Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1981 New Romantic

Subject: new romantic / Blitz Kid
Culture: English youth 
Setting: club scene, England late 1970s - early 1980s
Evolution1975 Anglo-American punk > 1981 English new romantic

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* MacKenzie 2009 p108
"New Romanticism as an evolution of, rather than a reaction to, the London Punk scene.  It emerged in 1978 when the original Punk 'posers' for whom clothing had been the manifesto developed a new look that would distance them from the media-disoriented pantomime that Punk had become.  Driven by a desire to distinguish themselves from the norm, New Romantics adopted flamboyant, androgynous and highly individual dress."

* Fogg ed. 2013 p430
​"After the low style of punk in the 1970s, the new decade witnessed a sudden explosion of flamboyant creativity.  The New Romantic movement, a subculture, subverted the notion of glamour into an excessive display of pure pastiche, born out of the dress-up box and reliant on a singular appreciation of other cultures and the history of costume.  British designer Vivienne Westwood (b.1941) epitomized this aesthetic in 1981 with her first own-label collection, Pirates, which drew inspiration from an eclectic array of sources, including nineteenth-century tailoring and a Hollywood version of the high-seas buccaneer.  This synthesis of cultural ideas spearheaded the antidote to the street style of punk and was a process that ultimately presaged the 'pirating' of ideas that led to the New Romantic movement.  In London a generation of art students and their associates flocked to night clubs such as Billy's, Blitz, and Hell to indulge in conspicuous narcissism.  This high-maintenance in-crowd comprised numerous creatives who emerged as serious contributors not only to the immediate scene, but also to the evolution of popular culture: pop stars Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and Boy George, style editors Dylan Jones and Iain R. Webb, and fashion designers Stephen Jones (b.1957), Stephen Linnard (b.1959), and Pam Hogg."

​* Young 2016 p145-146
"... Spandau Ballet, inspired by the foppish electro new wave scene at the Blitz, stepped in to create the type of music they were listening to in the club.  Their 'secret' gigs in the arthouse Scala cinema and on the derelict HMS Belfast created hype, becoming the hottest tickets in town for faces like Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Idol, and members of Ultravox and Japan, and every record company clambered to sign them.  The media quickly caught on to the headline-making antics of the controversial cross-dressing and exhibitionism, and journalists would gather outside the club in the hope of gaining access to the clubbers who had called themselves 'the cult with no name' or 'the movement'.  But it was a double-page spread in Sounds magazine in September 1980 that would give the movement a name that would stay with them -- the new romantics, referencing the new wave and the cult of Romantic poets like Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley."


* Fogg ed. 2016 p145
​"Those who got into the hottest underground club were dressed as futuristic teds with winklepickers, quiffs and false eyelashes, as gangsters or Robin Hoods with whitened faces and frilled collars.  It was where pi right,rate met military hero, eighteenth-century fop or French revolutionary whore.  Costumes came from charity shops, adapted and customised on sewing machines with enthusiasm by young, hungry fashion students: a Jacobite swathed in tartan, a jacked covered with Malteser wrappers, a necklace made from gilded seashells.  'The kids that turned up faithfully every week at his Blitz club were dreamers,' said former Blitz Kid Iain R. Webb.  'We wanted to be fashion designers, pop singers, writers, photographers, makeup artists and film-makers.  We wanted to impress Steve, not least to get through the door, but also because we knew he was one of us.  He didn't care that you weren't a famous celebrity, he loved that people made an effort -- and we did, for him.'"

​* Rimmer 2003 p10
"Some look like science fiction.  Some like extras from a Restoration comedy.  Gangster suits.  Robin Hood outfits.  Big hair.  Whitened faces.  Many wear perverse combinations that defy journalistic shorthand.  There is clearly only one thing worse than being ridiculed, and that is not to be noticed at all.  Holding court, the object of all the attention-grabbing, is a doorman dressed as a Pierrot.  He's high on is own self-importance, designating the elect allowed entry into the inner sanctum, casting the fallen and unfashionable into the outer darkness.  The wannabes pout and jostle to a muffled synthesizer sequence, pulsing darkly from within.
    "It's like a glimpse of past and future all at once: the prototype sounds of tomorrow, the reanimated styles of yesterday.  A confusion as to just what it's all about is reflected by the media's vain attempts to slap a label on to the phenomenon.  The participants refer to themselves as The Movement, but no one else will ever call them that.  Blitz Kids explains nothing but the venue, whose denizens would disdain the word 'kids'.  Futurists get half of it right, but somehow conjures austerity rather than extravagance.  Peacock Punk at least identifies dressiness and the scene's immediate antecedent.  But punk is dead.  This is some kind of preening poseur phoenix, rising from the ashes.
    "In the end, New Romantic is the name that sticks."

* MacKenzie 2009 p108-109
"The New Romantic style was pluralistic.  If one had the imagination, any look was possible.  However, all outfits were united by one shared characteristic: sartorial extravagance.  Dressing up and the effort and ingenuity expressed while doing so were what defined this movement.  It is usually represented as a swashbuckling and historically referenced style adorned with ribbon, lace and velvet and, although these elements did exist, the influences upon the culture were numerous and the resultant looks diverse.  In part it was reminiscent of the visual culture that accompanied Glam: ostentation, androgyny, flamboyance and narcissism being key elements.  It was, however, equally as well represented by the futuristic, the Hollywood iconic, the militaristic or the exotic.  As long as one had gone to supreme lengths to achieve one's (unique) look, and it showed, one was allowed entry to the club.