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What clothing trends were popular in the 80s and still trending today?

June 11, 2018

When looking back on 1980s fashions, we can’t but wonder what clothing trends were popular in the 80s that are still fashionable, and with which we are still fascinated even today


They say that the 80s women fashion was at the height of non-conformity. From parachute pants and neon hair, to high waisted trousers and washed jeans – nothing was off-limits. So, what clothing trends were popular in the 80s, anyway? Read on to find out!

The Coming of Age For 80s fashion


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

Princess Diana in the 1980s


What clothing trends were popular in the 80s - Brooke Shields in 1986

Brooke Shields in 1986


Anyone that says that the 80s fashion scene was the same as the decades before it might be missing the point. While previous decades had their fair share of fashionistas, the fashion for women in the 1980s got a boost from super fashionistas, with names like Princess Diana, Madonna and Brook Shields leading the charge. It might therefore be unfair to talk about what clothing trends were popular in the 80s, without acknowledging the contributions to women fashion by iconic ladies of the time.


Lady Diana Spencer stepped into the 1980s fashions arena back in March 1981, when she put on a her now famous green blouse with high pie-crust collar at Romsey, Hampshire.  That put her on the centre stage as one who would lead fashion trends for many years to come.


And when Brooke Shields entered our living rooms in the 80s, endorsing numerous consumer and household products on TV, she was responsible for creating an almost cult-like 80s fashion following, which continues even today. Super models like Janice Dickinson and Lauren Hutton did their part for women fashion to come of age too.


So, what clothing trends were popular in the 80s, that these and other iconic women were responsible for endorsing or popularising? Well, the list is rather a lengthy one, but our high fashion round up will cover the most memorable ones.

Fashion and women in the 1980s

In case you think it was just Hollywood, Royalty and Cat walks that lead 1980s fashions fever, you’re wrong! Britain’s very own Margaret Thatcher, nick-named “Iron Lady” was an unlikely, yet very influential, 80s fashion trendsetter too. So, without further ado, lets delve into the annals of fashion history and find out what clothing trends were popular in the 80s.



Vintage sewing pattern_1980s Blazer

What clothing trends were popular in the 80s – 80s Power suits


  • The Power Suit was made popular by Britain’s Iron Lady, and it was a clear statement of women power. It signalled the true coming of age, not only of women on the fashion stage, but of women in the 1980s in general – including on the world stage!


The power suit wasn’t just about how it was cut and tailored, but it was also about the colours – dark blue, black and charcoal grey, and the signature shoulder pad, that made it stand out in our list of 1980s fashion statements.

What clothing trends were popular in the 80s – 80s Washed Jeans


  • Washed jeans were yet another fashion trend that became popular in the 1980s. Initially, they were looked upon as something “old…used”. But women fashion soon began to embrace them as jeans makers like Jordache, Wrangler, Levi’s and Calvin Klein started intense marketing campaigns.


And if you were wondering what clothing trends were popular in the 80s that jeans-lovers embraced whole-heartedly – it would have to be high fashion. Women of all ages and backgrounds loved their high-trousers. Soon, high waisted jeans were seen everywhere, and even today they are making a fashion comeback!


570px-What clothing trends were popular in the 80s - Girl with permed hair in the 1980s

Girl with permed hair in the 1980s

80s Mini skirts


  • Mini skirts, aptly named the “Rah-rah” skirts, came of age in the 1980s, as women fashion mimicked the racy and provocative short dresses of cheerleaders. Designed to hang just below the buttocks and way above the knees, these skirts were the highlight of 80s fashion among younger females.


A revival of the Swinging-sixties fashion era, soon the mini skirt found its way from leisure wear to work wear, with women in the 1980s wearing them as part of their work uniforms.


late 1980s_butterick_5179_crop_jacket_and_pants_Penelope_Rose_at_Artfire

late 1980s crop jacket and pants


80s Parachute pants


  • When reviewing what clothing trends were popular in the 80s, we cannot forget Parachute pants! Initially a craze that was started with young male break-dancers, parachute pants also became popular with women in the 1980s when manufacturers like Panno D’or and Bugle Boy started rolling out the female versions of these pants.


Parachute pants really took off in the 80s, when manufacturers started making them from lighter fabric, with a great deal of appeal infused in the multi-coloured versions of the pants.

80s stretch pants


  • Arguably, stretch pants would normally not have made it into our list of what clothing trends were popular in the 80s – but they did, and here’s why: By the time the 80s rolled around, women were very conscious of their figures, and nothing shows off a woman’s body like a pair of tight-fit stretch pants. And that’s what really made them a popular women fashion trend in the 1980s.


1980s stretch contour pants

1980s stretch contour pants


It was only after another version of stretch pants was rolled out, the stretch-stirrup, that this fashion trend entered a losing stretch (pun intended!). Not only was it awkward to wear, but it made women look “bigger” than they were – no-thanks to it’s triangle-leg effect! Like many other fashion trends of the past though, stretch pants have inspired modern-day designers to put a new twist on an old flop – and Yoga pants are the rave today!

What clothing trends were popular in the 80s – High waisted jeans


  • Guess what clothing trends were popular in the 80s, that have really been revived today? You guessed it – high waisted jeans – and jeans lovers owe a lot to marketing from companies like…who else – Guess!


As Guess stepped up its ad campaigns for its high waisted versions of jeans, every woman desperately wanted one! They were so popular with women in the 1980s, that soon other jeans makers joined in. Soon, high fashion was flowing away from the realm of just jeans, with high waisted pants and trousers becoming equally popular among women fashion lovers.


And when we discuss what other clothing trends were popular in the 80s, we’d have to include other trends, like Leg Warmers and Finger-less gloves. But none of those fashion trends really took off like some of the ones mentioned in our top-six list. In fact, 80s fashion ideas like stretch pants and high fashion are inspiring contemporary designers to bring back some of the 80s styles.



1980s Ralph Lauren_Women’s Jacket and Pants


What clothing trends were popular in the 80s – Shoulder pads


  • Even the macho-looking shoulder pad is making a comeback, with celebrities like Diane Kruger, and women fashion labels like Balmain, helping them into the contemporary fashion scene. In fact, the shoulder pad has been seen all over on the runways of Fall 2018 fashion shows.


No doubt, fashion icons like Princess Diana and Brook Shields were powerful influencers of fashion amongst women in the 1980s. But contemporary designers, from Versace to Saint Laurent, are casting women fashion from the 80s into their own images, and are making them popular with fashion-lovers today.


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