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Do you love the 1980s?
This decade saw the rise and fall of numerous trends. From neon to preppy styles, there is a subculture for all tastes. We love this decade and want to make sure these styles survive! In this article, you’ll find a style guide and tips to help you curate any 1980s style. Whether you’re going to a themed party or want to embrace this style every day, we’ve got your back.
As Vivienne Westwood said, “Buy less, choose well, and do it yourself!”
If you like to get creative with your clothes, keep on reading. There’s a 1980s look for everyone – find yours today!
The Top 80s Clothing Looks
Ready to revamp your wardrobe? Here’s a complete guide to all 1980s clothing fads!
Urban Hip-Hop Fashion
If you love modern street style or hip-hop music, this trend is for you. In the 80s hip-hop fashion was popular in cities and urban areas and many of the silhouettes came directly from the music scene. Popular female-style icons included Queen Latifa and Salt-N-Pepa. Women embraced bold colors, baggy silhouettes, and attitudes for this style.
Get The Look:
- Make sure you invest in some retro sneakers to complete your outfit.
- Add hoop earrings and some chunky chains for accessories.
Edgy Punk Rock
Do you want an edgy look? 80s punk was the precursor to 90s grunge. While some 1980s trends focused on glamor and excess, this trend changed preppy fashion back to a rebellious style. With leather, ripped denim, and bright hair, punk isn’t for the faint of heart.
Get The Look:
- Make-up and hair dye are a big part of this style. Go build with your eyeliner and shadow. Opt for red, purple, or black lipstick – no pinks!
- If you own combat boots, make these your go-to shoes.
- Do you own any denim? Get the scissors out and rip it to shreds. The more disheveled the better.
Want To Be Goth?
Another dark subculture that thrived in the 1980s is goth fashion. With musicians like Siouxsie and The Banshees coming to the forefront, girls were dying their hair black and opting for all-black clothes. It goes without saying, this look needs a very dark color palette to avoid any light hues!
Get The Look:
- If you can, dye your hair black to embody the dark style
- Taking style inspiration from gothic musicians in the 1980s, these singers set all of the fashion trends.
Join The Metal Club
Music will always influence fashion. The 1980s is known for its rowdy metal bands, such as Motley Crue. While these bands were usually full of men, women also embraced the metal and rock trends. This style needs big hair, slinky styles, and big heeled boots. You want to look edgy, yet sexy at the same time.
Get The Look:
- Since the men on the glam rock and metal scene often used makeup, you can copy their styles.
- Over-the-top fashion is crucial here. Go for glitter, bright colors, and different textures.
- Platform boots should be paired with all outfits.
Back To College
Though many 1980s subcultures were about going against the trends, the preppy style focused on fitting into the mainstream. If you prefer classic silhouettes and conservative looks, this is the style for you. The key here is to dress like you’re studying at an Ivy League college. Opt for argyle sweaters, tailored skirts, and brogue shoes.
Get The Look:
- The color palettes of this trend tend to be neutral. However, add some pops of baby blue or pink for a modern and feminine essence.
- Popular preppy accessories include Alice bands, hair bows, or berets.
80s Skater Style
Skaters have always been cool. This is an androgynous style, perfect for anyone wanting to avoid tight silhouettes or ultra-femme trends. When you look at the top skaters of the 80s, they favored baggy tees, loose pants, and mismatching prints. Logo designs are also a must.
Get The Look:
- Make sure you always go for an oversized fit.
- If you can, buy a skateboard to complete the full aesthetic!
Back To The Office
Do you know what a yuppie is? In the 80s the young professional ruled the style game. With more youngsters moving into the corporate world, they set the business trends. This is an ideal aesthetic for any professional today too. Women of this era favored tailored jackets with cinched waists, shoulder pads, peplum dresses, and kitten heels.
Get The Look:
- The clothes for this style need to be office-ready. Avoid any modern trends and go back to the basics of tailoring.
- Heels are perfect for a business style but don’t go too high. A kitten heel is the perfect size to add some emphasis to your style.
- Chunky belts are also important. Add this to your look to make sure your figure is flattered.
Time To Get Fit In Style
Fitness fads (like aerobics) were very popular in the 1980s and there were fashion trends that came with them. These workout clothes are much more dramatic than the styles we are used to today. The 1980s workout wear features bold neon colors, skimpy leotards, legwarmers, and fitted body shorts. Mixing colors and patterns is a must here!
Get The Look:
- Match your leggings to the color or pattern of your top/leotard for a comprehensive style.
- Though working out gets you sweaty, the ladies in the 1980s still did their hair! Get your hairspray out and tease your locks.
Top 80s Mom Fashion
Moms always have the best style, especially the moms in the 1980s. These ladies influenced denim so much that a style was named after them! Obviously, mom jeans are a must for this casual style, but there are other essentials too. Stock up on cardigans, tailored shirts, and pencil skirts too.
Get The Look:
- This style aims to look casual, yet put together. Make sure your clothes fit well.
- Ankle boots and dress shoes were popular pairings with these outfits.
- Go for natural makeup. The aim is to look polished and not over the top.
Get Beach Ready 80s Style
If you’re planning a summer holiday this year, why don’t you switch your style up and opt for an 80s vibe instead? The ladies in the 80s knew how to look hot when they were at the beach, so we can always take tips from them. Key styles included bandeau tops, high-cut bikinis, and v-necklines. Everything was on show here!
Get The Look:
- If you’re opting for a one-piece, make sure it sculpts your figure. Try buying it in a single color without a print, this will allow the cut of the swimwear to do all the talking.
- Alternatively, if you’re going for the bikini look try a loud print.
- Similar to the aerobics trend, swimwear was fun and sexy at the same time.
Dress Like The Best – 80s Icons
Sometimes it’s best to get fashion advice from industry leaders. Celebrities and models always affect the trends, so go with them – not against them! If you want the 80s model look, follow Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shield’s advice and opt for figure-enhancing styles. If you’d prefer to look like an 80s celebrity, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are icons to check out.
Get The Look:
- Key pieces to embrace for a model look are high-quality fabrics, designer labels, and bold eyeshadow looks.
- If you want to look like an 80s singer, go big and bold. These ladies embraced fashion and makeup to the extremes.
Steal The Madonna Look
Though we touched on Madonna’s style in the 80s icons section, she was so influential that she needs her own paragraph. Madonna was at the forefront of fashion in this decade and it’s easy to see why. With a new style for every video, performance, or red carpet event, she never stopped experimenting.
Get The Look:
- Teased blonde hair is a must for a true 80s Madonna look.
- Madonna always piled up her jewelry, so stack those necklaces and bracelets high!
- Fishnets and mesh are essential. If your fabric isn’t see-through it’s not Madonna.
80s Teen Style: Nostalgia For Days
Yes, the women of the 1980s were iconic, but so were the teen girls too. With directors (such as John Hughes) setting the trends for teens via film, young girls had more fashion options than ever. Whether you copied Winona Ryder or Molly Ringwald, there were multiple young icons to lead you to your personal style.
Get The Look:
- Layering was a must in the 1980s, if you were only wearing one layer you looked basic.
- Teen styles often included slouchy denim looks for casual events.
- Make-up was minimal and clothes were colorful! Try experimenting with clashing hues or tonal palettes.
Include Your Kids!
Kids also got to express themselves through fashion in the 1980s. This decade was all about fun and excess, a concept that translated into the fashion of the time. Girls sported ruffle skirts, bright prints, and demic jackets. Leg warmers and ankle socks were in-vogue too.
Get The Look:
- Printed sweaters were also a go-to for kids. These cozy pieces allowed them to stay warm and play at the same time.
- Corduroy trousers were another wardrobe essential. These also came in a range of colors and were super comfy too.
80s Fashion For Tots
Want to dress your baby in 80s chic? This decade was a great time for kids and baby fashion. Color and print were all the rage, so your kids looked cuter than ever. Popular outfits for babies included bright printed onesies, baggy bands, and clothes inspired by popular TV characters.
Get The Look:
- If you want your baby to look straight out of a 1980s film, look online. There are a range of resale sites (like eBay and Etsy) where parents are selling their true vintage clothes for a low price.
Neon, Neon, & More Neon!
By this point, we all remember the 80s as a time when color was everywhere. Not only that, but neon hues were the most popular colors of all. If you want to get this look, there are two ways to do it. You should go all or nothing here! Either dress in full neon – which isn’t for everyone. Alternatively, you can opt to add hints of neon to your outfit, a more subtle nod to the fad.
Get The Look:
- Try experimenting with one color at a time. Different neon pieces that are similar can offer a sophisticated tonal look.
- If you’d rather opt for hints of neon, start with small pieces. Add some neon accessories or a simple neon top to start.
Let’s Embrace 80s Makeup Trends Again
The 1980s style wasn’t just about clothes, this decade also saw a lot of makeup experimentation. Get your eyeshadow palette out and try these popular styles!
Intense Flirty Eyeshadow
If you look back at 1980s fashion images, many women have bold eyeshadow makeup styles. These styles tended to blend out until the brow to make sure they were seen. Popular intense eyeshadow styles included dark black smokey eyes, neon pops of color, and blue colors.
Get The Look:
- The eyeshadow looks of the 1980s never included winged eyeliner. Though this is a popular modern trend, it shouldn’t appear in a true 1980s look.
- If you’re unsure which color to choose, we recommend blue as this was the most popular at the time.
Subtle Nude Minimalistic Style
The other key makeup trend in the 1980s was nude makeup. This completely contrasts the dramatic styles and foreshadows the bare look in the 1990s. Nude makeup focuses on looking fresh and healthy, with small makeup details instead.
Get The Look:
- Try skipping the colorful eyeshadow or lipstick for this style. Replace these with bare/pale colors instead.
- Ditch the contour too! This style is about soft shapes and relaxed styles.
Don’t Forget Your Hair!
After picking your clothes and makeup, it’s time to get your hair ready. The 80s were known for extreme looks, so get your hairspray ready.
All Things Curly, Permed, and Crimped Hair
When you look back at 1980s films or photos, one style sticks out more than most – curly hair. Bigger was better in this period, so there’s no wonder that these voluminous styles ruled the fashion magazines. There were various ways to achieve this look – including rollers, perms, and crimped styles. Each gives a different look, but the main effect is the same – crazy big hair! Always fix your style with some hairspray to ensure it lasts all day.
Prefer Straight Hair?
Though it wasn’t as popular, some women did opt for straight hairstyles in the 1980s. If your hair is naturally straight and you don’t want to go through the fuss of curling it every day, you might want to replicate a straight style.
Perhaps the most popular straight hairstyle was the teased style. Like curly hair, this ‘do was voluminous, but instead of curls, it was wild. To get this style women used gels and sprays to make their hair more dramatic.
Be Bold With Mullet Hair
If you want to commit to a 1980s hairstyle, you should ask for a mullet at your next appointment. This unique style is long at the back and short at the front – ideal for anyone who wants a low-maintenance style. Mullets actually saw a return to the spotlight in 2021, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to embrace this vintage trend.
Every 80s Ponytail
Updos are perfect for when you don’t want to have your hair on your face. During the 80s, ponytails were all the rage and there are multiple styles to choose from.
The bubble ponytail is a look we’d love to see back in the mainstream. This style involves tying your hair into a high ponytail and then using additional hair bands to create bubble sections in the loose hair. This may not be an everyday style, but it’s great for an evening look.
Another 1980s staple is the high ponytail. This style involves raking your hair as high as you can and securing it with a hair tie. Scrunchies were popular accessories for this style and many also curled their hair for maximum volume once it was tied. This style can be messy or neat – it’s up to you.
Finally, the side ponytail was also a go-to look for the ladies in the 80s. Instead of pulling your hair up high, this look could be worn low too. This was also often fastened with a scrunchie or another dramatic accessory for top style points.
Remember The Whale Spout Style?
Do you remember this classic 1980s hairstyle? The whale spout style was all about height and drama. Usually tied with a small scrunchie, the whale spout was a small ponytail section that sat on the crown of your head. This is a half up and half down style that works well for both casual days and evening events depending on how you style it.
Explore Asymmetrical Hairstyle
Who says hair needs to be symmetrical on both sides? The 80s is known for breaking boundaries and fashion rules, so there’s no wonder asymmetrical hairstyles were in. From the side ponytail to shaved sides and undercuts, women worldwide experimented with their locks.
Time To Accessorize
Once your hairstyle is complete, it’s time to add some extra accessories! Make you ready for the event with some of these extras.
All 80s Headbands
Headbands, or Alice bands, were a popular add-on to any hairstyle in the 1980s. Some variations of these tools were loud and others were minimal, so whatever your aesthetic is, there’s a band for you!
A key 1980s trend that came from the Sloane Ranger style is the padded headband. This accessory has made a huge comeback in the past two years, so we’ll be surprised if you don’t already own one. Add this accessory to any preppy outfit to add a finishing touch.
Alternatively, if you want a less-preppy headband option you can opt for a bandana. Loved by the hip-hop community and rappers, this hair accessory was common in a paisley print. Wearers can wear it as a hair covering or a band, perfect if you want to get creative with styling. These bandanas were most popular in red or blue colors, but you can find them in pops of pink, green, or multi-color options too.
Have you ever tried a hair wrap? This style was a Madonna staple back in the 1980s, so all super fans will know this style already. Madonna often used pieces of fabric to create a neat updo look that works well for casual occasions. These wraps would tie in a bow on the bow of her head, or she would neatly tuck the edges away. Pair this trend with some dangly earrings and shades for a celebrity style.
Another essential 1980s headband option was a large bow. While you can find clips in bows, you can also use a large piece of ribbon to create a bow too. When it comes to bows, go big and bold! Place them at the crown of your head or just above a ponytail for the best look.
Don’t Forget Scrunchies!
Scrunchies are one of the most well-known 80s hair accessories. While they used to get mocked, these accessories also made a comeback and you can easily find them now. Whether you want an oversized accessory or a small scrunchie, you can find options in all stores. Pair your scrunchie with a high pony for an authentic 80s style.
The Best 80s Clips
The 1980s was a haven for any clip lovers. This era saw hair accessory innovations and crazy styles. If you’re looking to add some nostalgic clips to your hairstyles, try some of these.
Banana Clips are a true 1980s favorite. These are the precursor to the popular claw clip, as they also scrape hair back into a ponytail. Unlike claw clips, banana clips are curved and include more teeth. This leads to a neater style and more dramatic volume in the ponytail. For a true 1980s style curl your hair before inserting the clip and add a bow at the top of the pony.
Do you want to add feminine detail to your hair? Flower hair clips might be best for you! With soft pastel colors and dainty designs, these were extremely popular. Add these to a bun as a finishing touch or use one to keep your hair out of your eyes.
Would you rather opt for a fun style than a dainty look? Try the unique shoelace hair clips. Unlike feminine flowers, these clips are bold and colorful – a true 1980s icon. A bonus to these clips is that they’re stackable so you can add as many as you want.
Colorful Hair For Dye Lovers
If you’re all about color and self-expression, you should take note from Cyndi Lauper. This 80s singer was a true rebel and often changed her hair color in the 1980s. From yellow to orange and even hot pink, Cyndi has some iconic looks under her belt. When recreating an 80s dye job, go bold with the color and avoid modern pastel shades.
Essential 80s Hair Tools
If you’re gearing up to get the 1980s hair look, you should also consider investing in some of the best hair tools! These tools will have your hair looking like an authentic 80s style.
- Hair Combs
- Hot Rollers
- Teaser Combs
Though these tools aren’t that common today, they’re essential for getting the voluminous curly styles that were popular during this period. Make sure you watch some helpful YouTube tutorials before diving in, as these will show you how to use the hair accessories correctly!
Key Clothes To Buy For A 1980s Wardrobe
If you’re aiming to build an 80s-inspired wardrobe, you should focus on collections staple pieces rather than focusing on full outfits. Owning a range of interchangeable pieces allows you to mix and match styles and you won’t be stuck with one or two full looks.
Here are some key clothes to look out for when shopping!
Opt For Big Shoulders
The first step to building a 1980s wardrobe is buying a blazer with shoulder pads. The second step is to buy another!
If there’s one garment that signifies the 80s, it’s a blazer with padded shoulders. Power dressing is a key trope to embrace, so get out and buy a blazer or two. If you’re not going for the formal look, you might want to skip this step – but we advise at least trying a blazer or blouse with extra shoulder padding just in case. This trend is still around now, so you should be able to try one easily.
Don’t Shy From Bold Colors & Patterns
When it comes to color palette and surface decoration, the 1980s was a time to experiment. Even if you wanted to try the preppy 80s style, there were still more options than ever in terms of color. Whether you clash prints or opt for neon colors, don’t hold back when shopping.
Add Some Sequins
When shopping, you need to make sure you buy an even balance of day wear and evening wear. A girl always needs a few options for parties, so be sure to look out for any garments with sequin embellishments!
This was a popular trend in the 1980s and it suits nightlife well. From multi-color designs to bold gold clothes, anything shiny fits the theme. We love sequin blazers as these mix two key 80s trends.
You Can’t Have Too Many Ruffles
We can’t stress how important ruffles are when building an 80s wardrobe. Though stores today offer ruffle clothes, the ruffles on these pieces are small and demure. In contrast, the ruffles in the 1980s were bold and in your face. These were popular on dresses and skirts, plus you can find blouses with 80s ruffles too.
Cute Off The Shoulder Looks
If you prefer sleek silhouettes, an off-the-shoulder top or skirt might fit your style better. The off the shoulder trend is perfect for any girl who wants a flirty evening look. One of the best examples of this trend is Winona Ryder in the movie Heathers – an iconic costume look that is still stylish today.
Try Some Mini Skirts
Want to show some leg? Ra-Ra mini skirts were all the rage in the 1980s. These short skirts came in a range of fabrics including leather, denim, and cotton too. We recommend pairing your skirt with a blazer and an off-the-shoulder top for a full 1980s combination.
Leggings For Comfort And Style
Leggings were another go-to for 1980s women. Whether they were dressing leggings up for a nighttime style or wearing them with a casual sweater for daytime wear, you could always spot them. These were especially popular for aerobics exercise classes or running. Ladies could even purchase stirrup leggings that were secured under their feet for extra protection. If you want a pair for evening use, opt for a metallic colorway instead.
Remember To Add Tights
As you might expect, block color tights were popular in the 80s. Anything colorful was a must in this decade, so there is no surprise ladies ignored solid black tights in favor of colorful options. Either color coordinate your tights and outfit, or opt for colors that clash for a visually appealing outfit. You could also find patterned tights in this era too. Popular styles included knitted tights, polka dot prints, and more.
If you don’t fancy playing around with colorful tights, you can try the fishnet trend instead. This trend was loved by celebrities and models, as these flirty tights showed some skin through their net-like design. This is a must-try option for anyone recreating an 80s goth or punk style too.
Denim Jackets Are Always Relevant
Though some associate denim jackets with the 1990s grunge scene, these jackets were actually already popular during the 1980s. From moms to teenagers, it was common to own a jacket. Denim is a versatile fabric, so there are lots of different looks for you to try.
In the 80s, popular silhouettes include baggy and oversized jackets or cropped jackets. These were most common in standard blue denim, but you could find acid wash varieties too. It was also common to sew patches onto your jacket if you were heavily into punk music scenes, so get creative!
Footwear To Finish The Look
Once you’ve chosen your style, hair, accessories, and clothes, it’s finally time to finish your outfit with some shoes. Here are the top 80s shoes to add to your wardrobe today!
Reebok High Tops
Reebok High Tops are an 80s classic. These sneakers have a modern shape and detailed topstitching, plus they have extra ankle support due to their high-top design. A classic colorway for these is white, but you can find a range of alternative colors too.
These pair well with casual outfits, so get your mom jeans out and wear them together. You can pair these with mini skirts too, perfect for times when you don’t want to wear heels or uncomfortable shoes. If you opt for the white pair, make sure to keep them clean!
Adidas Superstar Sneakers
Though many younger readers will recognize these shoes from modern fashion, they were actually first popular in the 1980s. Adidas Superstar Sneakers were first popular on the 80s hip-hop scene, however, their influencer trickled down into the mainstream fashion trends.
You can now buy these sneakers in a range of colors, but the original white with black stripe option will always be the best. Make sure you pair these with bold hoop earrings and teased hair for a complete 80s style. If you want a more feminine option, you can buy these shoes in baby pink or purple too.
Not a sneakers girl? Don’t worry! The 80s had a range of shoes that weren’t sneakers too.
A popular option for ladies in the 80s was moccasins. These casual shoes were comfortable and stylish, perfect for anyone who wasn’t heavily influenced by urban street style. The most popular color for moccasins was brown, but you can find other variations too. Pair these with a cozy cardigan and leggings for a day-to-day errands style.
Low Heel Flats
We put a lot of emphasis on high heels today, but do we really need the extra height – and discomfort?
Swap your heeled wedges for some low heel flats or 80s kitten heels. These comfy alternatives are still style-conscious, however, they aren’t uncomfortable or prone to blisters. This style was popular in pumps and boots, plus the low heel makes the shoe appropriate for more occasions. Try adding a low-heel to your dress looks and see them transform your outfit before your eyes.
The low-heel pumps were also an office staple, so if you’re embracing the 1980s style at work check out a pair of these. They pair perfectly with a peplum dress and a shoulder pad, so live your 80s fantasy with these shoes.
Going away and need a new sandal?
Don’t splurge on a sandal that doesn’t protect your foot, instead check out the popular 80s Huaraches style. This sandal kept your foot covered, but still had holes for breathability. This makes it perfect for hot and humid weather, plus they look trendy too. These shoes are popular in brown or white colors, making them easy to pair with any color palette.
These unique shoes originally come from Mexico, so there’s no wonder they’re great for hot weather. The sandals are traditionally made from braided leather, but you can find vegan versions today if needed.
Vans were a leading shoe in the 80s and they still are today. If you’re looking for a comfortable everyday sneaker, this is the shoe for you. However, don’t go for a classic black and white shoe! Try a neon pair of Vans instead.
Shoes are a great way to add a pop of color, so experiment with your Vans. This brand has always been a leader when it comes to print and color, so you can trust their neon shoes will be bright enough to impress. These shoes are also super comfortable and perfect for everyday style.
Our Final Thoughts
Whether you’re new to the 80s trends or not, we hope this list has inspired you to get out there and shop. A final tip is to check vintage stores and resale websites, as these stores offer pre-loved genuine 80s clothes that will give your style more authenticity. Depop and eBay are also great outlets to find some 80s gems.
Remember, always experiment with style. As Madonna said “I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.” Dress true to your personal taste and you’ll always look your best.
What do you think of the 1980s style? Will you be embracing these tips? Let us know in the comments.
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