The Eighties has been voted the worst fashion and style decade of recent times in a survey for UKTV Gold. But was it really so awful? Here actress and 1980s pop sensation Toyah Willcox tells CAROLINE IGGULDEN what was great about the era. 

"I may be in the minority, but I certainly don’t cringe with embarrassment when I look back at the 1980s. 

And I feel no shame about my fashion sense. 

I certainly didn’t fit into the blueprint of the Farrah Fawcett lookalike that was so popular in the 1970s. Back then, women who weren’t over 5ft 2in didn’t have a chance of getting noticed because Farrah’s long-limbed, wavy-haired look was so popular. 

Then the 1980s came along and freed me. The decade was all about individuality and singers like myself, Kim Wilde, Carol Decker and Siouxsie Sioux really pushed the boundaries of music and fashion. 

In the 1980s women didn’t have to fit into some perfect mould of what men found attractive. You could create your own look. 

And it certainly wasn’t like nowadays, when everyone wears the same fashions from Primark or Topshop. We took immense pride in making our hairstyles and make-up different from everyone else’s. 

During the decade I shared a dressmaker with Bananarama who made me some very strange, geometric clothing. 

I also loved the high-waisted trousers of the Eighties, which were cut off at the calf. I loved the way they drew attention to the bottom, which seemed very risque and sexy back then. 

In the 1980s the only place where breasts were celebrated was on The Sun’s Page 3. People didn’t really show cleavage, they covered up more. Jordan would have seemed like a porn star back then. 

Power dressing was also a brilliant trend to come out of the Eighties. I thought Joan Collins looked extraordinary, and apparently shoulder pads are making a comeback. 

It is easy to laugh, but if you had a small waist and narrow hips, they gave a terrific silhouette. 

The Eighties was a time of self-promotion, which is now seen as slightly ugly, but it certainly didn’t do women any harm. Some very successful businesswomen came out of the power-dressing decade, such as Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers. 

And it was the decade in which women took over the music industry too. 

In the 1970s I would say the music business was made up of 70 per cent men. By 1982 it was 80 per cent women — it started with artists and spread to the boardroom. 

The Eighties also saw the birth of the pop video, which revolutionised the industry. You couldn’t release a song unless it had the video — people wanted to see their pop idols. 

It made us all competitive, we all had to outdo our own image and were under pressure to be more and more outlandish with our fashions. 

I remember I used to create a new look at least every three months. 

I went through a number of phases, from a David Bowie-ish look in the early Eighties, to New Romantic styles, right through to wearing high-street ra-ra skirts. 

It was fabulous that fashions changed all the time. Madonna was obviously the queen of reinvention. In the early Eighties she brought in a very New York look, lacy tights and lots of layers on top of each other. 

But by the end of the decade she had not only reinvented her look but also her body shape, showcasing her sculpted, chiselled look in the video for Vogue. 

The most memorable outfit I wore during the 1980s was a black rubber dress for the video of Don’t Fall In Love, in 1985. I have never felt so sexy in anything since. It came with a price though, as it made me sweat profusely. 

As for men’s fashions, I don’t believe there has ever been a decade quite like it. Men were peacocks who preened themselves in public.

While women slipped into men’s chairs in the boardroom, men were slipping into women’s seats in front of the dressing table mirror. 

But the Eighties were owned by Duran Duran. They were great, boys in make-up with coiffured hair. And they have survived too — they are the 1980s version of Take That. 

It is easy for people in the Noughties to look back and mock the Eighties. But what really defines the 1990s or the Noughties? No obvious looks or images spring to mind. I would like to see people nowadays take a leaf out of our book and take more risks with the way they dress. 

The hoodie has become a kind of uniform for teenagers today, but that style is all about anonymity and blending in.In the 1980s everyone wanted to stand out — and they weren’t afraid to use neon colours to do so. 

There is nothing from my Eighties wardrobe I would want to wear now and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to put on a shoulder pad. 

But that doesn’t mean I look back and cringe — in fact, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

I think it is brilliant that you can watch old episodes of Dynasty or Dallas and have a good laugh. To people watching today, the fashions and styles seem so alien that you might as well be watching something from the Dickensian era. 

Yes, you can accuse the Eighties of being bold, bright and even ridiculous . . . but you certainly can’t call them boring."

The Sun
25th April 2008