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How to dress up like it’s the 1980s and still feel contemporary

March 24, 2018

Whether its Halloween ideas or 80s costume ideas, we’ll share some great tips to learn how to dress up like it’s the 1980s without sticking out like a sore thumb.


The challenge has always been: How to dress up like it’s the 1980s and still fit into any modern day special occasion costumes or 80s party outfits. We’ll tell you how!


Madonna on stage, Rotterdam, 1987

Madonna on stage, Rotterdam, 1987

How to dress up like it’s the 1980s – A decade of statement style

Robert Smith of the Cure

Robert Smith of the Cure


Dressing up like it’s the 80s!!  No other decade was as full of neon clothes, big hair and statement style as the 80s. Fashion icons and 80s themes ranged from:


  • The preppy Sloane Ranger style of Princess Diana, with her full, ruffled blouses, modest printed dresses, plaid skirts and knitted vests,


  • The peacock punk of rock stars, like Boy George, impacted the design of the 80 and 90s party costume with neon makeup, flamboyant hair, heavy metal accessories and lots of black leather.


  • The global phenomenon of Madonna and her party-girl style of big curly hair tied up in scrunchies or big bows, leather jackets, short skirts over leggings and Doc Martins and lots of red lipstick. Madonna’s influence on the party outfit and 80s girl costume fashion of other rock bands like The Bangles and Bananarama


  • And the power shoulders of Dynasty jackets, the pussy bow blouses worn by Margaret Thatcher, layers of pearls and chains that made women look powerful and owning their space.


  • Global Supermodels, strutting their stuff down the catwalk in fanciful costumes dreamt up by Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia. These models brought sportswear, jeans and preppy style to the world.


All of this generated heap of Halloween ideas for 80s costume parties and social events.


Reviving 80 and 90s party costume ideas

How to dress up like it's the 1980s - Fancy dress

Fancy dress



If you want to relive those glorious days of fashion excess, choose a theme outfit of 80s fashion or pick an 80s outfit for your next fancy dress or Halloween party and let your personality shine. Here are some ideas:


  • As your costume with an 80s theme outfit, put together the punk rock look with an oversized slogan tee knotted at your waist over a full tutu mini, layered over leggings tucked inside Doc Martins. Top the tee with a black leather moto jacket embellished with plenty of hardware, and then drape a bunch of pearl and metal chains around your neck. Then tease your hair into a mass of gelled curls with a bright spotted scarf tied up in a bow around your head and you are rocking the Madonna look like no-one else at the costume party!!


  • If you are looking for outfits for an 80s fashion party, pick the Jane Fonda “physical” look. Pull on lycra leggings, top with neon-bright leg-warmers, then throw on a cropped top. Add a brightly-coloured sweatband around your forehead to hold your locks away from your equally neon bright eye-shadow and glossy red lips.


  • If you really want ideas for costumes for an 80s girl costume party, give the power suit a whirl. Think back to Joan Collins in Dynasty, or Margaret Thatcher ruling the British Empire – big, powerful shoulders, narrow waists, pussy bow blouses, big pearls and bright colours – all saying you are in charge and ready to rule the dynasty and the world!


  • Or how about making like Linda Evangelista and not getting out of bed for less than $10,000 a day!!  The 80s were the age of the Supermodels like Linda, Christy, Iman, Cindy, Elle and Helena.  Chanel their 80s fashion spirit to an 80s fancy dress partyby wearing a bright red leather mini dress or a black lycra body suit under a neon mini skirt, or a blousy top with huge polka dots knotted at the wait over skin-tight, high-waisted Calvin Klein jeans.

How to dress up like it’s the 1980s – Makeup 80s Style

How to dress up like it's the 1980s and still feel contemporary

By Martin SoulStealer from London, England (Killing Joke 7) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Makeup for 80s was all about making a statement, from bright blue, purple and pink eye shadow to glistening glossy red lips. None of today’s “pick one feature” approach – the 80s was all about expressing every feature to the max. And eyebrows were the biggest of all – Brooke Shields big and shaggy. Blush was bright and strong, and nails were short and neon bright – yellow, blue, pink, anything went.


So, for your outfit for an 80s girl costume party, break out the bright eye shadow, layer on the coral blush and lash on the red lipstick and sticky lip gloss.   Don’t forget to pile on the mascara on both top and bottom lashes, and pencil in, brush up and gel those brows for maximum impact!


How to dress up like it’s the 1980s – 80s hair

How to dress up like it's the 1980s - Photo of Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson)

Photo of Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) as a senior in high school.By Taft High School [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


No party costume with an 80s theme would be complete without the hair of the 80s – permed, teased bangs, mullets, rat tails, short punky dos with gelled spiky tips. Hair accessories ranged from big floppy bows holding the curls back, to bright scrunchies pulling the hair to the top of the head. 80s style hair went from the very shot and spiky to the very long and curly and everything in between.


Shop 80s clothing