Susan Morrison: Young Jane’s cheesecloth was acceptable in the 80s

Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman in Dallas
Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman in Dallas
Have your say

A woman got on the bus yesterday wearing shoulder pads. I kid you not. I was nearly on the phone
 to Evening News Style Queen Lynn McCrossan for verification. Shoulder pads, I ask you. Are the 80s coming back? Flares, cheesecloth shirts and avocado bathroom suites?

Admittedly, the cheesecloth shirt was a style hangover from the 70s, but 1980s Lanarkshire was no place to throw out your big cousins hand-me-down clothes just because no-one had thought of charity shops.

The generation that didn’t see new clothes from roughly 1939-1945 wasn’t about to chuck perfectly good clobber out just because it wasn’t fashionable. Fashion was for flibbertigibbets and hadn’t won the war against Hitler. Good grief, these people made knickers from parachutes and only 25 years before, drawing lines on your legs with Bisto was considered fair game.

Clothes got flung my way by my big cousin – Young Jane, to differentiate her from Aunty Jane, who was her mum. She’s still called Young Jane. She’s older than me and I’m 53 – anyway, Young Jane was quite the 
fashionista in them days, so I tended to dress like the queen of the dance floor when I was just going to the shops for a pint of milk.

Cheesecloth was a particular menace, as I recall, since the buttons were specifically designed to part quicker than a Lib Dem minister and a long cherished policy. Of course, I’m calling it a menace – I bet there are some men out there of a certain age, who are even now gazing off into the past with a dreamy look and a wistful smile. As long as ankle-strapped platforms don’t come back, I’ll be fine. I’ll just go call Lynn for advice . . .

Spin cycles and tea cakes

80s clothes got sexy – even the TV ads for denim got steamy. A young man smoulderingly undressed in a laundrette and put his denims on a boil wash – which, as my mother pointed out, would have ruined them. And anyway, she said, why didn’t his mum wash them? Note: feminism still had a ways to go in the land of the Tunnocks tea cake.

Oh Lord, Miss Ellie must be turning in her grave

Of course the 80s are back. Dallas is on the telly. The first time the Ewing family graced our screens, I was at Stirling University. Dallas became cult campus viewing.

We only had access to one telly, which I understand is now a breach of Human Rights for Teenagers. On Dallas Nights, we’d pile into one tiny room and eat jelly babies and shout at the screen.

The night JR got shot there was uproar. Academia was riven by the question, Who Shot JR?

Simple, said one of our number. It was the cook at Southfork.

No-one at Southfork ever gets beyond a mouthful out there on the windy patio (why did they insist on sitting out there? It was always blowing a gale) before JR swaggers in, drops a verbal bombshell, like, pointing out that Lucy had no neck, and then everyone would storm off, abandoning the plates and presumably leaving chef weeping in the kitchen.

Grief, said our amateur sleuth, would turn to anger, and in gun-toting Texas, a raging chef is a dangerous thing. And this was before Gordon Ramsey.

That perceptive viewer later went on to sit on the front bench of the House of Commons, and ride about in a tank.

All hail the jean genies

Ah, my sisters, if we needed one flashback image to crystallise the 80s, it’s three little words. Communal changing room.

The mirrored hall where sisterhood went to die.

Oh the clammy terror of standing in front of the curtain to the changing room clutching that salmon pink wedding suit outfit! Yes, the jacket is long, could cover the hips, but the skirt is short and tight. You could fit a 12, but only in Marksies and this is Chelsea Girl! At least a 14, if only for comfort. Well, to get the waistband past the knees.

And then into an overheated clammy room with harsh lighting, mirrors everywhere and the cool gaze of the gals who fitted the size 10s.

The best distraction you could hope for was a floor-bound, over-optimistic size 16 who was being packed into a pair of size 12 Lee Coopers by three shop assistants – two flab-packing the bulging belly in from either side, and one zip-hauling with a trusty leather shoe lace, kept on hand for just this style emergency.

When the customer was getting levered back up into a standing position, you can bet she was buying those jeans. They’d got her into them. She probably couldn’t get them off. Her entire life was now to be spent upright and she walked like Frankenstein, but so what – size 12s, baby!

Mind you, back then when we did bend over (if we could!) at least our bahookies stayed covered up.