Throughout the past decades, few stylistic eras remain as nostalgic in our minds as ‘80s fashion. When it comes to clothes, the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s were pretty straightforward. However, between those decades was a rather eclectic time called the 1980s. The clothing styles were sharp, colorful and bulky. More amazing than the styles themselves were the iconic women of the decade who rocked those fads.
1. Layers – Madonna
When Madonna first hit the scene in 1983 with hits like “Lucky Star,” “Borderline” and “Holiday,” nobody could have guessed that she’d become one of the biggest fashion icons of the decade. However, a year later in 1984, Madonna released “Like A Virgin” and things changed forever. Seemingly overnight, she took the teenage world by storm.
It wasn’t just her edgy sound that got adoring fan, but it was also her outrageous new fashion. Madonna really brought layers into the limelight. She’d rock bulky shoulder-padded jackets over lacy shirts, mini skirts over spandex tights and those signature black lacy gloves. It didn’t take long before thousands of trendy teens transformed themselves into mini Madonnas.
2. Mini Skirt and Stockings – Cindy Crawford
Throughout the late ‘80s and ’90s, the modeling world pretty much revolved around Cindy Crawford. It wasn’t just her killer catwalk that made her so popular, but also her endearing personality. She cut the cold seriousness of the typical model way down and would often be seen smiling or laughing.
Being one of the world’s top models came with a ton of influence and you can bet that people saw the looks she was sporting and duplicated them. By the late ‘80s, short black skirts and black nylon stockings were everything. Tie that in with a large belt buckle and a bulky jacket and you had the trendiest look in town.
3. Fanny Pack – Tiffani Thiessen
When most people tuned into hit coming-of-age series Saved By The Bell back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, no doubt they were probably taking fashion tips from Tiffani Thiessen’s character Kelly Kapowski. She could always been seen sporting the hippest fashions. Whether they be neon tights or that signature ‘80s jean jacket.
When fashion changed from one year to the next, producers saw that the characters were hot on the hippest new trends. That said, behold Tiffani Thiessen in a fanny pack. These waist-fastened bags somewhat came into fashion at the tail-end of the ‘80 and took off in the ‘90s. While they weren’t exactly the coolest thing to wear back then, the fanny pack has recently reameraged and is cooler than ever.
4. Geometric Patters – Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields was America’s sweetheart back in the 1980s. Her career got off to a controversial start with the movie Pretty Baby. However, the film’s notoriety won her a lot of attention and helped her on the way to super stardom. Soon the actress/model was everywhere and she was even hanging out with the likes of other A-list celebrities like Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis.
As Shields entered her 20s, she could always be seen wearing the trendiest fashions. She was often one for bright colored suit jackets and long dresses. Pictured above is Shields in the late-1980s rocking what was typical beach wear during the time. What can be more old school then pink neon shorts and an oversized, geometric-patterned blouse?
5. Tulle – Cyndi Lauper
If neon colors weren’t trending back in 1982, they definitely were in 1983. That’s the same year that Cyndi Lauper released her debut album She’s So Unusual. She didn’t just drop hits like Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Time After Time, Cyndi also blew many away with her edgy style.
On TV and in concert, the young artist sported an experimental fashion sense that was in your face. She commonly sported bright hair with iconic punk rock princess styles fulls of lace, tulle, fishnets, oversized accessories and all. When Lauper wasn’t looking like a walking 1980s stereotype, she’d be wearing large coats and a bowl hat.
6. The Jean Jacket – Debbie Gibson
If you time traveled back to 1988 and found yourself crash landed in any random shopping mall, chances are you’ll see at least a couple dozen teenage girls sporting this particular fashion. For both women and men, blue jean jackets and blue jean pants was a combination that couldn’t fail.
If you felt like letting the world know how cool you were, all you’d need to do is roll up those sleeves. This style, also known as the Canadian Tuxedo, wasn’t unheard of before Debbie Gibson’s time, but the particular trend of acid washed jeans certainly had a meteoric rise in the 1980s.
7. Neon Makeup – Grace Jones
When it came to fashion and attitude, Grace Jones was decades ahead of her time. She rose to fame in the late 1970s and has since maintained a decades-long career. One of the trends that likely became popular with her help was neon makeup. By the time the 1980s rolled around, there were a number of artists sporting this look.
If you look back just a little further, you can catch pictures of Grace Jones in the Saturday Night Fever days sporting neon makeup at New York’s legendary disco club Studio 54. Neon makeup doesn’t really scratch the surface of how much ground this woman has broken during her time.
8. Spandex – Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano was only 12 when she began her career portraying Samantha Micelli on Who’s The Boss. While the role was minor, she’d eventually become one of the decade’s leading teen dreams. Being a teen, there was no way she was going to be caught dead without wearing something unbelievably ‘80s.
Spandex peaked in popularity during the 1980s and everyone was just waiting for the opportunity to sport it, and not just at the gym. In the ’80s, Spandex became a sartorial statement. Not just worn for practicality sake among athletes anymore, these synthetic garments largely inspired by rock stars and aerobic video vixens were practically seen everywhere.
9. Poofed Hair – Linda Hamilton
While we can totally dig a nice blazer and jean jacket, ’80s fashions today usually evokes feelings of nostalgia or dread. Tune into 1984’s The Terminator and you can get the perfect example of how much daylight there was between some of the fashion back then. Take for example Linda Hamilton – who portrayed female lead Sarah Connor – and her friend seen here dressed for a night out.
Sarah looks more dressed for church than a night out and her friend looks dressed for the gym. Then again, both of them are seen sporting one of the most iconic staple of the decade: poofed hair. Crimped, teased and blown out to the max with loads of product, bigger was definitely better in the ’80s.
10. Neon Hair – Dale Bozzio
Some have called Dale Bozzio the Lady Gaga of the early 1980s and we can definitely see why. She was the lead singer of the New Wave band Missing Persons and would always take to the stage wearing what were consider very daring outfits. Two distinct trade marks to the Dale Bozzio look was neon makeup and multi-colored hair.
Usually, she’d have it bleached blonde with bright pink accents, but it varied through her years in the limelight. She’d often mix her more eclectic styles with some of the decades already hot trends. Bozzio was no stranger to some very bold eye shadow or shiny spandex.
11. Statement Pieces – Christie Brinkley
We’re not sure what was bigger in the ’80s – big, bold statement jewelry or legendary supermodel Christie Brinkley’s renown as one of the biggest names in fashion. Seen here in 1983, the bombshell sports some super ’80s makeup along with an oversized, pinstripe blazer that was a common staple in women’s wardrobes back then.
Brinkley rose to fame in the ’70s thanks to her cover spots on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. But rising star only continued to shine for the decades to come as she branched out from modelling and added actress, designer and activist to her glamorous resume.
12. Fitness Gear – Jane Fonda
Being the daughter for Hollywood legend Henry Fonda meant that Jane would have some pretty big shoes to fill. People had their doubts about her, but by the time the 1960s rolled around, she had proved to the world that she had no problem stepping into her own. With a big hit like Barbarella cementing her in pop culture history, everyone knew her name by the end of the decade.
By the time the ‘80s rolled around, Fonda became a household name with her home aerobic videos. It was during these ultra ‘80s fitness videos that we saw more spandex and leg warmer than we could have ever imagined. And to be honest, we still kind of miss it!
13. Oversized Tops – Tiffany
The ‘80s was a time so jam-packed with stars, that you could have seen a dozen impactful artist hit the scene in a single year. Half of those artist would release one giant album and then swiftly fade from the public eye forever. This was sort of the story with mononymous ’80s icon Tiffany. She stepped onto the scene in 1987 with a cover version of I Think We’re Alone Now and an iconic mall tour.
The mall tours quickly elevated her to teen idol status. However, the young star couldn’t live up to her original success and quickly faded. Despite fading from the limelight, her image is something that will always be remembered. She rocked that typical 80’s look. If Tiffany wasn’t wearing a jean jacket, she’d rock knee high boots and a gigantic sweater.
14. Members Only Jackets – Demi Moore
Demi Moore’s career exploded in the early 1980s when she showed up in big hits like St. Elmo’s Fire and The Seventh Sign. Despite her Hollywood success, she managed to keep things toned down. One of Demi’s stand out traits was her ability to dress fashionably without seeming imposingly glamorous.
Here she is in a pair of paisley parachute pants and a members only jacket. Parachute pants first came into play in the 1980’s and reached their peak in 1990 when MC Hammer took their renown to new heights. They managed to stay in the public eye for a few years after that but eventually faded into obscurity for the most part. Parachute pants have made a recent comeback though, particularly among trekkers and yoga enthusiast.
15. Parachute Pants – Bo Derek
Bo Derek got her start in Hollywood when she was still in high school. The aspiring actress caught the attention of famed director John Derek and the two married within a couple years. She released a couple of acclaimed cult films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but was mainly recognized for being a bombshell of the era.
Derek was always on for high fashion and once the ‘70s transitioned into the ‘80s, Derek hopped onto the latest trends. Parachute pants were extremely popular in the 1980s and we’d say that Derek is doing a pretty legit job and rocking the style.
16. Bodysuits – Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar rose to fame in 1979 with the song “Heartbreaker.” It was a hit that quickly established her as one of the toughest women in rock music. She held onto her badass image right into the ‘80s with songs like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Love Is a Battlefield.”
Like the true trooper she is, she even took some of the most cringe worthy ‘80s fashions and made them look pretty cool. Head bands, suit jackets and a spandex bodysuits were just some of the look Benatar totally rocked at the height of her fame. She’s definitely someone who made ‘80s fashion look good.
17. The Power Shoulder – Elisabeth Shue
Elisabeth Shue was definitely one of the top “It” girls of the 1980s. She first hit it big with her role in The Karate Kid. Once Hollywood took notice her talent, she was then given parts in other 80s classics like Link, Adventures In Babysitting and the Back To The Future sequels.
Shue sported all the top fashions of the 1980s throughout the decade. She was seen in typical teenager wear, long coats and even jean jackets. In the picture above, we’re treated to a nostalgic shot of her in a dress that is that is taking the ‘80s shoulder pad look to a whole new level.
18. Leg Warmers – Heather Lockleer
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Heather Locklear was a television powerhouse. In the 1980s she could have been seen on Dynasty and T.J. Hooker. With her role in the latter show, she played a tough no-nonsense cop. This was definitely the show that portrayed her as a stand out star amid the ‘80s masses.
Pictured above is Heather Locklear is pictured in typical 1980s workout gear. You have the spandex, the tights and the classic leg warmers. While these pieces were originally used to keep dancers from getting cramps in their legs, they became a major fashion trend in the 1980s. This fad can likely be attributed to movies like Fame and Flashdance.
19. The Side Ponytail – Barbi Benton
Model Barbi Benton made huge waves in the 1970s by starring in the show Hee Haw and by posing regularly in Playboy magazine. She even a semi-successful musical career and released several albums in the ’70s and ’80s. Once the ‘80s rolled around, she continued modeling and acting.
In 1986, Barbi stepped away from the cameras and retired in an effort to raise her family. During her modeling shoots, she’d often be sporting the latest fads. Here she is with the beloved side ponytail. Many stars of the time could have seen sporting this hairstyle at one point or another.
20. Mom Jeans – Erika Eleniak
Erika Eleniak first came to light when she acted in a bit role in 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. While she didn’t exactly become the next big child star of the 1980s, she’d revisit acting once she finished school and became the first main character in Baywatch. After three seasons, she left the show and was replaced by Pamela Anderson.
Erika Eleniak’s career likely didn’t live up to her potential, but she did make a few waves in the early 1990s. Pictured above is her wearing a pair of the world famous mom jeans. The 1980s was probably the only decade when Hollywood gold could walk around like an average citizen.
21. Cut-Off Gloves – Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde was all over the airwaves back in the early ‘80s, when she released the hit single Kids In America. While she didn’t have such a huge impact on American audiences after the 1981 hit, she made a heck of wave across the pond in the UK. She released six albums throughout the decade and slew of singles.
Through her 1980s run, you could always depend on Kim to sport the latest fashion trend. She really captured the New Wave look going on in Europe. We’re talking cut-off gloves, chunk belts and big hair. In this particular picture, she is one rolled up sleeve short of looking like the most ‘80s person to ever exist.
22. High-Waist Jeans – Sean Young
After starring in movies like Blade Runner and Stripes in the early 1980’s, the whole world had their eyes on Sean Young. Despite the Hollywood lifestyle, nobody was going to make this actress part with her beloved mom jeans. While most clothes in the 1980s were sharp and bulky, there were othersides to it.
Sean Young captures perfectly that other side in the picture above. She is seen sporting the more flowing and oversized look.The big long jackets, tucked in shirts that were perhaps a size too large and world renowned mom jeans were a total thing. Mom jeans perhaps weren’t called mom jeans back then, but most 80’s ladies are moms now and still rocking these vintage gems.
23. Blazers – Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly was one of the decade’s many beloved child stars. In fact, she was only 16-years-old when she starred alongside David Bowie in 1986’s Labyrinth. The movie propelled her career into super stardom and eventually led to her acting in big hits like Blood Diamond and Rocketeer.
Before she was swept away by the limelights of Hollywood, she was just another ‘80s teen rocking the fashions of the decade. Here is Connelly at 16 wearing a pair of mom jeans. These days, the pant style has come back in full force among even the hippest of fashionistas. The 1980s were definitely simpler times to be alive.
24. Polka Dots – Karen Allen
Karen Allen made a name for herself by appearing in classic films like National Lampoon’s Animal House and Raiders of The Lost Ark. Her characters on screen have been are truly emblematic of the era, and off-screen she was also representative of the times.
Back in the ‘80s, wool sweaters and geometric patterns were hot items. Seen here donning those two ’80s emblems, the 30-year-old Allen was the spitting image of wholesome ’80s charm. Just to be clear, geometric we’re willing to keep, but we’re happy wool isn’t as much of a fad these days – depending on what climate you live in, at least.
25. Funky Print Shirts – Kristy Swanson
Kristy Swanson isn’t exactly known for being an ‘80s icon. Her career blew up in 1992, when she portrayed Buffy Summers in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie. That said, she was all over movies and television screens in the 1980s. She had appearances in movies like Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Here she is before she made a huge name for herself in the 1990s. Kristy Swanson is looking as ’80s as ever in this funky print shirt. While such patterns are more typically seen on middle-aged men these days, they are a piece of 1980s clothing that we will forever cherish.
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