Webcomics Are From Uranus: Stop Drawing 80s Fashions!

Stop Drawing 80s Fashions!

I skipped the 80s growing up. This was surprisingly easy, as I was born in 1980 and didn’t get much of a pop culture knowledge base until I was 13 or so. That, a lack of anything but cartoons and reruns on my TV diet, an abuse of my parents’ music and choice in movies, and an obsessive streak that had me trying to read every book in the library, kept me from experiencing much outside of things done before I was born.

So it is without any nostalgia or bias against this decade that I beg you, comics artists, to stop drawing 80s fashions!

I first got into fashion in high school, a little later than my peers, but I’m probably better off for it. I read all the snooty fashion magazines that stamped a little philosophy into my head about classic, individual style, coupled with small trendy accessories to keep you current, without having to hide old photos of yourself years later in embarrassment. When I began to draw my own comic, I kept that in mind when designing the characters’ outfits. What they wore would reflect their own style, personality, and interest in fashion (or lack thereof). So one was trendy, one was clueless, one was old-fashioned, etc.

From this, I can reason it perfectly fine to see the occasional character wearing Julia Roberts’ outfits from Pretty Woman, or an older lady with big hair who can’t conform to more modern tastes. It would be fine if a character who loves the 80s to wear acid wash jeans (tight rolled, of course), with a hot pink, oversized and off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. But this is all too often not the case.

Go into a comic book store and pick up a random sampling of comics, particularly those with pin-up covers on the front and girls with staggering large chests. Find any outfits from the latest Vogue, InStyle, or (shudder) Seventeen? You’d be hard pressed to find anything modern that wasn’t in a music video. Instead you will find girls (and particularly men, but they can be forgiven, since they are so paranoid about being deemed homosexual that they refuse to wear the sort of clothing that will attract ladies) in clothing that would have been appropriate in 1989. Okay, maybe 1994 at the latest, and this is if they are not wearing jeans and a T-shirt. But even then, comics only started drawing low-rise jeans 5 years after they became popular. The ones with the photograph covers are, shockingly enough, the worst. If current, they are merely Mary Kate and Ashley current.

In the webcomics world, this is even more startling. Poor PvP‘s Jade, stuck with a scrunchie that refuses to go away and a high ponytail I haven’t seen on anyone but a cheerleader in years. Is that the Gap turtleneck Sharon Stone brought to the forefront of fashion in 1996? None of these would be sins, but for the fact they seem to be chosen FOR Jade, and not BY her. She seems to care about appearance more than that, and her taste in other areas would indicate something MUCH cuter and more stylish.GPF‘s Trudy conversely, seems to revel in her own style with her voluminous hair and power suits, even if they did die a slow death years ago. What’s troubling is that the other characters copy her when "dressing up", when it obviously clashes with their own characteristics and regular clothing. These two examples are anomalies in otherwise well-clad comics. In PVP, the rest of the cast, including Marcy, dress appropriate to character – even if I hate Francis’ pants, they are what he would wear. In GPF, the same is true. But in both cases, it’s the poor sexy ladies who are stuck wearing something the cartoonist has picked out for them, and not an outfit they may have selected for themselves.

Of course, since these are the cartoonist’s created worlds, I am willing to assume he does not have Paris, Milan, or New York in his world, and these ladies therefore don’t know any better.

There are countless other comics (on account of there being countless other comics, period) that display 80s fashion to an even more drastic extent. Many of these are the newer comics, drawn by younger and less seasoned cartoonists who only take other comics, or their favorite movies, for reference. How many "male buddy" comics’ main characters dress like Bill and Ted at least at some point?

The biggest sins seem to be with formalwear and makeup. When not going by the "little black dress" rule of simplicity, these dresses often try to portray "sexy" in the same way done in the 80s and early 90s. A slit up the side, tight spandex all over, too much eye shadow, and too big of lips. I know many of these artists are probably more familiar with video games and Jessica Rabbit than more recent examples of style, but enough is enough!

Even when the outfit is done well, the hair pops out in awful, awful ways. A lot of this can be attributed to the rise of manga with its characteristic gravity-defying hairstyles. What many people don’t realize is that much of this manga was done in the late 80s/early 90s, and that poor Japan still suffers from an addiction to the 80s. Just listen to the music. Even so, gravity-defying hair is not ipso facto 80s big hair, but it is often an excuse to let the hair rise inches off the top of the hair, go all spikey, and acquire the massive volume that can only be attained by an hour’s work with a blowdryer and Aqua Net.

I applaud those artists who do take a moment to consider clothing as part of character, but I implore those of you who don’t to try to look at the world around you and see what people do wear. If that’s so hard, at least draw some outfits from a different era. That 80s Show, as we all know, bombed.

One Comment

  1. That does it! I’m obviously not nearly cutting edge enough–I’m givin’ the wombat legwarmers!

    Well, maybe not.

    Seriously, while I really hadn’t noticed this effect before, I’ll definitely be on the look out for it now.


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