What Did Women Wear In The 80s? 1980s Fashion Trends

Ahhh, the 80s. The era that gave us MTV. The era that gave us some of the best music albums, best musicians, best fashion icons, best celebrities. The era that introduced Karate to the Americans. The period when DeLoreans were cool. The period gave us characters like E.T and Indiana Jones. The period when John Hughes and Steven Spielberg ruled the silver screen. Some might consider this decade as underrated, but it was truly a significant part of the formation of pop culture.

It is still remembered as the golden age of fashion. The decade which gave birth to supermodels was bound to give birth to new fashions as well. And while some fashions might be embarrassing, some offbeat, some weird, it is crucial to know what kind of fashion existed in this decade which introduced to the world some of the most iconic styles. This article tries to provide you with some information and a great deal of nostalgia. So, let us take you back to the 80s (pun intended).

What Did Women Wear In The 80s?

A decade full of puffy hairstyles, power suits, excessive jewelry, scrunchies, smokey eye make-up, sometimes looked good, sometimes horrible. But, however it was, it was unforgettable. It is essential to know what type of fashion dominated the world, especially because they are seen making a comeback in 2021. So, have a look and get answers to all your possible questions.

Big Hair

Perms, perms, and more perms. Stand in the 80s consisted of big and voluminous hair. While the culture may have been introduced by Rachel Welch, Jane Fonda, and Brigitte Bardot 1960s and 1970s, the 1980s took it to another level with personalities like Brooke Shields and serials like Dynasty. However, as people descended into the nineties, they became aware of the excessive and harmful effects of chemicals, and this trend did not last long.

Acid Wash High Waist Jeans

The eighties was a decade of Glam and Punk rockers, and their snow-wash styles were bound to influence the American audience. And as this fashion moved towards the mainstream, acid wash jeans got recognition. And then there was no turning back. Acid wash jeans were everywhere. With time, they became so popular that people started creating their jeans by mixing them with diluted bleach and detergents. You might hate this trend, or you might love it, but you cannot deny the fact that these were the definite fashion trend of the 1980s.

Legwarmers and Spandex

The 80s was the decade when activewear and sportswear got limelight in the fashion industry. And mentioning leg-warmers and spandex without Jane Fonda would be a crime. The first celebrity to make an actual sports video, Jane Fonda, made leg-warmers and spandex household items. Flashdance and Fame also contribute to making leg-warmers more than just an aerobics item wear. They converted them into a fashion statement.

Oversized Blazers with Shoulder Pads

Oversized blazers with shoulder pads were the big thing in the 80s. And once again, we have to thank Dynasty for this unusual trend. The eighties saw a revival of the shoulder pads, and big high-end designers were able to reach the mainstream audience. And this trend was not only popular among adults but teenagers as well. Winona Ryder’s Heathers showed that well.

Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses

The fashion of the eighties would be incomplete without the mention of the ultra-popular Ray-Bans. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses for one of the most recognizable styles of sunglasses in history. This timeless silhouette was made popular in Risky Business and The Blues Brothers. And with that, this pair of sunglasses were sold like hotcakes. The Ray-Ban Wayfarers were considered classics then and are considered classics now.

Power suits

Power suits hold a huge amount of significance in the 80s. Power suits came at a time when women started working and going outside. The upper portion of this power dress was with shoulder pads gave them a masculine look, while the lower portion consisting of pencil skirts gave it a girlish look. Courtesy to UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana, Power dressing circulated from the royalty to the common masses making it a fashion statement of the eighties.

Ruffle Blouses

Pretty much like the shoulder pads, ruffled blouses were a huge sensation in women’s fashion. Nothing in the eighties was subtle. Everything within excess. And this applies to ruffled blouses and puff sleeves. A bold style, these blouses could be seen with pencil skirts, high-waisted pants, and evening dresses. From movie stars to models to the person living next door, everybody could be seen experimenting with these.

Hair Accessories and Jewellery

Accessories were an important aspect of fashion back in the eighties. Put on ten necklace pieces, seven, eight rings, rubber bracelets, and you get the perfect eighties girl look. Minimalistic accessories and jewelry were unheard of. One major item of accessories was the scrunchies which beautifully complemented the side ponytail. This is an old trend that can be seen being adopted by young girls of the 21st century.

80s dresses 

Off the shoulder dresses

The eighties is considered a time for the working of off-the-shoulder dresses. This style was not only popular in dresses but shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts. Be it Molly Ringwald’s Andie Walsh in Pretty in Pink or Goldie Hawn slaying her red carpet moment, off-shoulder dresses completed every lady’s wardrobe. And the best part about them is that they never went out of fashion. You can still spot a lady in 2021 rocking the off-shoulder just like in 1983.

Velvet dresses

Velvet dresses were a symbol of elegance and class in the 1980s. It was the go-to dress for parties and formal occasions. Velvet was one of the most used materials for clothing in this decade. And why shouldn’t it be? Easy to wear, comfortable, and not to mention extremely chic and classy, velvet dresses were a big trend. However, they grew appreciation a lot more in the nineties, it was the eighties that showed them in limelight.

Mini Skirts, Skater Skirts and Ra-Ras

While mini skirts might have been a very big hit in the 1970s, the early 1980s saw a decline in the popularity of miniskirts. But with the variation of skater skirts and ra-ras, inspired by the Victorian crinoline, they gained much more popularity than before. Paired with neon tights or leggings, rubber bracelets, lots of beaded necklaces, and a side ponytail, one can say this was the staple look go high school girls of the decade.

1980s Fashion Timeline

1980- 1980 starts from where 1979 and slowly transforms from the disco obsessed population to the causality of activewear and starts accepting the new trends introduced by leading fashion designers. Glittery dresses, however, continue to rule the industry.

1981- MTV debuts, and with that, pop culture comes into mainstream fashion. Dynasty is shown for the first time and revolutionizes women’s fashion with new types of hairdos and monochrome power suits. Along with that, Lady Diana Spencer gets married immediately becomes a fashion guide for all with her iconic wedding gown.

1982- Jane Fonda’s workout video is released and becomes an instant sensation. People develop an obsession with leg-warmers and athleisure outfits. Side by side, shoulder pads, and flamboyant, bright and primary colors were making their way to stay for the rest of the 80s. This is the year Georgia Armani designs power suits for Princess Diana.

1983- This is the year which made casual and easy clothes famous. Jennifer Beal’s Flashdance is released and instantly popularises off-the-shoulder sweatshirts among young girls. At the same time, Guess acid wash jeans become more and more popular as casual wear among young adults. Both girls and boys.

1984- Donna Karan acknowledges her passion for fashion and establishes her brand name. Sequins and flashy dresses dominate 1984. Another interesting development is bathrobe dressing which gained popularity. Ranging from silky evening dresses and below-the-hip jackets to rope-belted coats, bathrobes come in a lot of variety.

1985- This is the year of miniskirts. Long and mini, ruffled and flared out at the bottom, skirts serve as a big hit among women. Desperately seeking Susan releases and establishes Madonna as a style icon. Dolce and Gabbana present their first-ever women’s collection in Italy.

1986- Top gun releases and the demand for Ray-Ban Wayfarers skyrockets. Along with sunglasses, bomber military jackets, leather jackets, excessive jewelry, lace dresses, all get hyped up this year. Patrick Kelly unveils his iconic and most remembered little black dress.

1987- The year of extreme femininity. Designers experimented with the lengths of skirts and majority favoured the short hemline. Though they did not go crazy with that and provided the option of long skirts as well.

1988- Designers seem to be active this year. Yves Saint Laurent releases what is believed to be his best collection by many. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Louis Dell’Olio, Giorgio Armani, Coco Chanel, and Donna Karan agree to soften their looks to cater to the common masses.

1989- Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren rule the businesswear of 1989. Working Girl releases and creates a new craze for business attire among women. An added obsession among women is the animal prints which can be seen on shirts, tops, blouses, jackets, coats, skirts, and dresses.

1980s Fashion Icons


It would be a sin to list fashion icons and not mention Madonna, the one and only Material Girl. Let alone the eighties, Madonna was and is one of the most influential style icons. Ever since she debuted in 1983, she became an instant idol of millions of girls. Be it corset dresses, or elaborate jewelry accessories, or hair ribbons, anything transformed from ugly to beautiful once Madonna donned it. While some might have questioned her dressing sense, Madonna was afraid to break the rules. 

Princess Diana

The epitome of grace and elegance, Princess Diana was labeled as the best-dressed lady of the eighties. And she made sure that she lived up to that title. Right from the moment of her wedding, she slowly descended into becoming a people’s princess, a woman whom people could look up to. Apart from her spectacular fashion sense, it was the way she carried herself with confidence that made people fall head over heels for her. So, it could be undeniably said that the eighties would have been incomplete without her. 

Janet Jackson

Following the footsteps of her brother, Janet Jackson made a mark in the music and fashion industry from a very young age. Curry hair with denim jackets and leather gloves completed every Janet Jackson attire. In the late eighties, Janet Jackson separated from the Jackson Five and created an image of hers on her own. She became known for her bold and distinctive styles with less emphasis on dramatic fashion style and more on pop culture.

Cyndi Lauper 

Admit it. You’ve put Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on loudspeakers and danced all through the song, imagining yourself to be Cyndi Lauper. That was the impact of this style icon. Like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper was known for creating trends rather than following them. That neon-colored hair, lots of bangles and beaded bracelets, and cherry bright lipsticks became her fashion statements. The distinctive part about her looks was that she changed with time without actually having to compromise her originality. 

Whitney Houston

An essential part of pop culture, Whitney Houston was one of the biggest celebrities of the 80s. And she was unarguably one of the best dressed female singers back in the day. She created a style of her own and made it her signature statement. Be it her monochromatic suits, the sequence dresses, or a simple combination of blue jeans and structured shoulders she managed to pull everything. This is why today’s designers look back at her for inspiration.

Brooke Shields

The number one sweetheart of America was Brooke Shields. From a very young age, she started modeling which automatically gave her the way into the fashion world. Not to mention that the term big hair got its meaning from her. Her thick eyebrows, glossy hair, and cheekbones became her trademark, which was there on copied by millions of teenage girls around the world. Be it her red carpet looks, her studio 54 looks, her ad looks, she introduced a new trend with anything and everything.

Grace Jones

Words all short to describe her. Grace Jones is an institution in its self. Today’s pop icons like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Lorde, Solange, and many more take inspiration from her. Grace Jones broke all sorts of stereotypes of your wildest imaginations. She introduced the concept of cross-dressing and served as one of the important and foremost celebrities of the eighties.

Joan Collins

The woman who introduced the American audience to the power of power suits, puffy shoulder dresses in her ‘Dynasty’ days is the evergreen gorgeous Joan Collins. The vengeful character she played inspired millions of fo viewers to look as classy as her. Joan Collins is known to have set the bar high for revolutionary fashion. And while she might not have invited off-shoulder dresses, she taught the audience how to wear them.

Molly Ringwald

Before she was Archie’s mom in Riverdale, she was a teenage dream that all girls wanted to become. With John Hughes by her side, she starred in some of the eighties Brat Pack classics, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, each of them defining an iconic look of Ringwald. Not to mention how effortlessly she pulled those oversized florals, high-waisted long skirts, massively padded blazers, and kitschy ankle boots with socks. And let’s not forget the hat tilted backward, which was tried by every girl at least once in their lives.

1980s Fashion Moments

Sarah Jessica Parker was a real-life Carrie Bradshaw well before in the 1980s. Her red carpet look in oversized boxy blazers, slouchy white socks, scrunchies and cropped jeans sum up as one of the most well remembered fashion moment sin the history of this decade.

The nineties supermodel, Cindy Crawford, was gearing up for her stardom in the late eighties when she was clicked at an iconic moment of fashion. Donning a black miniskirt, leather jacket, red lips, and those big puffy hair, Cindy created a benchmark for all her contemporaries right int the beginning of her career.

Alessandro Michele’s oversize Gucci sunglasses might have genuine fans, but the majority of them love them because of Susan Sarandon. The instant of Susan Sarandon captured in those big glasses has been seared into our minds, and serves as an iconic moment of the eighties.

Rock music icon Debbie Harry was a fashion icon as well. Her minimalist little black dress created headlines. The thigh-high slit of the dress, a common phenomenon nowadays thanks to all the Jenners and Kardashians, was rocked, metaphorically and literary, by Debbie Harry during her live performance.

Literally, everything about Joan Jett, who gave us the ultimate rock anthem, screams the eighties and in a good way. That all-black ensemble with oversized leather jackets and skintight trousers and that classic hairstyle made Joan Jett the queen of rock.

Ripped Jeans

An extremely popular trend was that of ripped jeans in the late eighties. Influenced by the hard rock, heavy metal period, ripped denim jeans from the knees or any other part was a commonly used fashion item. In the early 2010s, ripped jeans made a comeback and have surpassed pop the popularity of the yesteryears. You can wear these jeans and feel the nostalgia running through your blood.

Doc Martens, Chuck Taylors and Jordans

The 1980s was the period when nike launched its first pair of air Jordans and created buzz all around the world. Everybody, be it girls or boys, owned a pair of doc Martens, chuck Taylors and air Jordans each. These shoes gave definition to the term cool. and it is right to say that they never went out of style. You can still see people wearing these as a tribute to the eighties.

Bomber and Denim Jackets

You all can thank the eighties for bringing in bomber and acid wash denim jackets in streetwear. It was the 1980s that formed the short waist denim jackets that we wear today. It was a big trend then and an even bigger trend now. It can be said that the variety of these jackets has increased over the course of time and improved also. It was certainly a cool statement then and is definitely now.

Fanny Packs

Yes, that’s right. Fanny packs existed before. You might think that fanny packs are the gift of the 21st century, but you are mistaken. Though, they were more of a practical bag, worn around the waist with the bag at the back, and did not serve the purpose of fashion. But in 2021, you will see fanny packs accessorized with outfits. While the old fanny packs were available in bright neon colors, you can get much more variety now.

Bike Shorts

Bike shorts were an essential element of the 80s jogging outfit. The crew neck sweater, tube socks, and chunky sneakers accessorize with the bike shorts, which are the look popularised by none other than Princess Diana. Another extremely famous look is of Demi Moore, who courageously wore an ensemble featuring bike shorts during the Academy Awards. And the young generation has acknowledged and appreciated this underrated trend and has started giving its due credit in 2021.

Prairie Dresses

Prairie dresses were an Understated trend that was needed to be explored and exploited further. While the credit goes to the eighties for introducing this trend, the designers have noticed the overlook of this flattering design and recreated it with a fresh look for the younger generation. A perfect mix of old and new, the dress provides newness with a tint of nostalgia to it.