The 1980s was an era of change in the fashion industry. It was a time where the economy was booming, and as a result, a societal love of shopping grew. It was also a decade that embraced power. As The New York Times put it, it was an era of “broad shoulders, boss women and tough chic.”
A music genre during the 1980s that embraced broad shoulders with a chic attitude was New Wave music, which brought an extreme form of gender reversal to women’s fashion.
The most prominent fashion icon that came from New Wave was Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox. The singer stunned the world with a short red-tinged haircut, a black menswear suit, grey tie, and crisp white shirt in the hit music video, “Sweet Dreams.” To contrast her masculine attire, Lennox wore a full face of makeup. “I loved the tailoring at the time of the Eighties suits with padded shoulders and nipped in waists,” Lennox said to Herald Scotland. “Women have been wearing men’s clothes for centuries. It’s a powerful thing when a woman wears something less feminine. It’s saying; you must look at me slightly differently, I’m not just going to be a sexual object for you.”
In the “Missionary Man” video, the singer sported a sleeveless leather jumpsuit with grommets and studs. Lennox added a feminine touch through a full face of makeup and pointed bra. For the 1984 Grammy Awards, she dressed up as Elvis Presley, while in 1992 the singer donned an androgynous look with avant-garde makeup for a Freddie Mercury tribute.
Annie Lennox’s personality and unapologetic style left an impact on the fashion world. Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier channeled her “Sweet Dreams” look with two models in pinstriped suits and red cropped hair for his Spring/Summer 2013 fashion show. In 2011, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London held an exhibition titled, “The House of Annie Lennox,” which was a retrospective of the singer’s style.
On her gender-bending style, Lennox explains, “As human beings we clothe ourselves – whether you’re a policeman, a nurse or a sex worker – to tell people about ourselves. It’s just a language.”