The 1980s was an iconic decade in the history of fashion. It was one of, if not the most, boldest and colorful era the fashion industry has ever had. It was well loved and hated at the same time. It was a maximal decade of fashion that did away with the traditional minimalist and escaped to a more fun and vibrant styles.
There was a lot of things and trends going on in the 80s that made Madonna, Brooke Shields, Jerry Hall, and Joanne Jett the fashion icons of the decade along with many other personalities. To state it simply, the 80s fashion was all about being ‘extra’. Fashion apparels came in bold, oversized, and out-of-the-box. While there was an evident change from the 80s fashion and now, it was indeed a remarkable decade that even up to now, its influence still stands. So let us take a trip down memory lane and see what were the top fashion offering of the 1980s. We round up some of the most memorable to come up with our list of the top 20 80s fashion trends.
The 1980s also featured the masculine tailoring. Although women have begun sporting power suits as early as 1910, power suits when full throttle in the 80s. The said decade showed he transition from masculine tailoring to a more feminine power suit. This was the result of a division among designers who on one hand, created masculine suit for women thereby taking the sex out of fashion, and others on the other hand, embraced the femininity and individuality of women who even when dressed un-masculine, would still exhibit power and authority.
If we talk about the 80s fashion, many would immediately think of shoulder pads. Back then, shoulder pads were used anywhere especially when evening wear for ladies has once again become a trend. Shoulder pads were used by many women to achieve a more structured suit, which was another fashion trend during that time. Shoulder pads were instrumental to the decade’s fashion statement that is power dressing. Well, the shoulder pads started off innocently, but though time, they had become larger in size and later on were attached to Velcro.
The 1980s was widely viewed as a glamorous decade for fashion. Proof? Sequined outfit. Night parties and events were attended by many individuals glammed-up in sequined dresses or ensembles. Performers of the decade graced the stage with show-stopping performance in bright and glimmering sequined costumes that were even taken to a notch higher by decorating them with tassels.
The origin of high-waisted jeans can be traced to the 1940s when denim maker, Levi’s, designed and manufactured said jeans for women working in the factories and on land. Since then, the flattering silhouette of high-waisted jeans had many women wearing the same. With the rise of other trends, high-waisted jeans have gone out of the limelight and only became a trend in the 1980s. In the 1980s, high-waisted jeans came in various styles and washes, some of which still resemble the vintage fashion.
The punk fashion has been widely represented in the 80s through the popularity of leather jackets. Men and women wore leather jackets from the celebrities to women and men in the streets. This was an influence of music and the increase in the number of automobiles that saw drivers in jackets.
From Jon Bon Jovi to Madonna, some of the fashion icons in the 80s sported their own take on ripped jeans. It was worn by both kids and adults during that time. Ripped jeans were brought in the some fashion retailers, while others turned their regular jeans by personally ripping them. During that time, ripped jeans were must-have items to achieve a cool and edgy look. The bigger the holes, the cooler. Apart from the ripped jeans, frayed jeans were also a trend.
Leotard or leg warmers
Apart from the cool and the funky fashion in 1980s, the colorful decade also witnessed the use of leotard and leg warmers. This should not come as a surprise as the 80s was also the decade of Jane Fonda, whose aerobic workout videos featured colorful leotards and leg warmers. Leg warmers were inventions of the past, long before the 80s to protect dancers from cramp by keeping their legs warm. They resurfaced, however, in the 80s together with brightly colored leotard just as when aerobic exercises became a thing.
Bodysuits were fashion staples in the 80s and 90s, as they were worn with high-waisted jeans. The high-rise bodysuits were more common as part of activewear 80s fashion. Other types of bodysuit were used by performers like Madonna. Bodysuits were even worn over leggings in many aerobic videos of the 80s. The difference between the bodysuits back then and today are that the bodysuits we have at the moment are definitely more chic and come in pretty pastel colors.
Another iconic fashion statement in the 80s is the headband. Headbands during that time came in different styles for varying purposes. Others were used to go well with their aerobic outfits, while others were made of bandanas for 80s punk fashion. The former, called as sweatbands, were worn by both men and women and were available in various bright and vibrant colors.
The 1980s was also the decade for boots that came in different heights. There are those calf-length boots and there are those as high as the thighs, which were common for women in the entertainment industry. Case in point is Madonna who wore thigh-high boots in her music videos and performances. Heavy duty boots were also widely worn by both men and women to complement their punk-inspired outfits.
Another fashion trend in the 80s, which has transcended up to today, is the bodycon. Just as the 80s was the year for masculine tailoring, the division among designers also gave rise to more feminine fashion style that includes bodycon. Azzedine Alaia’s 1986 collection embodied the trend on bodycon apparels during that time. The same was followed by the bandage dress by Herve Leger in 1989.
Of course, nobody misses out on the full-volume hairstyles of the men and women in the 80s. Whether donning a straight or perm, hairspray makes sure you are always on top of the game. The gorgeous women, celebrities and models, were generally in extreme curls or waves that were held together by hairspray. But apart from women, men also wore big hairs like their favorite rock stars.
Slogan or graphic tees
Slogan t-shirts have been around since 1960s as a symbol of counterculture. But it was in the 80s when slogan shirts really hit the jackpot. The 80s fashion was about bold and glamorous pieces. In general, it was all about making a statement. Realizing that shirts can contain any statement or idea, slogan shirts have become more popular. Apart from expressing one’s self, slogan t-shirts were also used as medium to advance one’s cause or advocacy. Apart from that, graphic tees have become prevalent as a chic and cool piece to match their jeans.
Did we say that 80s fashion was big and bold? Apart from the extraordinary fashion pieces we could not bear to wear at this day, another trend in the decade was neon. The 80s screams flashy and bright neon costumes from the sweatbands, leggings, leg warmers, socks, ensemble, ties, and makeup. Neon timely and appropriately belonged in the 80s where it was really about bright colors and statement fashion.
Another popular fashion apparel that made headlines in the 80s was the fanny pack or what we now refer to as waist bag or belt bag. Some attributed their popularity from the use of bikers and soldiers of these zippered pouches in the past. By late 1980s, fanny packs were everywhere and they came in eye-catching, bright and bold colors and prints.
Along with big hairs in the 80s, huge earrings were also a common sight. Pop stars and movie actresses wore these chunky or round earrings that were not only big, but also colorful and bold. From casual wear to evening wear, women at that time fell in the craze for huge earrings. But apart from that, women also sported chunky jewelries that include bracelet and necklace.
This next trend may not be as bold as the other trends as it came out to achieve a more classic and modest look. These roll-neck or turtlenecks were big hits in the 80s. They wore worn underneath a shirt and checked jacket, blazer, or coat. This may sound like “now” because this 80s-inspired look has just recently resurfaced in street style fashion.
Oversized denim jacket
Hip-hop and street fashion during the 1980s would never be complete without the oversized denim jacket. This trend is reminiscent of The Breakfast Club movie. Both men and women wore oversized denim jacket, which they would normally layer over a graphic or slogan t-shirt.
Fans of the stylish and chic miniskirt has a lot to thank to the 80s fashion. Singer and fashion icon, Kylie Minogue, was among the first to sport a miniskirt. She used to wear a variety of minidresses in the 80s. And while miniskirt were created for function purposes, by 1980s it had become a fashion apparel that women started to wear leisurely and it was even adopted as a work uniform for them.
Capping off the list is the still relevant and stylish oversized sunglasses. Women wear oversized sunglasses to complement their casual street wear and even semi-formal wear for an edgier or cooler look. A variation of these oversized sunglasses, geek-chic eyeglasses were also widespread featuring colorful frames.