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Rock was a huge part of the 80s in terms of music and fashion alike. Rock style in the 1980s was more glamorous and flamboyant than the rock we knew in the 90s and beyond.

Not to be confused with punk, female rock had a costume-like outrageous appeal to it, with big hair, colors, prints, and figure-hugging outfits. That’s not to say leather, denim, and masculine aesthetics weren’t present, as they absolutely were.

1980s female rockers who shook the world were Debbie Harry from the rock-new-wave band Blondie, pop-rocker Cyndi Lauper, Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders, The Bangles, The Vixens, and Pat Benatar (to name a few of many).

Let’s explore the unique styles of these iconic women and learn how we can adopt the 80s female rocker look into our 2020 lives. 

The look: big, feathered hair 

The inspiration:  1980s all-girl pop-rock band The Bangles had an eclectic, glamorous style complete with off-shoulder tops, fringe, thigh-high leather boots, statement earrings, and multiple prints. But it’s their hair we’re focusing on here, as they were the perfect example of quintessential 80s big, bold hair. 

The Bangles ladies had dyed-red locks, feathered and frayed strands at the top and straggly at the bottom like a very, very mild mullet. They had the fluffy half-up-half-down do, and the big, barrel fringe with crimping and a platinum-blonde dye-job.

However wild, their locks were far more accessible in style than other girl-bands of the time, whose extreme do’s would take a lifetime to create, not to mention brush out. 

How-to: 

  • Use hair straighteners or curlers to add large curls to your locks, then break and tease them with a brush, focusing on the roots. Add a texturizing or sea-salt spray to roughen the texture
  • Use a black leather scrunchy (or something similar) to make a sweet-rock do with half your hair piled on your head and the rest flowing down in feathered, teased glory. Add big, dangly earrings and smoky eyes to channel Bangle Susanna Hoffs 
  • Go crazy with spray-on or temporary dye and turn yourself into Micki Steele with a cherry-red shade 

The look: leather jackets, boots, bustiers, and pants 

The inspiration: 80s rock band Vixen were a more edgy, punk-inspired example of female 80s rocker fashion. Their signature costumes were made of black leather and lots of it. Let’s just say, if you ever want inspiration for an over-the-top 80s rocker costume party, turn to the Vixen crew. 

A typical ensemble may be a black velvet bustier top with leather pants and leather rollover boots, with bondage-style accessories. Or, tight leather pants with a neon leather top and a cropped jacket with wide shoulders, studs, chains, and colored leather patches.

They were also known to rock a little tye-die, animal print, and tartan amongst the abundance of leather. The hair was feathered to excess and the makeup was exactly as you’d imagine, extreme. 

How-to: 

  • Look for a pair of skin-tight, coated denim jeans (with a leather-look finish) and wear with a studded leather belt, velvet bodysuit, and a slimline blazer. A slimmer line will refine the look, as an 80s puffy cropped jacket may be too costume-heavy for general wear 
  • Wear distressed, black skinny jeans with studded black leather ankle boots, a plain black tee tucked into your waistband, and a studded leather jacket. If all-black is not for you, break it up with a grey marle or white tee 

The look: animal print, spandex, color, and embellishment

The inspiration: 80s pop-rocker Pat Benatar knew how to put together a killer costume that kept up with rocker trends while adding glam overtones and even a hint of 80s aerobics fashion.

For example, she wore a full spandex bodysuit in purple and black zebra-style print with a red patent belt, hazy purple eye makeup, and red peep-toe heels. 

Debbie Harry was also a pro at fusing fun fashion with gritty rock style. We love her blue sequined one-shoulder top with blue tights and bed hair, or the blue full bodysuit with one-shoulder and smoky eyes.

Debbie Harry’s style bridged rock, grunge, and punk styles, with a performative and glamorous thread running through. 

How-to: 

  • Look for an animal print tank or long-sleeved bodysuit (for cooler weather) and pair with ripped black jeans or blue boyfriend jeans. Add red leather heels and statement earrings for the perfect glam-rock-punk fusion
  • Layer shiny black spandex tights with an animal print mini, grey marle or black off-shoulder tee, and jewel-embellished leather jacket (if you’re up for a hot-mess outfit, in the very best way possible)

The look: layered tulle, multiple necklaces, and tartan 

The inspiration: Cyndi Lauper’s 80s rock style was all her own. Her style encompassed many quintessential 80s style markers such as bright, big hair, layered bracelets and necklaces, mismatched earrings, and voluminous skirts. 

However, her style was glam-rocker in the sense that it took everything as far as possible. For example, she wore multiple layers of tulle, tartan, and lace to create puffy, volume-heavy skirts.

She paired them with bustiers layered with mesh and organza, or a lace-up leather belt. Cyndi Lauper’s style was rock in a whimsical world, (the best kind). 

How-to: 

  • Wear a black velvet boned bustier with a tartan waistcoat, leather jacket, and layered tulle skirts for an 80s rock party (or a regular Saturday night). Wear chunky, high-top, lace-up Doc Martens and layered anklets 
  • Refine the look for everyday style with straight-leg tartan pants, a cotton blouse, and oversized blue denim jacket with black heeled booties 
  • Throw some matte red or blue shadow onto the lid and brow bone, and rim those eyes with black kohl

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