Fashion File: It's so in, It's Out: Big-Time Fashion Mistakes

So your high-school yearbook photo has you sporting a Flock of Seagulls 'do. Or fluorescent eye shadow. Perhaps a glorious velour shirt with a puka shell necklace.

Don't hang your head in shame. After all, we've all felt it: The irresistible siren song of awful, forgettable fashion trends.

Some are forced on us by magazines and too-hip couture designers. Others stem from pop-culture or music icons. But in retrospect, is there really any excuse for monster shoulder-pads, legwarmers or fluorescent toenail polish?

"The great thing about fashion is that it changes every 6 months," says Sasha Charnin, Allure magazine's fashion market director. "Some things live. Some things die. Some die and come back."

With the Sept. 14-22 New York fashion week underway, bringing with it the promise of new trends — both forgettable and recycled — decided to take a look back at some of the more embarrassing fashion fads of the last two decades:


Who could forget the fashion frenzy early '80s Madonna caused? She set the trend for material girls everywhere with lace headbands, brilliant fluorescent nail polish, thick eye-liner and those black rubbery bracelets that covered the arms of "cool" girls from wrist to elbow.

"Madonna was huge when she first came out with her fluorescent accessories with the hair and the headband and the belly showing," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion director at Glamour.

Sure enough, "Holiday" was a hit and everyone was walking around snapping their gum, pouting and turning traditional girly frill into a rebellious fashion statement. Madonna's look — her frosted blond hair, layers of black clothing, chunky combat boots — was sent out to the masses of MTV-enthralled teens who emulated her down to the chipping nail polish.

"There was a boutique called 'Like a Virgin' in Macy's and they had every element of Madonna," says Allure's Charnin. "That [look] lasted for a lot longer than we thought." Or than we wanted it to.

No Neck Nanette

The top-heavy shoulder pads look was all the rage for career women during the '80s — the greed-is-good decade, when glossy Nagel posters of hard-lipped women were in and, for the first time, women were climbing the ladders of corporate America.

"[Shoulder pads] were like power statements," says Charnin. "It was an aggressive '80s moment. There were shoulder pads in everything; shoulder pads in T-shirts."

The jutting, inflexible, pads often obscured women's necks, making them look more like a high school quarterback than anything remotely female.

"The silhouette of what is sexy has changed," says Aretha Busby, Redbook's style editor. "Huge shoulders on a woman is not really attractive."

Glamour's Schwartz adds, "They tried to bring them back a few years ago, but no one would ever wear them."

She's a Maniac

Cut the collar off your old gray sweatshirt and pull on your wooly leg warmers: The Flashdance look is back.

This could be the perfect moment for a massive comeback for Jennifer Beals, the star of the 1983 film. Strap on the steel-worker's helmet, Jennifer, and start welding.

"The Flashdance look, off the shoulder — that's coming back but in a more modern way — off the shoulder but not baggy," says Schwartz. Baggy is an unflattering looking, but Schwartz thinks shoulders are the youngest and sexiest part of a women. Maybe it's time to show 'em off again.

Charnin, who says she is a "bare-legged girl" even during the frigid New York City winter, is all for the trend. "I like the Flashdance look. I wore legwarmers last winter. They work."

No doubt the scissors are going to be coming out in bedrooms across the country as girls work at deconstructing their old concert T's and "I Love New York" T-shirts.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Another return from the '80s is the Pat Benatar-inspired rocker look. It's tough. It's scrappy. It's sexy. Sort of.

"Rock-n-roll music will always be the one thing you can always count on in terms of a trend," says Charnin. "Who doesn't want to dress like a rock star?"

Feather earrings, tight jeans, black eyeliner: Teenagers are re-discovering the beauty of being a tough-girl.

"The great thing about rock stars way back before designers were dressing them was you didn't know where they got their clothes," says Charnin. "The genius thing was the hunt — where do you find these things."

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Platform shoes have been around since the '70s, but they're rising to new heights, especially in Japan, where seven-inch high boots have caused numerous accidents — from mere stumbles to car wrecks.

"The Japanese are wearing the highest platform boot and hopefully that'll never make it here," says Schwartz. "They were banned from driving with them on."

Fashion experts say there's no telling whether these "atsuzokos" (which means "thick bottoms" in Japanese) will jump the pond to the United States. "They're very dangerous," says Charnin. "It's hard to walk around in those."

"That's a really young trend," Charnin continues. "I think Steve Madden is making a huge killing in that department because a lot of his customers are flocking to that look, but I don't know how people are going to walk in those."

Redbook's Aretha Busby adds, "I don't think fashion should be dangerous."