Target's company blog, A Bullseye View, has a fascinating look back at their long history of mixing high/low fashion. Back in the 80's, the discount retail landscape was "packed with affordable basics and casual wear." Target realized this, and instead of just wanting to fit in, wanted to stand out.
So in 1987, Target decided to "change strategy and become a store where people wanted to shop and experience – not just a store on sale filled with big brands and low prices." Years before offering up luxury design talents like Missoni and Zac Posen, Target built a foundation on beautifully-designed basics. Wardrobe staples like crisp white tees, stirrup pants (remember, this was the EIGHTIES!) and dress shirts could complement designer clothing already in shopper's closets. And thus their "What to Wear" ad campaign was born, running from 1990 to 1992. This was Target’s first step to epitomize both high style and high-low fashion, offering styling tips and explaining how to “trade into Target” by pairing affordable finds with designer wear – like basic stirrup pants with an Adrienne Vittadini sweater, or a plain dress shirt under an Austin Reed suit.
What I find MOST fascinating about this ad campaign, however, are the prices. The stirrup pants are $19.99, and the dress shirt is $24.99, which is pretty much on-par with today's prices. A quick scan of Target's site finds Mossimo leggings anywhere from $8-20, and Merona poplin shirts averaging $23. You can check out many more ads from this vintage campaign here.