Ultimate Guide to 80s Fashion

The decade of 80s was known for bold style and colors. Women had heaping amounts of permed hair to add more to the glamorous look. Conservative dressing reduced and ripped tights, open shoulders, and biker jackets became a major fashion icon. Famous celebrities of the era include Joan Collins and Joan Jett which influenced the industry. In a nutshell, it was an eclectic decade in fashion.

Pop Culture and Fashion of the 80s

Unlike today, the fashion of this decade wasn’t only influenced by the youth only. Adults and more mature models were a key influence on the fashion. Important personnel such as Tommy Hilfiger were proactive in getting the mature models. In addition to that, the key source of fashion and updates were television and magazines rather than cellular handsets or internet connection as they were not widely available at that time.

This meant that there was limited exposure of the bands who then sought to bring in better presence by endorsing and sponsoring different types of music bands and celebrities who were actively seen by the potential customers. Take the example of Michael Jackson who was actively approached by brands for his cult classic, power style, and military look that impressed millions of his followers. In one phrase, the fashion culture of the 80s can be defined as “big and bright”.

In case you are looking for specific disco fashion, you may want to read more about it on this link.

Top Women Fashion in 80s

Unlike today, the 80s fashion was bigger and apparently heavier clothes for women. In general, they had big shoulders and pinched waists. Quite often, they were worn off shoulder and miniskirts as well depending on the type of event. Below are some of the dresses that were popular among the women in the 80s.

The Power Suit

The power suit was for the professional women and was considered an ideal dress for the office. It was highly tailored and had wide shoulders that were padded. The skirt of this dress was barely touching the knee while the top was tightened at the waist. It was worn with a plain blouse and some basic costume jewelry. Sometimes a decorative ribbon on the collar would suit just fine. Famous personalities such as Lady Diana were among the key influencers for The Power Suit.


It may be named as lame, but it was definitely one of the hottest party dresses of that time. The Lame was often named as the “dress of the prom” for the women. The Lame was a shiny dress which had ruffles off both shoulders and particularly one shoulder. This is one of the best examples of bright and colorful fashion of the 80s as it was worn in dazzling colors. Along with this dress, the ladies wore high heels as well as a high amount of makeup and accessories too.

Many felt that this dress was a bit too much because of the puff shoulders and bold patterns. Joan Collins was the lady behind bringing this dress to the youth fashion impressing many on her way.

Sheer Tights

Another controversial dressing that was popular among the young girls were the sheer tights. This is probably one of the fashions of the 80s which is still followed today. The sheer tights were very short skirts that showed the legs till the upper thigh. Mostly, this was the dress for the cheerleaders or professional sports women as well at times.

The Sheer tights became very common in the mid-1980s.

Animal Prints

If you ask someone today to get an animal print suit, it may sound ridiculous, but it was once considered as the hot fashion of the time. Since the real animal skin was banned for clothing purposes, the brands started featuring their regular clothing with animal prints. The full dress from top to bottom could be customized in the animal print. It was not just any particular animal, but many animals were represented in the clothes.

However, the tiger print, the zebra print, the giraffe print, and the panda print were the most popular ones. Women even matched their handbags and accessories with their clothing prints. It may sound funny now, but it is definitely a great idea for a theme party.

Suzanne Sommers in 1981 with her Cheetah dress.

Top Men’s Fashion in 80s

The disco fashion was losing its importance in the 80s and a culture for a younger and more professional look was taking its place. This was a decade where many unisex clothes were designed which is why men took as much part in the latest fashion activities as the women. It was due to many music stars such as George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Boy George who actively promoted men wearing makeup and adapting to the latest fashion trends. Despite the fact that the women’s dresses were being more open, the men’s dressing became more conservative in this time period. Below are some of the men’s fashion dresses of the time period.

Velour Sweat Suits

These were a unisex clothing item and is still a part of the modern fashion. In the 80s, Fila, an Italian sportswear brand promoted the velour sweat suit as a casual wear. The results were astonishing as it soon hit the markets and the brand got famous. Much of the promotion of the sweat suits was from the different television series such as Sopranos where common men were also shown wearing these suits.

Bomber Jackets

Perhaps one of the most dashing styles which conveyed an aggressive look was in the form of Bomber Jackets. The Bomber  Jackets were shiny leather jackets that gave a typical bad boy look which became the American-cool of the time. The Bomber Jackets got further fame after they were shown in the film Top Gun.

Much of the military professionals who used to wear these jackets as a part of their uniform were now wearing it as a fashion. These became a classic staple and were worn by famous singers such as Michael Jackson. The bomber jackets are still worn in many parts of the world.

Bomber Jackets were quite famous in the 1980s and still trendy.

Clothes with Logos

One of the most unique trends that started off in the 80s and still hasn’t ended is that clothes, mainly shirts, were designed with the logos imprinted on the top. This became one of the best ways to show off and promote a particular designer. People used to wear these clothes to appear cool by giving the image that they were wearing branded clothes even if these shirts were not made by the original brand.

Surprisingly, it was not only the fashion brands that followed this trend, but a large number of varied businesses were involved in this. Coca Cola started to represent its logo on shirts in the 80s which went popular. Disney and Harley Davidson followed the same which helped in promoting these brands to the next level. The clothes with logos were another unisex fashion icon for the 1980s.

Spray Painted Tops

The Spray-Painted Tops were like graffiti shirts with random patterns and colors on them. These were mainly worn by the Black Americans, but the trend was soon followed by the whites too. These were originally launched by Graffiti Artists such as Fab 5 Freddy and Jean Michel Basquiat. It brought together the hip hop culture of Blondie’s music videos as well as the concept of sweatshirts. Later on, these became one of the most common streetwear of the 80s.

The Miami Vice Style

The Miami Vice Style was a particular kind of a style followed in the 80s which included the following. Women used to wear Lame Suits while the men used to wear Ricardo Tubbs Blazers with matching pants. Women used to wear padded shoulder dresses. Extra accessories for the men included a gold watch and wayfarer glasses. Read more about the Miami Vice Style on this link.

Actor Don Johnson in the classic Miami Vice Style.

Popular Headwear

During the 1980s, one of the most popular trends was of berets and bucket hats which were produced by the brand Kangol. Lady Diana became an important symbol for wearing the famous berets which were popular for formal clothing. Hats and other types of caps were also produced by the brand Kangol mainly for the elite but later turned out to be a fashion element for the public as well.

Fashion Guide for 80s Footwear

The footwear was also an important element of the fashion. Mostly those who wore joggers were  wearing them with the fat laces style which was introduced by Adidas and Puma. This was matching with the wide legged jeans. A common trend in the men footwear was also to not wear any socks with the penny loafer or moccasin shoes. This trend is still followed today. For women’s footwear, the leg warmers were an important symbol of fashion for the common women. High heel pumps and fancy shiny shoes were mainly considered by the women for party purposes.

Since Skateboarding was a sport that got rise in the 80s, the professionals wore the Vans style shoes which were soon a part of the common man and woman’s fashion. Even the kids who loved skateboarding as a hobby started to wear the Vans style shoes. These shoes had an indistinctive checkered pattern all over them with an extra touch of black on the top.


The 80s style is no longer relevant today, but we still might see some of the elderly following what they have seen their whole lives. Much of us do enjoy theme parties too where one can always have the Miami Vice style followed. We hope you found our guide useful and recommend you share this with your friends as well.