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80s Style Dresses à la Stranger Things Fashion

August 17, 2018

Did watching Stranger Things spark a new or revive an old interest in 80s style dresses?  Travel back to Hawkins, Indiana wearing these vintage 80s fashion trends.

The hit series from Netflix, Stranger Things, took us back to 80s fashion, from the Moms and big sisters in ruffled, midi-length 80s dresses, to the smocked pleated dresses worn by the kids.


Stranger Things logo

Stranger Things logo

Ladies rock the 80s Style

Pussy bow-tied floral dresses in nylon, with long sleeves, cinched waists and midi-length skirts were all the rage in the 80s.    Buffalo plaid checked dresses in bright colours with solid sashes at the waist were also au courant – think “Snow Ball” dance style.

Teens wear the trend

Top 80s style dress trends included big puffy sleeves and full skirts, complimented by permed, gelled and spiked short hair, brightly coloured satin dresses with lots of ruffles, or polka-dotted minis in super-sized black and white dots.

From Diana to Madonna

Princess_Diana - By Auguel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Princess Diana


Princess Diana’s dresses in the 80s were all about the big puffy sleeves, dropped waists with big bows and bright, colourful fabrics that ranged from satin, sequins and lame for special events, to polka dots of red, blue or black on white for day dresses.   Her coat dresses had huge lapels in contrasting colours and she topped off the day looks with matching boaters.


On the opposite side of the style spectrum was Madonna in her black tutu skirts worn over lacy black cropped leggings, with short white lace gloves to offset the look.  Madonna loved to layer her look with black biker jackets over her ultra-feminine 80s dresses and skirts.    Another big look for Madonna in the 80s was virginal white, with lots of lace and ruffles, worn very short or slinky and long with elbow-length white satin gloves and lots and lots of pearls.    She also added heavy chains with crosses to finish the effect.


Woman with spiked blonde hair

Woman with spiked blonde hair

From preppy to peacock

The movie “Clueless”, although made in the 90s, brought to the big screen the still-strong trend for 80s preppy style, with short plaid dresses under blazers, knee-high white socks with Mary Janes, or pink satin mini dresses with big shoulders and big sleeves.   Cher knew how to dress, and everyone copied her effortless youthful style.


On the other extreme of 80s fashion, we saw conical bras atop black skin-tight mini dresses, draped with layers of hardware around the neck and topped with spiky punky hairdos.   The peacock punk look was all about busting fashion boundaries and taking back the trends, with either lots of colours from head to foot or all Goth in layers of black.


80s style dresses - Princess Diana + Joan Collins with big shoulder pads

Princess Diana + Joan Collins with big shoulder pads

80s fashion – top dress trends

Whether you were a housewife in Hawkins, Indiana or a teenager in middle school, the primary dress trends you followed in the 80s included:


  • Lots of colour – preferably clashing neon brights in pink, yellow, blue and green.    Think black tutu-skirted mini dresses layered over bright pink leggings and tied at the waist with neon yellow sashes.


  • Big sleeves – squared off with shoulder pads or puffed up with lots of pleats, embellished with ruffles or trimmed with lace, long or short.  As long as the sleeve made a statement, it fit perfectly into the style of the day.   And if your 80s style dresses were sleeveless, you could top them off with a statement jacket with huge shoulders and you were ready to rock.


  • Cinched waists – think peplum tops or dresses,big fabric sashes tied in bows or big belts – the tiny waist offset the big shoulders and full skirts.


  • Florals, dots, checks or plaid – 80s style dresses rocked all types of patterns in all kind of fabric.  Most popular were oversized polka dot prints, usually black or red dots against white backgrounds.   Then came the large colourful florals in nylon, rayon or cotton.


  • Midi skirts – gathered and full or with accordion or box pleats, the skirts were long and circular and brought attention to the cinched waists.



Pavlína Pořízková

Supermodel 80s Dresses

Cindy Crawford, Ell MacPherson, Cheryl Tiegs, Kim Alexis, Brooke Shields, Jill Goodacre, Pavlína Pořízková – all synonymous with the dawn of the Supermodel era, enigma, power and fame in the 80s.   When these ladies dressed up, it was in slinky, skin-tight sleeveless long 80s style dresses, usually in red or black.  Or gold lame dresses with massive pointed shoulders and plunging V-necklines.  They would also rock patent leather mini dresses in bright colours and full-length zippers.


80s style dresses - Madonna, Rotterdam,1987

Madonna, Rotterdam,1987


Paris, a place for fashion... and hip-hop.

Paris, a place for fashion… and hip-hop.

Hip Hop 80s Style

Hip Hop 80s fashion trends were riffs off Madonna and Cyndi Lauper – tutus over leggings, big jean or leather jackets, sneakers and big hair.   The hipsters gave it their own twist with layers of chunky metal chains around their necks, and swapped the denim or leather for jackets in shiny gold fabric with black accents on the arms and waist.   Black leather mini dresses were big too, sometimes with peplums to accent the waist.


80s Style Dresses à la Stranger Things Fashion

Margaret Thatcher 1983

Power dressing the Thatcher way

An iconic figure for 80s style dresses was Margaret Thatcher. In her own right – she made the power suit with its huge shoulder pads, boxy shape and knee-length pencil skirt the uniform of the corner office, adorned with strings of pearls around the neck.


And let’s not forget the ubiquitous pussy bow necklines, preferably in bright floral print blouses under those severe suit jackets or adorning full-skirted flowy dresses.


She also made the double-breasted jacket with big statement lapels a look that women in the 80s emulated when they wanted to feel powerful and in charge.


80s Style Dresses à la Stranger Things Fashion

Mohawk punk c.1984

Punk rocks 80s fashion

Picture multi-coloured mohawks atop red and black plaid mini dresses worn with black fishnet tights and chunky Doc Martin boots and you have a sense of 80s style dresses the punk rock way.   Black leather jackets with lots of hardware thrown over top finished the style.


Since 80s fashion was all about the layers, dresses were worn over leggings or under skirts as body suits, and jackets, gloves and colourful socks added statement style and personality.

The pussy bow dress - 80s-Rose-Pink-Party-Dress

80s Rose Pink Party Dress

Turning 80s style dresses upside down

So, are you ready to rock 80s style dresses in the here and now? No need to visit the Upside Down to bring the look into today:


  • Start with a dress that epitomizes the 80s – short puffed sleeves, a nipped-in waist and either a full pleated skirt or a tight pencil shape.   Choose a large polka dot print or go with a big floral option – either will work.    Now bring the look up to date by pairing with black opaque tights, black ankle booties and a choker around your neck and voila!  80s style with a contemporary twist.


  • Another way to dress up like it’s the 80s is to layer the typical 80s style dress over your dark cropped leggings.  Choose a short dress in a bright pattern with ruffled sleeves.   Finish the look with white sneakers and tie a floral scarf around your hair to make it modern retro.


80s style dresses - The pussy bow dress

The pussy bow dress


  • If you are looking for something more formal and day wear, try a pussy bow neckline dress– it is a timeless classic that never goes out of style.   In the summer, wear it in a light floral print with short sleeves and the neck tied loosely in a knot.  Add strappy sandals to finish the look.   In the cooler months, tie up the neck in a full bow, top with a navy blazer or cardigan and add pumps to take it to the board room.   Don’t forget a circle of pearls around your neck to complete your style.


  • Other ways to bring 80s style dresses into today’s wardrobe including picking one of the trends to emphasize, and toning down the rest of the look.   Start the outfit with a big-shouldered day dress, a neon-bright mini dress or a Sloane Ranger-style demure midi.    Then tone it down with dark tights or leggings under the short dresses, worn with dark booties over the tights or flats under the leggings; or with bare legs and sneakers under the midi dress.  Keep the makeup nude and the hair natural to complete your look.


So, are you ready to rock 80s style dresses the Hawkins way? Give it a try and you’ll feel you are right back there with the gang in the Upside Down world of Stranger Things.