Flashback to 1980 in Britain, the atmosphere of general life seemed almost bleak, until you enter the Blitz nightclub, London. Enormous hair, freaky eyeliner and dandy-esque outfits fill the room.
The beginning of New Romanticism is stated to have began in London and Birmingham, in nightclubs such as Blitz and Billy’s. The New Romantics; like other youth cultures, began due to feelings of diversity to culture at the time, they were bored of Punk fashion and didn’t agree with the archaic rebellious style they carried. Instead, they wanted a more flamboyant, soft and glamorous look. Although youth of the scene were regularly labelled ‘New Romantics’ they were also regularly dubbed ‘Blitz Kids’, sheerly because they were regulars of the Blitz nightclub.
A New Romantic By Derek Ridgers.
Most of New Romantic clothing was inspired by period costumes, donning ruffles and oversized silhouettes made from luxurious laces, brocades, velvets, satins and silks. The New Romantics wanted to use new outlets to get themselves noticed and unlike the Punks, they chose a softer approach. It is widely stated that New Romanticism is the one Subculture that directly connects with fashion, unlike the Punk’s who were more anti-fashion. New Romanticism was a direct turn away from the Punk scene, although the Punk scene had given people the authority to do as they pleased in regards to Fashion. The scene was also a reaction to the casual sporty style that was dominating regular fashion during the 1980’s, New Romantic fashion couldn’t be any further away from lycra leggings and sporty jackets.
Vivienne Westwood’s A/W 1981 ‘Pirate’ collection was the epitome of all things Blitz. Westwood stated that the collection was a ‘blunder’ of idea’s from the past, with multicultural and 17th century references.
An ensemble from Westwood’s 1981 Pirate collection, Photo by the V&A.
The New Romantics were very gender rule breaking, women regularly donned masculine silhouettes and and trouser suits where as the men regularly wore eye-liner and lipstick. I personally think Bowie was the first massive influence on this, although he was around before the scene, his femininity made it acceptable for men to follow, making it ‘cool’. Boy George, probably the most famous member of the Subculture, carried this gender mixing style, donning eclectic make-up and a feminine look. The true New Romantics were known to dress up everyday and carry this strong intoxicating style around the clock.
Boy George by Derek Ridgers.
In the modern day, references to the era can still be noticed, but they are subtle. Frilly blouses, soft fabrics and feminine prints can still be recognised throughout general fashion. Recently, Art School, a London based brand have focused on the Blitz Kid era for inspiration of their recent collections, their designs evoke feelings of outrageous decadence. Although the Subculture may not exactly be prominent anymore, the Blitz Kid Subculture has been enormously impactful on British style, it is a part of British fashion heritage and always will be.
Art School SS18, Photographs taken from Dazed Magazine.