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Italy may have already had its Renaissance in the 15thand 16thcentury but when it comes to fashion, the 1980s were truly cathartic for Italian craftsmanship and creativity. Fashion was no longer seen as a symbol of class and designers focused on creating more affordable, ready-to-wear collections as well as accessories and fragrances. That, of course, transformed the streets of cities like Milan where many designers were based.
Giorgio Armani had a particularly strong impact on the way women dressed in the 80s. The designer transformed the power suit by adapting it to better fit a woman’s body—gone was the boxy, loose silhouette and extra-wide shoulders (although shoulder pads were still very much present).
During this time, Italian markets were flooded with international brands that led to the emergence of the so-called “paninari” trend in Milan—wealthy young people revolting against the status quo and embracing consumerism by wearing American labels. And while some people looked to the West, others embraced the “Made in Italy” labels that flourished during the 80s. Brands like Missoni, Prada (which by this time was helmed by Miuccia Prada), Versace (with Gianni Versace at the top), and Max Mara bloomed at home and abroad.
Of course, the biggest winners of all this were Italians, and the Milanese, in particular, whose impeccable sense of style continues to impress to this day.
Below, peruse some of the chicest street style shots from 1980s Milan.
Giorgio Armani revolutionized career wear for women. He introduced silhouettes that were inspired by classic men’s suits but were tailored strictly for women to fit closer to the body emphasizing, and not hiding, women’s bodies.
Above, models in Armani suits in 1982.
The 80s brought a color surge to the closets of Milan’s most stylish.
Left: Nobody does color better than Missoni. Here, a model wears pieces from the brand’s fall/winter 81 collection. Right: A model twirls in a Gianfranco Ferré color block dress.
The “Paninari” trend
The “Paninari”—usually wealthy Milanese kids who were able to afford designer pieces—favored Moncler bomber jackets, Timberland shoes, and Levi’s 501 jeans. The subculture even inspired Pet Shop Boys' song “Paninaro.”
Here, a group of paninari in front of a fast-food restaurant in Milan in 1987.
While plaid was more of a pattern associated with the 1980s grunge movement, in Italy, designers gave it a high fashion makeover and used it to tailor elegant trousers and skirts.
Left: Rocco Barocco with a model at his fashion show in Milan in 1988. Right: A model in Milan wearing a chic two-piece power suit.
If French people are famous with their effortless style replete with that famous je ne sais quoi, then Italians are masters of translating the art of dolce far nienteinto their outfits—a kind of nonchalance that looks very chic.
Left: Portrait of Italian singer-songwriter Alice in 1985. Right: Italian singer-songwriter Vasco Rossi in Milan wearing his shirt undone.