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Swift: When it comes to '80s fashion, just say bow

Tammy Swift, columnist. The Forum

FARGO -- So I’m tooling through Target on a recent lunch break in the hopes of shopping myself happy. It’s been a rough day and I need a little reasonably priced retail therapy.

My cart is already filled with several items guaranteed to bring sense and order to my life, including a 12-pound bag of Reese’s Eggs, a huge scented candle and a miniature appliance that specializes in making tiny waffles. I make a left-hand turn in the women’s clothing section and… what’s this?

Culottes. Pastel-colored, silky blouses that tie primly at the neck. Puffy, ruffly sleeves. Pleated mommy jeans with waists that are too high for Urkel.

What have I done? Did I accidentally drive my cart through a time warp and wind up in 1982? Surely it is not trendy and Instagrammatical to dress like Diane Chambers again.

Target — merchandiser of cheap, trendy fashion — could not be carrying the Joyce DeWitt Career Lady Collection. But there it was. A sea of pastels in shades guaranteed to make me look like I’d spent the last five years trapped in a cave and without access to red meat.

Puffy, ruffly sleeved shirts like Nancy McKeon might have once worn to a Tiger Beat photo shoot. Monochromatic power suits befitting a Talking Heads video. Even… egads… jumpsuits.

Holy Krystle Carrington, Batman. The ‘80s are back at a time when my 53-year-old body can’t even begin to pull off pleated pants.

The bowed blouses especially got to me. I hadn’t seen these in years. To me, they were synonymous with the type of “career dressing” that women once did, back in the early ‘80s when we were advised to dress as androgynously and professionally as possible. The idea was to look like a man, seasoned with just enough femininity to show that you would also type and make coffee.

I equated those types of blouses with Montgomery Ward catalogs or a Wesson Oil-touting Florence Henderson or Lee Iacocca’s secretary — not fashion.

But an Instagram search for #pussybowblouses (as the kids call them these days) showed young women thoroughly owning the look. They paired the demure tops with everything from jean shorts to flowy skirts, and they looked great.

Of course, we all know fashion is a circular thing. It’s most exciting the first time you see it, but it’s saddled with mixed feelings and old memories when you’ve already seen it all before.

I still think how I raved about the “New Look”-reminiscent silhouette of the ‘50s as a college student, only to be told by my mother that people didn’t always dress that way and the skirt could really add girth to the hips.

As for the bow blouses? I won’t be tying one on soon. To me, it’s still a matter of friend or bow.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.