Fashion in Music: 2020 is the Year of Retro
By: Iman Taouil
From autotune in the 2000s to psychedelic rock and mumble rap of the last decade, music, like fashion, goes through trends. This year, retro was a popular trend with many big names of the pop scene taking us back in time (mostly to the ‘80s) with their releases and, more often than not, with looks and visuals to match.
While disco-pop sounds attempted to make a comeback with a few releases over the past years/decades, these were isolated events that weren’t contagious enough to possess the rest of the industry.
In late 2019, Dua Lipa was one of the first to inaugurate this retro trend with her single “Don’t Start Now.” This nostalgic frenzy even reached the world of KPop world, with girl group Everglow’s ‘80s synth-wave track “La Di Da.”
Aesthetics and visuals are essential elements of pop music, so it’s no surprise that many of our favorite artists got into character this year with retro fashion statements throughout their music videos and live performances. Here’s a look at the retro-themed music releases and videos that gave us solid fashion inspiration in 2020.
Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
Dua Lipa’s sophomore album Future Nostalgia is a trip back in time, complete with dance, disco, and synth elements. Most songs on the album sound like they could be the soundtrack to an ‘80s gym video, which is probably why Dua Lipa took it upon herself to release a workout video for the album’s second single, “Physical.” In the video, Dua plays a gym instructor and she and her class sport ‘80s inspired gym outfits including neon bodysuits, chunky trainers, bright socks, and – although not very gym-adequate – lots of gold jewelry.
Dua Lipa’s best fashion performance has to be her “Break My Heart” music video, where she models a plethora of beautiful retro looks in different scenes. The video feels like a mix and match of different eras, while the song itself carries heavy ‘80s influences. The singer’s outfits are reminiscent of typical ‘90s Chanel style, with cardigans and girly skirt sets, accessorized with chain belts and thick gold jewelry. The dancers wear color-coordinated outfits that look like they could have come from the movie Clueless, or oversized blazers with pointed collars for a more disco, ‘70s inspired look.
The Weeknd, After Hours
It would be impossible to list the retro-infused releases of 2020 without mentioning The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” With its catchy synth hook, the track is an evident ode to the ‘80s and one of the most successful songs of the year. That ‘80s vibe is less obvious but still present in the other singles from The Weeknd’s latest album After Hours.
Unlike the other pop stars on this list, The Weeknd relied less on fashion to create a retro atmosphere and opted for a nostalgic feel in the cinematography, light effects, and cityscapes of music videos. The Weeknd has cultivated a new signature look that he’s been sporting this entire era, from all his music videos (which create a storyline altogether) to the album and single covers and the VMA’s red carpet.
The look is simple, yet sophisticated, with a modern take on old Hollywood glamour. A red blazer with a pointed collar over an all-black ensemble, The Weeknd’s look works in this ‘80s universe, but it also works in 2020, taken out of its retro-era context. The shoes and accessories pull everything together: black and white loafers, black leather gloves, and a big pair of orange-colored sunglasses.
Harry Styles,Watermelon Sugar
“Watermelon Sugar” doesn’t scream ‘retro’ as loud as the other tracks on this list when you hear the song alone. It’s the music video, however, that takes us back in time. Set on a beach in California, the video was partly shot with a super 8 camera, giving it a vintage filter and an upbeat, nostalgic atmosphere. The fashion in the video, of course, matches and reinforces this feeling.
Harry Styles is wearing all sorts of vintage, ‘70s inspired items in this video. In the very first scene, he wears an orange crochet top with wide-leg pants, accessorized with a pair of oversized, blue sunglasses. In the next scene, Styles wears a colorful, pointed collared shirt with a mismatched grandpa sweater-vest and heart-shaped sunglasses, a combo that could look odd if it wasn’t for Styles’ love of fashion experimenting. As the video goes on, he wears two other outfits, including a striped shirt with a floral scarf, and a Hawaiian floral shirt with a pearl necklace.
The models in the video wear vintage swimwear silhouettes, with crochet, high-waisted briefs, and beach pants. The most consistent elements tying all these looks together and giving them a real throwback feel seem to be warm colors, floral prints, and big, colored sunglasses.
Doja Cat, Say So
Doja Cat’s hit “Say So” is a disco fever anthem, both sonically and visually. Her music video is set in a late ‘70s Los Angeles scene, with the final scene taking place on a dancefloor with a disco ball. Doja Cat and her dancers wear plenty of shimmer, thick platform heels, bright-colored boots, headscarves, pointed collars, and colored sunglasses.
Most of the outfits worn in “Say So” are very clearly an homage to the retro party scene of the ‘70s. Doja’s looks are great to draw inspiration from and incorporate in subtle ways for more modern looks.
The biggest KPop group in the world released their first all-English song, and also earned their very first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year. The song has carefree, joyful, and funky vibes, meant to appease the hearts of people worldwide after a tough year. “Dynamite” has subtle disco references, with outfits reflecting exactly this sound. Vintage with a modern twist, the boys of BTS wear retro outfits that could just as well be worn today.
BTS kept it classy and simple for the foundation of their outfits, which consisted of a button-up shirt and a pair of wide-leg pants. The stylists then played with textures, colors, and patterns. They upgraded the looks by adding a blazer, a vest, a scarf, or a pair of suspenders here and there. The outfits were of a warm, fall color palette, with the main staples being pointed collars, patterned shirts, thin scarves, belts, and of course, colored sunglasses.
Little Mix, Break Up Song
British girl group Little Mix also gave into the retro frenzy with their track “Break Up Song.” The music video, released in May, in the middle of quarantine, was filmed from the girls’ own homes and recreates a vintage morning TV show. Each one of the Little Mix girls is a news anchor and has her own section. After showing a felt version of themselves – animated in stop motion – the real Little Mix girls appear in front of a very disco, pink curtain backdrop.
“Break Up Song” digs into the ‘80s synth-wave, taking inspiration from the groovy, upbeat hits of that decade, and the inspiration shines through their fashion choices as well. Jade is wearing double denim accessorized with a big, black bow wrapping up her hair, à la Like a Virgin era Madonna. Perrie is rocking a black PVC jumpsuit, while Jesy is rocking a hot pink blazer dress and Leigh-Anne is bringing back leopard print.
None of these outfits would be as convincingly retro if it wasn’t for the hair choices the Little Mix girls – or rather their stylists – made. Curls and waves -and sometimes wigs – galore, the girls are sporting voluminous hairdos. Jesy is rocking short bangs, reminiscing of the pop divas of the ‘80s like Kim Wilde or Cyndi Lauper.