Wheels of fashion spin back to roller disco

by Samantha Critchell

Associated Press

Wednesday July 4, 2007

Dust off that satin bomber jacket and pull on those tube socks - right to the knee, please - then delve into the attic on a mission to find your roller skates: "Xanadu" is opening on Broadway this month.

Could this be the start of a roller disco redux?

Before you shake your head in disbelief, consider that Macy's giant Herald Square store plans a "Roller Boogie"-themed in-store boutique; leggings already have become ubiquitous among the fashionable; and gold lame had a presence on the red carpet at the Oscars this year (a Carolina Herrera gown worn by Jada Pinkett Smith).

Sure, the 1980s might very well be the most maligned fashion decade, but many of its key looks are being worn today - maybe those wearing sorbet-colored tube tops and white-trimmed jogging shorts simply don't know that those pieces had their first heyday as accessories to old-school, four-wheel skates.

At a recent preview of "Xanadu," a musical based on the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John about a muse who encourages a starving artist to pursue his dreams of building a roller rink, the cast wore metallic leggings, graphic T-shirts and barrettes made of woven satin ribbon. That was all to be expected.

But what was particularly noticeable was the mint green dance dress, yellow track jacket and hot pink metallic shoes on a woman in the audience - she could've jumped onstage and blended in seamlessly.

"We're definitely seeing '80s as the latest retro influence, from high-waisted jeans to super-bright neon colors to big hair and the return of perms - spotted on both males and females," says Carla Avruch, director of consumer insights and trends at market research firm The Zandl Group.

She points to '80s-themed nights at clubs and the success of American Apparel, a company that's made tiny, shiny workout shorts cool again.

Russell Orlando, a fashion director at Macy's East, remembers that the "Let's Get Physical" craze was in full swing in the early '80s. "I was there then. It was carefree and fun, but even though it was a casual look, it was always neat," he says. "It was body conscious. Shorts were skin-tight, but everyone was doing Jane Fonda."

Anoma Whittaker, fashion director at the skater magazine Complex, says the style of the late '70s and early '80s is now appealing to a younger crowd because it comes from a time that is perceived as exuding confidence and expression.

"It was a fun time. There was confidence of color and texture. There was nylon, metallics and a touch of sport," Whittaker says.

At American Apparel, designers didn't overanalyze the how and the why of bringing back roller-inspired fashion; they simply saw "Roller Boogie" one too many times. In the 1979 movie, Linda Blair tries to save her favorite on-wheels disco.

"We became obsessed with that movie. We made a lot of pieces that were inspired by it. It was a whim and obsession with that film - and the items have sold," says Matthew Swenson, the company's fashion media director.

Macy's Orlando also caught that Linda Blair flick. And now you will see it at the world's largest department store - in a toned-down way - with a display of shorts, rompers, bodysuits, and tube and halter tops in a smattering of summery colors such as watermelon, turquoise, coral, yellow and orange.

Orlando noted how good this whole look was on Jessica Simpson in last year's video for "A Public Affair."

"I had already seen a lot of '70s and '80s retro and the active trend - then I saw Jessica Simpson. I said, 'This is a piece of what's going to happen in spring '08."

This season's display is a way to get ahead of the trend, he explains.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.