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Wondering what clothing styles did people wear in the 80s?

April 14, 2018

If you are wondering what clothing styles did people wear in the 80s, you have come to the right place.  Here you will find all the major 80s fashion trends.

So what clothing styles did people wear in the 80s?  80s fashion was all about bright clashing colours, power-dressing, big hair, make up and clothes statements and big style.    Read on to learn who set the fashion trends and get ideas for your next 80s themed party.

Fashion trends that set the 80s abuzz

By Edgar de Evia[1] (David McJonathan personal collection[1]) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, Attribution or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


You will find here all the fashion trends of 1980s fashion, from high waisted stone washed jeans to exaggerated shoulder pads and everything in between.    Let’s start by looking back at the fashion industry and the icons of 80s fashion: Nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Calvin jeans and Ralph Lauren returned to traditional American fashion for men and women with tanned male models in polo shirts and khaki pants and women in fashion with tweed blazers over crisp white button-downs and chinos.


Image via Flickr – mobu27,
madonna 80s


Then there were the 80s fashion style icons from Madonna and Bananarama in ultra-feminine lace, mini skirts, red lips and lashings of mascara to cool and casual hip hop stars like Fresh Prince, Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J in their parachute pants, oversized signature jacket and high-top sneakers.


Madonna was the trail-blazer of 80s fashion with her iconic leather jackets, mini tutu skirts, scrunchies and big floppy bows in her hair, masses of chains and pearls around her neck, bright red lips and big hair in a mass of curls.   Everyone wanted to look like Madonna and you saw the fashion styles of the 80s echoing her look everywhere.


Lady Diana was at the other extreme of the fashion trends, with her demure ruffled and lace-trimmed blouses worn with prim and proper midi skirts and loafers, setting the Sloane Ranger style for her contemporaries.

Men and Women of the 80s play their role

Ladies_of_Dynasty,Immortal-truth at English Wikipedia CC BY 3.0 httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ladies_of_Dynasty,Immortal-truth at English Wikipedia CC BY 3.0 httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


In-between the two were icons like Joan Collins with her massive shoulder pads, big hair and strong statement make-up, showing men and women how to exude power with style, and Michael Jackson with his signature jacket style of red leather embellished with black trimmings, once again exuding power.


Let’s not forget other style-makers like Jane Fonda with the original athleisure wear of spandex body suits, neon-bright leg-warmers, sweatbands around her forehead and big hair.    And Boy George with his peacock punk look of clashing colours and patterns, multi-coloured make up and spiky hair, all of which was always over the top and anything goes.


And finally, 80s fashion saw the rise of the global supermodel – Cindy, Iman, Lauren Hutton, Elle, Evangelista………all strutting their stuff down the international catwalks with their big hair, big eyebrows, leather, spandex, sequins and gold lame.    You saw them on every magazine cover and on every catwalk, ruling the fashion industry and blazing a path for the models of today.


You had your pick from any of the trends above, but what clothing styles did people wear in the 80s, you ask?    Well, here are some of the most-adopted fashion trends by men and women in the 80s:


Big_hair_1985, By Jeanne Boleyn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What clothing styles did people wear in the 80s

  • Big hair – teased, curled, styled in a mullet or rat tail, punky and spiked or long and full, always with plenty of gel and hair spray to make everything stand up and out and stay that way.    And all that big hair was complimented by thick bushy eyebrows, lots and lots of mascara and bright colourful make up.


  • Bright, flashy and tight clothes and accessories – that was the trend followed by both men and women, with neon shades of yellow, blue, green, pink and everything else on the rainbow for jackets, tops, skirts, pants, body suits and jelly shoes.


  • Fanny packs – and yes, they are back!    Worn in the 80s as a practical, handy way to carry your treasures on your fanny, today we wear them at the front and to the side as a fashion statement.


Leather_Fanny_Pack. By Plot Spoiler Own work CC BY-SA 3.0,licenses by-sa3.0 or GFDL copy leftfdl.html, via Wikimedia Commons


  • Slogan tees – the louder and bigger the statement, the better.   Preferably in white with big black text, these tops were worn cropped or long, loose or knotted at the waist.


Mike Mozart, I love the 1980s, https

What clothing styles did people wear in the 80s


  • Embellished jeans or jean jacket, the more faded the better.    And with plenty of stitched-on patches, today they look current with ironed-on patches and pins.   Back in the 80s, the jean jackets were worn large and over-sized.


  • Reeboks were the original classic sneakers and worn with everything, especially pegged jeans or parachute pants.    Pant hems were “pegged” or rolled up to show off the sneaks to their best advantage.


  • Did we mention shoulder pads?   80s fashion would not be complete without them.   They were in puffy-sleeved midi dresses, in power jackets for both men and women, in slinky sparkly dresses, in pussy bow blouses, everywhere.


  • Mini skirts in all fabrics and styles were big in the 80s.    Think animal print and skin tight, or ballerina-style tutu, full and frothy.  A trendy way to wear them was over spandex cropped leggings, preferably in a contrasting colour.


via Wikimedia CommonsMardi_Gras_Costume_Party_in_Queensland_Australia, By Anthony Grima (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons


  • Dancewear was everywhere – leotards, leg-warmers, terry-cloth headbands and spandex body suits were not just for the dance floor or gym – you saw them layered under and over day and night wear ala Flashdance.


American fashion model Renée Gunter modeling haute couture in Paris in 1981 wearing Thierry Mugler, By Renée Gunter CC BY 3.0 httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What clothing styles did people wear in the 80s


  • Preppy style was all the rage with the yuppies – clean-cut Lacoste or polo shirts, khakis or chinos, sweaters casually knotted around the neck, penny loafers with socks optional – it all added up to an ultra-cool, life-in-the-Hamptons look that was copied across the world, made popular by Lady Di.


  • Miami Vice style – think sunny, palm-lined Florida sidewalks, white double-breasted power jackets with the sleeves pushed up over pastel T-shirts and worn with reflective Ray-Bans and you’ve got the South Beach style nailed.


  • Puffy shirts were big in 80s fashion.    Prince in his big, billowy shirts or Seinfeld in his ruffled pirate-style shirt are icon images of the puffy shirt at its puffiest.


  • Tracksuits were a widespread trend in the 80s – from housewives to hip hopstars to the cool kids down the block.   Some wore them in velour, others in nylon, they were always brightly-coloured, usually with stripes down the sleeves and legs.


  • Michael Jackson 1980s fashion – think skinny black ankle pants, white socks with black loafers, signature jacketwith huge shoulder pads in red or black leather, black finger gloves and gelled hair and you know what every teenage boy in the 80s was wearing.


And finally, least we forget, acid or stone washed jeans – picture them in their high waisted, pegged ankles worn over sneakers or neon pumps glory.   Nothing was as ubiquitous or said the 80s like those paler-than-pale jeans with their ripped and torn affect.

Ready to shop 80s clothing