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Book Review - 1980s Fashion Print by Marnie Fogg

book reviews, fashion, historyCharlotte BrownComment

Reviewing fashion pattern and print from the 1980s, with Marnie Fogg’s design book…

Marnie Fogg's book: 1980s Fashion Print

The eighties were my decade as a child and young teen. Naturally, my youthful fashion experimentations have evolved over the years into many cringe-worthy moments, as my adult self now looks back over old photos.

Thank goodness there were no digital cameras or social media, or the embarrassment could have been a whole lot worse! My only consolation being that everyone else’s eighties photos look just the same...!

So you can imagine how much enthusiasm I would be likely to muster for the eighties-inspired design and fashion prints in this Marnie Fogg design book.

I was curious enough to buy it though – as I love all kinds of colour and pattern – and realising how much recent trends in fabric and surface pattern design have been influenced by a colourful look back at the eighties.

On looking through the book, my fears of eighties fashion faux-pas were, of course, eased - a combination of my own (clearly poor) fashion choices as a teen, and Marnie Fogg showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of eighties fashion prints.

In the introduction, Fogg describes how eighties fashions were loud – bright, bold and ostentatious – looking to new ideas and creativity to create the patterns that the public lapped up.

In Britain, London started to be seen as the centre of the ‘designer decade’ with eccentric and avant-garde ideas, combined with smaller-scale ‘craft’ print studios.

Italy produced the ‘Memphis’ design movement, which had a huge influence on the decade. Surface pattern design broke rules on colour and ‘good taste’ with bold, vibrant colours, and energetic, dissonant pattern and layout.

Fogg describes how the eighties was the decade for ‘celebration of excess’ and ‘unparalleled creativity’.

Browse a preview of the book below (supplied by Google Books):

Neon Blitz

This section showcases a collection of bold, colourful and abstract prints, with texture given equal importance to colour and form.

Designers experimented with mark-making, and creative printing, and interdisciplinary design techniques.

Innovative design labels:
•    ‘Bodymap
•    Stephen Sprouse – influenced by graffiti
•    Vivienne Westwood – inspired by other cultures, “searching for the primitive”
•    ‘The Cloth’ design group – focusing on the drawn or painted line
•    ‘Tio Gruppen’ (Ten Swedish Designers) – innovative colour and energy

Other designers followed suit - with deliberately naïve, colourful, textural, and hectic designs overtaking this style.

My favourites in this style are the simple, textural, and hand-painted Liberty geometrics, with a more muted colour palette.


The eighties woman was powerful and glamorous. Her clothes were bold, colourful and ostentatious, with trompe l’oeil printed cords, tassels, and trims being very popular. Animal prints also helped to display a feminine power.

Aspirational occasion-wear was created with lavish, large-size pattern and embellishment, by design houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, James Galanos, Karl Lagerfield, Gucci, Coco Chanel.

To be honest, this isn’t my favourite look, but I’m quite fond of the colourful, large-scale, patterned florals of Furphy Simpson, shown in the book.

Catch the Wave

Active wear became a business in itself in the 80s, as the public concentrated on creating the ‘body-beautiful’ and ‘feeling the burn’. The new popularity of the fabric Elastene or Spandex (such as Lycra) gave new opportunities to fashion print designers.

Surf, skateboard, and rave cultures influenced the popularity of bright and neon colours, tie-dye, and the ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ icon.

Tropical motifs were popular, often combined with the new trend for hand-drawn and hand-painted textures.

I love the richly patterned designs of the ‘Cote d’Azure’ furnishing fabric by Collier Campbell (shown in the book) which I feel has rather a beautiful, retro-inspired, 50s feel – and definitely a cool Riviera style.

Urban Jungle

Fogg writes that the fashionable eighties alternative to power-dressing was an elegant, avant-garde Italian label, ‘Etro’. Paisley patterns were their recognised look.

Other cultures and folklore began to be the inspiration for a growing alternative style, with eclectic tropical florals, animals and birds, in bold, simplified, and stylised juxtaposition.

I really love some of these designs, particularly those by designer Natalie Gibson, with fun and colourful, tropical motifs against dramatic backgrounds.

As the decade went on, the wild colours of the earlier years developed into simpler, two-colour prints, such as in the work of design partnership, Furphy Simpson.

Radical Classical

Fogg writes that classical Greek and Roman art were given a new look by eighties designers, such as Sue Timney, Grahame Fowler, and English Eccentrics. Neo-classical statues, maps, and architectures featured in the designs.

Colours tended to be more subdued than the wilder Urban Jungle, Glamazon and Neon Blitz styles.

Designers such as English Eccentrics also began looking back for historical inspiration, at medieval heraldic designs, architecture, and stained glass.

The very popular appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986 inspired a new interest in the night sky, which was reflected in fashion prints at the time.

Georgina Von Etzdorf created artistic designs with rich colours, textures, and a baroque style in abstract form, concentrating, as many designers do these days, on the craft process of the design.

The designs illustrating the book, by Georgina Von Etzdorf, are some of my very favourite designs of the decade, for the beautiful movement and energy in the swirling, colourful shapes, with surprising detail and texture in the complex designs.

My Conclusion

As the eighties isn’t my favourite decade, I wasn’t expecting to be very impressed by the designs in this book – but I was wrong – and I very much enjoyed it, in spite of myself!

It’s true, there were designs I wasn’t so keen on, (but aren’t there in any decade?) but there were also plenty, too, that I really loved.

Reading more about the influences of the decade gave me a better appreciation of the design developments and inspirations of that period.

I really enjoyed seeing how innovations from eighties design have a bearing, still, on our design techniques of today: the growing interest in the craft of design, the experimentation in the design process itself, and a new focus away from pure digital design - into including hand-drawn or hand-painted elements, and textures created from ‘real world’ multi-media techniques.

Of course, many eighties-style motifs and design styles are also popular at the moment, with abstract, textural prints, bold colours, and tropical prints all being very popular now, as well as a renewed interest in the patterns and influences of different cultures which, these days, are seen in juxtaposition with each other, rather than purely as separate trends.

Get the Book

Available at Amazon, through my affiliate links (below):

Found Patterns - Historical Floors

behind the scenes, history, inspiration, patterns, personal musingsCharlotte Brown1 Comment

Continuing my mini-series of blog posts on found patterns from my recent 'staycation' in York - getting inspired by the history in my local city...

In this blog post I'm concentrating on the found patterns I spotted in medieval and later floor tiles, both in York Minster, and in All Saints church in York...

Patterns were obviously highly valued on their flooring, to decorate such important buildings...

The tiles were made from clay, and with a natural glaze, which gives us those lovely earthy colours...

Some of the patterns are quite simple, and some much more intricate - and with a limited amount of colours. Very fascinating to see the patterns and variations ...

Even the ironwork for the air-vents in the Minster was intricate...

Intricate ironwork in the floor of York Minster

Lots to inspire! Keep a look out for your own found patterns .... it's surprising what you'll spot!

Found Patterns - Ecclesiastical Architecture

behind the scenes, history, inspiration, patterns, personal musingsCharlotte BrownComment

I've been looking out for 'found patterns' on my summer 'staycation' in my home city of York - I found lots to be inspired by in the architectural features of the historic churches, and the minster of York...

Lots to inspire me, and hopefully I can use some of these ideas in my own future patterns :) I'll be sharing some more found patterns soon...

Found Patterns - Medieval Stained Glass

behind the scenes, color, history, inspiration, patterns, personal musingsCharlotte BrownComment

Found pattern inspiration from my recent 'staycation' at home in York. We visited some of the beautiful medieval locations in York, as tourists, and I got inspired by the gorgeous, vibrant stained glass...

Wonderful colourful stained glass from All Saints church in York

York has some of the oldest, and best preserved, stained glass in Europe, both in the majestic York Minster, and in the beautiful, but lesser-known All Saints church in North Street... 

All of the stained glass images in this post are from All Saints church...

One of my favourite stained glass windows is this (below) the 'Pricke of Conscience' window (c.1410) which shows a depiction of the last 15 days of the world....

The end of the world shown in the 'Pricke of Conscience' window

I really love the patterns in these stained glass trees - I think they look quite modern!

Patterned trees from the 'Pricke of Conscience' window

Right next to it, and dating from the same time, is the 'Corporal Acts of Mercy' window (from St. Matthew's Gospel)... see below...

The 'Corporal Acts of Mercy' window c.1410

In this window I adore the very striking sun and stars depiction (see below) - just beautiful!

Sun and Stars stained glass pattern, All Saints, York

I hope these beautiful patterns will inspire me (and maybe you?) on to greater things :)

I'll be back soon with some more 'found pattern' inspiration from my trips to York.

May Day - a Traditional Way to Welcome Summer

history, inspiration, nature, personal musingsCharlotte BrownComment

As May Day approaches the days are getting longer, if not warmer – it seems a chilly Spring this year!

I’ve been collecting flowers in photographic form to use as reference for future drawings (some of which you can see below) – and thinking about the turning of the year…

How this time of year was a time when, here in Britain, our ancestors noted and celebrated the changes in the natural world, and what these signified for their everyday lives.

Pretty pink apple blossom is a sure sign the natural world is springing into life

May 1st (May Day) has traditionally always been a day of celebration in Britain.

Although, meteorologically, we are now considered to be right in the middle of Spring, May Day has traditionally marked the start of Summer – and celebrates the energies of ‘life’ and fertility across the natural world.

These are rituals we still mark today. Even though most people enjoying a bank holiday at the seaside, or a bit of fun watching the pageantry of the local May Queen procession, probably have no idea of the original meanings of the celebrations.

The earliest evidence we have for marking May Day is from writings on first century Celts in Ireland, who marked this festival of ‘Beltane’ with fires which represented the fire of life. Druids lit fires on hills (traditionally built from nine different woods).

It was the day when sheep and cattle were driven up to their summer pastures in the hills, passing between two ceremonial bonfires on the way.

Such fire rituals were also quite common throughout the 18th and 19th centuries too. People would walk around a ceremonial fire three times, or jump it three times. The ashes from these May fires were taken to the fields and scattered onto the growing crops, as well as brought home to add to the family hearth.

May Day is a celebration of life, and with this goes a focus on fertility – crops, cattle, flowers and even people.

Beautiful white magnolia bloom

Today, May Day celebrations often focus on the May Queen – often a local girl, selected to be Queen for the day, and the figurehead for the celebrations.

In Roman times, the festival of Floralia at this time of year was named for the goddess of flowers, Flora. This became celebrations for the goddess of ‘increase’ (fertility and fecundity) – Maia.

Beautiful purple springtime anemone flower

The May Queen has been traditionally feted on this day, and bedecked with ribbons and flowers. In past times there was also a Lord of May, or a Jack-in-the-Green figure, connected to the Green Man symbol we still see in so many churches – representative of the ‘green’ life force of nature.

In some areas of the country, people would act out the symbolic ritual of the King of Summer, and the King of Winter, competing for the privilege of the favour of the May Queen – showing how this day was considered the turning point between Winter and Summer.

Red tulip in springtime

As part of the celebrations, a brightly coloured May Pole is strewn with ribbons, and is the focus of dancing, today this is often Morris dancing. Originally the dances would have celebrated life and fertility, and were a way for the young ladies and men to get closer to each other.

In fact, in much earlier times, young people would go ‘a-maying’ together at night, into the woods, with floral garlands and decorated branches, and much fanfare. Their return home to the village in the morning would ‘bring in the May’, singing and strewing flowers.

Voluptuous white cherry blossoms - smell deliciously sweet

The traditional plant of May Day is, of course, the ‘May’, or hawthorn. Originally May Day would have fallen in the middle of our modern month of May, before the calendar-change in the mid 18th century – so the May flowers were usually at their best then.

May Day blossoms were brought into the home for the day, and the tree was decorated with ribbons and garlands.

May blossoms on the hawthorn (Latin name Crataegus) also sometimes known as the whitethorn

The dew on the morning of May 1st, the May Dew, was believed to have special qualities for the complexion, health and blessings.

Water was actually just as important as fire on May Day – people would visit holy wells, and other sacred watery places. We still have this ritual remaining in the custom of ‘well dressing’ in the villages and towns of Derbyshire (decorating the wells with hundreds of flowers).

Flowering quince, with beautiful waxy red flowers

In olden times, May Day was a time when people believed the fairy folk and witches were about. Fairies were often seen as wicked things, so people would bring rowan, hazel and elder into the home to protect against any evil spirit.

Rowan was known as ‘witchwood’ in Yorkshire, and ‘witchwicken’ in Lincolnshire, and was thought to be particularly powerful against witches, so would have protected the front door on May Day.

I love that we’ve kept some of these customs – and I’m sure some are best left forgotten. 

What I do think we’ve perhaps lost sight of, but that is worth remembering, is how nature, and indeed our agriculture and food, still relies on the turning of the year, and the fact that the return of summer brings life to our crops, plants and even birds and animals. I think this is something worth connecting with and remembering.

Bluebells love to grow in woodland areas in late April through early May

Just because May Day brings us the start of Summer, don’t forget the old saying ‘Cast ne’er a clout till May be out’ – meaning ‘keep your winter woollies on until May is ‘out’’. Variously translated as until the month of May is finished, or until the May blossoms are started/over. Personally I think it’s left deliberately ambiguous to account for the capricious nature of the British weather!

Don't confuse this blackthorn with hawthorn - it flowers earlier, and you can tell the difference as blackthorn flowers before leaves, hawthorn after leaves.

Further Reading

Suggested further reading on this topic. You can find my affiliate links to the books on Amazon, below...

  • Jane Struthers: Red Sky at Night, The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom
  • Tess Ward: The Celtic Wheel of the Year

Book Review - '1960s Fashion Print' by Marnie Fogg

fabric, patterns, history, book reviewsCharlotte BrownComment

I thought I would start the year with something a bit light hearted, colourful and fun… so I’ve taken myself back in time with a little look at the sixties and seventies…

As a child born in the early seventies, the patterns and prints of the sixties and seventies were the ever-present backdrop of my first years - and in all my earliest memories.

I find myself sub-consciously drawing on these ingrained patterns as I draw and design. And it’s fair to say these decades have had a heavier influence on my artistic vision than most.

I didn’t actually realise this until I got this book, and started looking through at all the patterns, when I could see how I’d been influenced by the colours and swirls.


This is a wonderful book, and whether you’re already a big fan of sixties and seventies prints, or if you’ve not yet been introduced to the joys of this era, you’re in for a treat.

The book is packed with big, colourful images, with everything from original artwork, fabrics, fashion photos, and design sketches – so you can get a really thorough feel for the whole design process.

The book actually only includes prints from the sixties, but looking through the book, as it moves towards the later years of the decade, I can certainly see what I, personally, would recognise as a distinctly seventies vibe,

In the book, several separate styles are identified, moving from the start of the decade, to the end.

  • Art into Print
  • Revivals and Reflections
  • Flower Power
  • Lost in Multicoloured Hues
  • Magical Mystery Tour

Take a look at this sample content below.... (from Google Books)

My review continues beneath...


Art into Print

Marnie Fogg writes that large scale motifs were in trend, influenced by Op Art and Pop Art, the work of Op Artist Bridget Riley and Richard Anuskiewicz

‘Swinging London’ was hip – with Union Jacks and depictions of the famous trendy London street ‘Carnaby Street’

  • Monochromatic designs were common
  • Optical illusions seen in designs
  • Everyday objects become design motifs
  • Intense colours and unusual colour combinations

Revivals and Reflections

Designers started to look to history for inspiration, writes Fogg. They turned towards the soft swirls of Art nouveau, as a reaction against the harder lines of the previous modernist style.

The values of the Arts and Crafts movement were also looked back to with nostalgia and revived.

This is one of my favourite sixties styles, and if you’re familiar with the 1960s revival of William Morris, this is the design movement it was a part of. Colours were definitely given a saturated sixties twist compared to the 19th century originals.

  • Intricate and psychedelic paisleys, art nouveau ogees, and art deco geometric motifs are also part of this style, looking back to design history and reinterpreting it for the new era.
  • Natalie Gibson and Bernard Nevill both worked in these beautiful styles, and the fashion boutique ‘Biba’ brought the look to popular culture.

Flower Power

Marnie Fogg writes that the modern world brought a plethora of commercialism and plastic, and the sixties ‘Flower Power’ hippies were a reaction against this, looking instead to nature for inspiration.

At its peak in the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ and during the following years of political upheaval, ‘Flower Power’ became symbolic of a desire for peace and love.

  • The daisy motif was popular, because of its innocence and simplicity.
  • Flowers were bright, brilliant, and stylised.
  • Painter and ‘fashion gardener’ Ken Scott created intricate, painterly and colourful floral designs that are most beautiful – I love them.

Lost in Multi-coloured Hues

As someone who’s grown up in the seventies, psychedelia is part of my mental picture of childhood – particularly remembered from childrens’ books and TV programs. But in the sixties, writes Fogg, psychedelia was heavily inspired by drugs – specifically LSD or ‘acid’.

Patterns swirl and undulate, and colours are ‘acid bright’ – truly multi-coloured and lavish! This was a period of excess and fantasy, and the patterns and colours celebrated in this style reached popular culture and design too.

  • Natalie Gibson and Alexander Henry Fabrics created my favourite designs in this exuberant style.

Magical Mystery Tour

Towards the end of the decade, moving into the seventies, Fogg writes that patterns took inspiration from the wanderlust of the hippies – ‘exotic’ prints were treasured, and previously unfamiliar techniques, such as batik and tie-dye, captured the imagination.

India and the Far East provided much inspiration for designers, with paisleys and mandalas becoming popular motifs, and spicy hues providing the colour palettes.

Home-spun arts and crafts, and interest in sustainable lifestyles and recycling still continued, writes Fogg.

The patterns and designs of this period are some of the most interesting, for me – a real mixing pot of influences, cultures and styles to create a very colourful end to the sixties, ready to move into the seventies.

The book devotes a large part of this section looking at the designs of Celia Birtwell and Zandra Rhodes, which I found quite interesting, but I think my favourite pattern in this section has got to be the flamboyant design by Bernard Nevill for Cantini on page 186.

I highly recommend this book if you have even the slightest interest in colour, pattern and design. I loved it.

I have several other Marnie Fogg books (which I intend to review in due course) but this is definitely my favourite.

If this has whetted your appetite for the book, you can get it below through my affiliate links...

from Amazon.co.uk

from Amazon.com