V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
Back to the '80s
Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2009.

Ah, the eighties.

It was a time when young people were addicted to love, living perpetually in a neon-coloured Funkytown that they built on rock and roll, dancing on the ceiling and doing the Conga.

It was a time when girls just wanted to have fun and were simply irresistible with their Bette Davis eyes.

And after a long, 20-year-winter of neutrals and monochromatics, the fashion and beauty industry are finding new inspiration in this decadent generation of colour schizophrenia and leg warmers, and “bringing colour back.”

“People are coming out of their shell and not afraid of colour,” said Melissa Gibson, senior artist at MAC cosmetics in Toronto.

Makeup palettes are opening up to bright, bold saturated hues like blues, purples, greens and hot pinks, experts said, and formerly colour-phobic women are daring to think outside the brown eye shadow-box.

“We’re seeing more of an adventurous streak than we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years, which is really fun,” added Markus Timothy, a colour consultant at Sephora in the Eaton Centre.

In the same way shoulder pads –once banished to the fashion morgue as a horrible, unmentionable mistake – have been exhumed, the full, bushy eyebrow, multicoloured eyelid, and competing features have also been resurrected.

At the Toronto LG Fashion Week this month, freelance makeup artist Heather Snowie, for instance, said models were sporting unsculpted, natural, clean brows.

“Brows are fuller than in the past,” Snowie said. “Models are letting some of the hair grow back in for a stronger brow. Think Brooke Shields and her full, soft brow in the ‘80s. The natural brow is coming back.”

A strong brow is crucial, added Timothy, in order to provide the right frame for intense, dramatic, vibrant eyes.

“Don’t rock bright colours without shaping the brows or you run the risk of washing out the face and looking unfinished. You need to take the eye all the way.”

Eyes are also harkening back to the generation when colour was on valium, only in a perhaps more muted, softened, 2009 way.

Toronto freelance makeup artist Josee Beaudoin remembers the ‘80s with fondness, having started her career in this decade as a product of the generation herself.

“Oh la la la la,” she said as she conjured up memories of her ‘80s self.

“I was spending a good hour everyday doing my own makeup because it was really elaborate. “I experimented a lot.”

She created winged eyes, sweeping blocks of colours like blues, purples and greens across the lid and beyond, outlining the whole thing in black to intensify the look, finishing it off with false eyelashes.

She was also heavy handed with the blush, contouring her cheekbones and the apples of her cheeks with bright pink.

It was her tribute to her favourite ‘80s icon Pat Benatar, whose look she often mimicked.

“It was a really extravagant, elaborate, bold time,” she said. “It was so much fun and influenced my creativity and artistry.”

But in order to update the look and make it current, start small, Beaudoin suggests.

“Use one element of inspiration from the ‘80s, like the lips.”

Gibson likes MAC’s purple eye shadow Devil May Care as it has a metallic silver highlight, resonant of the frosted ’80s eye.

“I don’t think frost ever went away,” Gibson said.  “Its texture is so much easier to work with than others, like matte, which drags on the eye. And a frosted glaze works on everyone.”

Meanwhile, though the smoky eye isn’t a signature of the 1980s, runways and magazines are applying this technique to bright hues like greens, purples and blues, blending the two looks, Timothy added.

Cheeks are also highly contoured, another clear throwback to the ‘80s.

Makeup artists are using up to three colours on the cheeks to make them pop, says Timothy: An all-over colour, a highlighter above the cheekbone, and a darker colour underneath to contour.

“That’s a huge trend from the ‘80s.”

And then that frosted pink lipstick women of that time loved so, has also taken on an updated, bolder look in the form of cream textures, shades of fuchsia and even purplish, black hues.

“Before, purple and black were seen as Goth, but now it was elegance to it,” Timothy said.

Lips are a great place to try something new, added Snowie, who is also seeing intense fuchsias and deep winey colours.

“It’s not so much of a commitment but it can definitely change how you feel about yourself,” she said. “The other day, I put on a red lipstick, a colour I haven’t worn in ages, and I felt like an absolute diva.”

Perhaps the best reincarnation for the ‘80s look is her wildly unpredictable and eccentric Lady, “Gaga,” Gibson said.

Be it her pleather, plastic, studded or belted exercise body suits, or boxy football shoulder pads, the current pop princess of preposterousness-slash-catchy-radio-tunes is a walking ambassador for the 1980s.

Pamela Anderson also does the look well, Gibson said, but for another reason.

“It’s kind of like she never left,” she said. “She’s got it full on, with the purple eyes, liner and pink cheeks.”

Another ‘80s concept that’s been resurrected from the canon of beauty don’ts, is allowing features to compete for attention.  For years, the cardinal rule of makeup application was to focus on one single feature, playing up the eyes, for instance, at the expense of a muted mouth or vice versa. But the rules are changing, Timothy said.

“Now, it’s more acceptable to do more than once feature on the face.”

For Gibson, the 1980s were characterized by permissiveness, wealth, creativity and even excess.

“And makeup was part of that. The past couple of years we saw utilitarian makeup, due to the economy. But people are sick of it, now that we’re slowly emerging from it,” she posited. “That conjures up feelings of the ‘80s again. Between makeup and fashion, that sure was a happy time.”

'80s icons and their current equivalents

Madonna, Lady Gaga

Both ladies are style mavens and trendsetters who share a similar fearlessness and sense of humour – intentional or not – when it comes to fashion. They just like to dress you up in their love while keeping a poker face.

Cyndi Lauper, Rihanna

As girls who just want to have fun, Lauper and Rihanna show their carefree spirits in the way they sport their hair: Shaved, architectural, and often off to one side. Because they’re crazy like that.

Molly Ringwald, Lindsay Lohan (in her au naturel, redhead days)

In their heydays, redheads Ringwald and Lohan were teenage idols for sprouting girls everywhere.  Though Ringwald’s fade into celebrity oblivion is understandable, (the woman is now 41 ) Lohan’s downfall can be attributed to her diva-esque ways. 

Cast of Dynasty, Dallas-Gossip Girl

Sordid love triangles, back-stabbing traitors, deliciously villainous characters and money coming out the wah-zoo will always make for great TV, old and young. Think Alexis Carrington Colby and the younger version of herself, Blair Waldorf; Krystle Carrington and Serena van der Woodsen; and Blake Carrington and Nate Archibald.

Farrah Fawcett-Jessica Simpson

Both are Texans, having achieved fame for their golden tresses, killer bikini-clad bodies and blond moments.

“Jessica, you want some buffalo wings?”

“Sorry I don’t eat buffalo.”

-- Vivian Song

That's the look

Here are a few expert tips on how to achieve the ‘80s in 2009:

-Drop that tweezer and start growing out your eyebrows a la Brooke Shields.

-If you’ve always been colour-shy, start small and work your way up. For example, break out into colour with a new lipstick, or use a colourful eye liner in midnight blue or teal and go from there.

-If you’re bolder, update the ‘80s eye of blocked, multicolour strips on the lid with a smoky eye: Use one colour or different shades of one colour to create a sexy, saturated peeper.

-Contour the cheekbone by using three colours: One allover colour for the cheek, a highlighter for the top of the cheekbone and a darker colour underneath will bring the cheek forward. Refrain from blending.

-On the lips, experts are seeing hot pinks and intense shades of fuchsia; deep purples and blacks; and creamy textures.

-For years the cardinal makeup rule was to focus on one feature of the face. But the ‘80s beauty comeback is seeing both the eyes and lips, for instance, played up at the same time. 

- Most importantly, experiment at home, find out what works for you, and wear the look with confidence.















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