higher the better.

Wide pants were paired with tight tiny tops – cropped tops, halter tops, tank tops for maximum contrast in silhouettes

Pants aside, increased economic mobility empowered women to wear whatever they wanted. Skirt length ranged from micro minis to maxis. The wrap dress created by Diane Von Fursternberg became a wardrobe must-have.

Denim appeared in everyday wear from pants to just about every other article of clothing, a bastion of the Anything Goes trend of the era.

Enter the 80s

The 80s was a time of fashion excess. It was a decade that lived by the mantra: if less is more, then more is better. Cyndi Lauper and Madonna led the wild parade with big hair and loud make-up; bangles, hooped earrings, layers of jewellery; burgeoning shoulder pads; and neon colours. The look was all about piling on the layers – flouncy skirt with leggings, cropped tops with jackets, lots of bubble gum-coloured plastic accessories, and lacy finger-less gloves.

It was also the decade that saw the rise of the aerobics and dance craze. Exercise wear - over-sized tops revealing a single shoulder, bodysuits, and leg-warmers – took the world by storm thanks to Jennifer Beals and her turn as a welder by day and dancer by night. As result, tops became looser and pants tighter in a reversal of 70s’ fashion.

Fashion comes in cycles and designers have been stealing from the look books of the past. This month, as you look back on how far Singapore has come, why not take a leaf from the designers and create your own retro look?

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