Fashion stylist Bertie Bowen channels the clothes and spirit of a fictional character. This week, she’s talking the woman who rises above the bad taste of the 80s in Deutschland 83.
There’s not much current telly that grabs my attention, as you can probably tell from many of my previous columns, I tend to rewatch old films and box sets but Channel 4’s Deutschland 83 had me riveted from the start. Apart from the tense drama, the catchy, at times incongruous, soundtrack, and fit (way too young for me) lead man, this series has taught me some history on divided Germany in the 80s as well as the fashion of that era.
Set in 1983 (obvs) the clothes are colourful and at times, bad taste (well it was the 80s) except for one character: Lenora Rauch, played by Maria Schrader. It is so good to see a strong-minded and multifaceted female character playing a part which is integral to the dramatic plot. At first I disliked her, but soon began to realise her strengths outweighed her sometimes questionable actions.
If the 1980s is an influence this season, let’s do it Lenora style…
The 1980s was an era for bold, bright colour but Lenora wears colour in a more subtle and interesting way. Her job may mean she needs to be seen as serious and competent in a room full of men in grey suits but this does not affect her sartorial choices.
Lenora wears vibrant colours but often teams them with neutral tones to avoid looking garish. In fact, it’s her clever colour combinations that made me notice her style in the first place; chocolate paired with pink, mustard mixed with burgundy, teal teamed with navy: her strong and complex use of colour perfectly mirroring her strong, complex character. When it comes to colour, think outside the box.
Graphic stripes, chevrons and spots add another brave element to Lenora’s wardrobe, again demonstrating that she is not afraid to stand out from the crowd and speak up for herself. She must have been headstrong and tough-skinned to get to such an influential position as a woman in the workplace over 30 years ago. Perhaps she felt that, since she stood out as the only female anyway, she may as well wear a striking outfit to boot. You’ve got to admire her brazen attitude.
Lenora wears her skirts and dresses to mid-calf, her waist belted, her sleeves long and her neckline high, which is all very ladylike and demure. But the colour and print discussed above makes sure her look is never conservative. She is also fond of the 80s classic: the shoulder pad. What high-flying businesswoman would be without shoulder pads in this era?!
The sharp shoulder look is always a powerful signal to men: I may be female but I am your equal, and she pulls this off with aplomb. Invest in a pair of shoulder pads and sling them on when you need to feel more alpha.
I’ve never seen someone on screen with such similar hair to mine. It makes me smile and love her and feel like I know her, because we have the same dark coiled mass which makes us never look smart yet also never look boring. I straightened my hair once and I wanted to be called Becky* instead of Bertie and look down at my feet a lot. Embrace your waves/frizz/volume and hold your head high. Or get a perm; this was the 80s after all.
Lenora’s unapologetic approach to her wardrobe is very appealing to me. She wears colour and print in a grown-up, chic way and in doing so signals to the world her natural flair and self-assurance. She is the epitome of cool. How she managed to put those outfits together and make tough, political decisions every day I will never know. Lenora, I salute you.
*I have nothing against the name Becky, it’s just not me (like straight hair).2971 Views
Stylist, writer and mother living in East London. A clompy shoed, curly haired, Radio 4 enthusiast. www.mothershoppers.com