Many of you may be frantically planning and plotting what costume to make for Halloween next weekend, but for me, the biggest costumed event of the year was last Friday, at my friend Gez’s 1980s-themed 40th birthday party. Gez has thrown fancy dress parties for years, so I already knew that people would make an effort, but by keeping a small and pared-down wardrobe for myself, I didn’t really have any suitable 80s vintage clothing already. So I knew I”d have to make something from scratch.
I didn’t want to go the full-on Dynasty “hair & shoulder pads” look, so I was a bit stuck until I realised that I could totally do the 1980s Jane Fonda jazzercise look instead! I sometimes have shiny 80s lycra on hand for making early test versions of patterns, but I’d run through all of that in developing the Lightspeed Leggings pattern (poor James!).
So I cycled up to Goldhawk Road on a grey Monday morning and discovered a treasure trove of shiny 80s lycra in A-One Textiles. I had already had the pink and turquoise lycra cut when I saw an incredible rainbow and leopard print lycra high up on the shelf that was just too fantastic to pass up.
I mean, how Lisa Frank is this fabric??
I didn’t end up using the baby pink, so that will get used up for testing patterns at some point, but I decided to build a three-piece jazzercise costume consisting of stirrup leggings, a leotard, and hair scrunchie. I used the ever-trusty KwikSew 3636 for the leggings, but 1 metre wasn’t enough length to do proper stirrups, so I had to settle for just adding some elastic loops to the hems.
The leotard would become the set-piece of the costume, so I pulled out the Closet Case Files Nettie bodysuit pattern (which I’ve been meaning to sew for about 3 winters now!) and managed to squeeze a long sleeved bodysuit with low front neck and medium back neck out of the 1 metre of lycra. Score!
Heather designed the Nettie pattern to have a modern feel, with lots of bum coverage. This is a wise choice if you’re wearing it under jeans and skirts, but for the truly 1980s look, I go out my scissors and chopped those leg openings til they were nearly up to the leggings waistband for that authentic “80s wedgie” look. I never said this was going to be a classy costume!!
I did a usual banded finish on the neckline using her prescribed lengths, but for the leg openings I wanted it to be more leotard-y, so I edged those with folded-under and stitched narrow elastic.
But the final piece of the costume was the ultimate 80s accessory, and one I still dismally remember sewing for myself in the early 90s when I was at school – the scrunchie.
Long may they remain in the “what were we thinking??” bin of history, and I was definitely reconsidering my life choices as I sewed this one together! But the scrunchie and the sequin belt (owned for years!) really pulled the look together! I’d wanted to buy a cheap charity shop jumper (sweater) to chop up for leg warmers, but the local shop didn’t have anything suitable in a price I wanted to spend, so I did without.
So the night of the party, I pulled my hair up into a side ponytail, but on some steel grey eyeshadow (a magazine freebie), frosted pink lip gloss (ditto), and hit the town. And everyone at the party L-O-V-E-D it! I was expecting at least someone else to do the Jane Fonda thing, but no – I had the exercising dancefloor moves all sewn up!
My feeling on costumes is that you can’t do it by halves – the bigger and bolder, the better, and ultimately, the more fun you’re going to have! The birthday girl looked amazing in her cocktail dress and blonde wig, and so many people made such an effort – including one guy in full-on Labyrinth Bowie!! Plus James got to give out fake dollar bills all night as Gordon Gecko, and the era-appropriate playlist was the best I’d ever heard. We didn’t get home til 2am, at which point I decided to take a selfie:
Yes. That’s real talk, and one 1980s costume in the bag!