80s Fashion Trends: See the Iconic Outfits & Clothing Styles

Joanna Elizabeth

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Updated May 11, 2024

80s Fashion
Explore the top 80s fashion trends.

Known as a time of bold ambition and self-expression, 80s fashion remains distinct with its eclectic mix of clothing styles. Moving away from the 70s disco scene, women embraced a variety of trends, from tailored outfits with iconic shoulder pads to a jeans revolution led by Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt. 

The era’s fashion was heavily influenced by both television and film. Soap operas like “Dynasty” influenced corporate fashion, while John Hughes’ teen movies inspired the casual and youthful crowd.

80s Fashion Trends

Princess Diana Polka Dot Dress 1980s Fashion
Princess Diana was a style icon of the 1980s. Here, she wears a dress with polka dots and a matching hat. Photo Credit: Simon Dack Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Economic growth during this time encouraged a ‘more is more’ approach to style. Icons like Princess Diana set trends that melded personal style with political influence, and musicians such as Pat Benatar, Janet Jackson, and Madonna turned their fashion into cultural statements. 

Today, 80s fashion continues to be celebrated and revived by shows like Stranger Things and films like Wonder Woman: 1984, proving its lasting impact on contemporary fashion.

Key Clothing Pieces

Shoulder Pads: Broadening Fashion

Shoulder Pads 80s Fashion
Shoulder pads turned every outfit into a power play. Photo: iStock

In the 1980s, shoulder pads symbolized a cultural shift, integral to the power dressing movement, and were worn by everyone from teens to top-tier professionals. These fashion staples were strategic tools that signaled authority and femininity. 

Beyond the office, shoulder pads reshaped body lines into an hourglass figure, even in basic attire. They helped women assert their presence and influence perceptions in male-dominated spaces.

Power Suits: Strong Attire

Diane Keaton Baby Boom Power Dressing Shoulder Pads
Diane Keaton takes on power suits for the 1987 movie Baby Boom. Photo Credit: United Artists/Meyers/Shyer / Columbia / Alamy Stock Photo

The power suit was a game-changer for women’s clothes. Imagine walking into a room and everyone instantly knowing you mean business.

That’s what a power suit did. Built with wide shoulders and tailored lines, these suits made women stand out in places mostly filled with men, like executive suites.

Puff Sleeve Dress: Romantic Drama

Cyndi Lauper Puff Sleeve Dress 80s Fashion
Cyndi Lauper turns heads in an unforgettable puff-sleeve dress at her 1987 concert. Photo Credit: IMAGO / teutopress

The ’80s puff sleeve dress channeled pure drama, transforming any outfit into a statement with its voluminous sleeves. Popular across various occasions, from garden parties to proms and weddings, these dresses made a simple appearance feel theatrical. 

A variation of the leg-of-mutton sleeve, these accents were a deliberate design choice that demanded attention.

Skirts: Changing Hemlines

Ruffle Skirts 1980s
Ruffle skirts were a popular trend of the decade, ranging from mini to tiered and long. (Left – Carefree ad, Right – Casual Corner ad) Photo Credit: FGR Scan

Skirt styles showcased the era’s bold fashion with a mix of drama and sophistication. Ruffle skirts brought playful volume, as shown in movies like Teen Witch. Meanwhile, the revived mini skirt, often worn with leggings and peplum, added a modern twist. 

Pencil skirts provided a sleek look for professional settings, and denim skirts ranged from straight-cut to acid-washed for casual chic. 

The ra-ra skirt, inspired by cheerleader outfits, brought about a youthful energy. Each style reflected a blend of rebellion, elegance, and whimsy characteristic of the era.

Blazers: Business Chic

Eurythmics Annie Lennox Blazer 80s Fashion
Musical act Eurythmics featuring David Stewart and Annie Lennox wearing blazers in 1985. Photo credit: RCA Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 80s blazer was another must-have staple that exuded business with a side of style. Women donned these tailored jackets for board meetings, coffee dates, concerts, and weekend outings. 

These weren’t your subdued, by-the-books jackets. Think daring hues, sequined lapels, and, yes, the omnipresent shoulder pads. While men had monochromatic blazers, women injected this classic silhouette with personality. 

Leather Jacket: Rebel with Style 

Leather Jacket Cool 80s Fashion
Leather jackets stood out for 80s fashion trends. Photo credit: Deposit Photos

The leather jacket was all about serving a rebellious attitude. Don’t think it is one-size-fits-all. The decade gave leather jackets a versatile twist. Cropped or elongated, decked with studs, or stripped down to basics, each style had its own spin. Oversized or fitted, these jackets went well with jeans and dresses.

Denim Jacket: A Casual Outfit Staple

Jordache Jeans Ad 1980s
Jordache was a popular denim brand in the 80s, offering trendy jean jacket styles. Photo Credit: FGR Scan

Denim jackets in the 1980s were the chameleons of the fashion world, versatile enough to suit punks, preppies, and everyone in between. Teens sported them covered in patches and pins, turning each jacket into a personalized billboard.

For the older crowd, denim jackets casually elevated weekend outfits, offering an effortless pivot from workwear. 

Pants: Explore the Styles

Pants played a crucial role in defining the style and individuality of the era. From bold and daring to casual and comfortable, the range of pants and trousers in the 80s was diverse and exciting.

Acid Wash Jeans: Youthful Boldness

Acid Wash Jeans 80s Fashion
Relive the ’80s in acid-wash jeans, where denim met pure, unfiltered edge. Photo: Deposit Photos

Acid wash jeans in the ’80s were the fashion wildcard, turning the denim world inside out with their unique appeal. These trousers were an act of anti-conformity stitched into every bleached fiber. 

Loved by the youth and rock stars, they turned even the most basic ensemble into an edgy spectacle. With patterns resembling tie-dye, these distressed jeans broke all the rules.

High-Waist Jeans: An Iconic Denim

High Waist Jeans 80s Fashion
High-waist jeans were everywhere during this decade. Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Another staple of the era was high-waist jeans. If you follow fashion trends, you’ll know this jean style has made quite a comeback. Also known as mom jeans, high-waist styles often come in light washes and sit at the belly button or higher. You can wear them with casual t-shirts, oversized knitwear, and much more.

Parachute Pants: Futuristic Threads

Parachute Pants 80s Fashion
Parachute pants are known for their bold silhouette. Photo: ASOS

Parachute pants in the ’80s were futuristic, attention-grabbing, and a signal of what was next. Made from lightweight nylon material and featuring zipper pockets, they were a staple of hip-hop style. Stars like MC Hammer popularized this look.

80s Styles

Neon 80s Fashion Trend
Neon stood out in the 1980s when it came to fashion and earrings. Photo: Deposit Photos

From hip-hop’s swagger to preppy’s polished looks and punk rock’s rebellion to new wave’s eclectic vibes, the 1980s was a melting pot of subcultures that propelled fashion into the spotlight. 

Hip-Hop: The Beat of the Streets

Hip Hop Style 80s Fashion
Gold chains complete this iconic 80s hip-hop look that’s all about swagger. Photo: iStock

Hip-hop fashion was as distinct and vibrant as a Run DMC track. It was characterized by prominent logos and designs from figures like Dapper Dan, who transformed clothing into branded showcases using luxury names like Gucci and Fendi. 

Icons such as Salt-N-Pepa and LL Cool J set trends that defined the generation. The fashion extended beyond clothes to accessories like mirrored sunglasses with a leather aviator jacket, branded bucket hats, and gold chains, blending streetwear with high fashion.

Punk: Breaking the Norms

Nina Hagen Punk 80s Fashion
Punk icon Nina Hagen wears a colorful DIY outfit in 1986. Photo credit: Bill DeRouchey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1980s, punk style was a social statement led by icons like Joan Jett and Nina Hagen. Rejecting the preppy look, those who wore the style saw their ripped jeans and secondhand jackets as acts of defiance. 

Chains, readily found at home, symbolized rebellion. Mohawks, leather jackets, fishnet tights, and combat boots are more staples of a punk wardrobe.

To wear the punk look was to shun conventionality and commercialism altogether. Upcycling and DIY looks were all the rage in the scene.

New Wave: Eclectic Outfits

Vivienne Westwood New Wave Print 80s Fashion
Vivienne Westwood’s designs embraced a new wave aesthetic with asymmetrical hemlines and neon prints. ‘Pirates’ collection dress and sash by Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren, Autumn/Winter 1981-2. Photo Credit: Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

New Wave fashion was the height of cool, blending bright colors, futuristic patterns, and a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. Popular for its bold, unconventional silhouettes like uneven hemlines and mismatched patterns, this fashion trend was closely tied to the era’s music. 

Acts such as The B-52s and Duran Duran fused rock with electronic elements. Key looks included oversized blazers with mini skirts, high-waisted pants with slouchy sweaters, and decorative hosiery like patterned tights and fishnets to complete the aesthetic.

Fashion & Fitness: The Pursuit of Perfection

Jane Fonda 1980s Workout Fashion Leg Warmers Leotard
Actress Jane Fonda was known for her workout videos and can be seen here wearing leg warmers and a leotard. Photo Credit: MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Thanks to Hollywood icons like Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John, sportswear shifted from gym-only attire to everyday fashion. As the decade underscored looks and image, a healthy lifestyle and aerobics became a trend everyone wanted to follow in the United States. 

Leg warmers and headbands became a fashion staple for the masses. Leotards, too, shone in the spotlight, whether vibrant or understated in spandex. 

Sneakers replaced dress shoes as the go-to footwear, especially for young people. Ankle socks paired with laid-back shoes were a style statement that defined the aesthetic.

Preppy: Polo Shirts & More

Preppy 80s Fashion
Polo shirts and shorts make this couple the epitome of 80s preppy chic with a sporty twist. Photo: iStock

Preppy fashion represented a lifestyle deeply embedded in youth culture. Iconic to this style were pastel polo shirts and sweaters tied over the shoulders, commonly seen on college campuses and at country clubs.

Preppy Sweaters 1980s
Twinset cardigan, as shown by JCPenney Worthington ad (left), and striped shirts in a Wrigley’s Doublemint ad (right) offer up preppy style. Photo Credit: FGR Scan

The look included argyle sweaters, pearls, twinsets, tennis skirts, pleated skirts, penny loafers, and boat shoes, each piece signaling a connection to an elite social sphere. 

Essential brands like Ralph Lauren and Lacoste were synonymous with defining this clean, classic aesthetic.

Teen Fashion: Trendy Looks

Alyssa Milano 1980s Denim Fashion Studded Jacket Mini Skirt
Denim jackets were all the rage, and Alyssa Milano wears a studded jean look complete with a mini skirt. Photo Credit: Media Punch / Alamy Stock Photo

Teen fashion in the 1980s mirrored the era’s fast-food culture, marking the rise of fast fashion with stores offering affordable, trendy clothing quickly. Jeans became a teenage staple, celebrated for their versatility, and elevated to a cultural icon by designers like Jordache and Calvin Klein.

Beyond jeans, mini skirts paired with tights transformed school hallways into fashion runways, with bright prints and loud colors signaling a youthful approach compared to the more subdued tones of earlier decades.

Hair

80s Curly Hair Bold Makeup Jewelry
Big curly hair is a popular look from the 1980s. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Hair in the era was all about being big and voluminous. It was a declaration of larger-than-life aspirations. For women, perms gave waves, curls, and even frizz an extra boost. 

There were also mullets and mohawks for men. Hair color broke free from natural hues, as vivid blues, pinks, and greens lit up the fashion landscape for the younger set. Stars like Cydni Lauper made neon hair colors popular. 

And let’s not forget Jeri curls, a go-to style for Black hair that adds defined curls to the voluminous trend.

Makeup

Makeup Red Eyeshadow Glossy Lips 80s Fashion
Colorful eyeshadow and bold lip color channel the decade. Photo: Deposit Photos

1980s makeup was all about being loud and vibrant. People didn’t just put on a little eyeliner and blush. Instead, they went all out to make sure you couldn’t look away. 

Compared to today’s neutral tones, shades of blue, pink, purple, and green were used for eyeshadow, lipstick, and beyond. Much like neon fashion during the decade, the makeup was bold and bright.

Popular Perfumes

1980s Perfume Ads Calvin Klein Dynasty
(Left) 1988 Calvin Klein Eternity perfume ad with Christy Turlington. (Right) Dynasty Forever Krystle and Carrington fragrance ad starring Linda Evans and John Forsythe. Photo Credit: FGR Scan

In the 1980s, the world of perfumes was as vibrant and distinctive as the era’s fashion. This decade saw the launch of iconic scents that captured the spirit of luxury and boldness. Among them, Dynasty, the television show, offered the scents Forever Krystle and Carrington inspired by the show’s characters.

Calvin Klein’s Eternity, introduced in 1988, became a symbol of timeless romance and elegance, proving the decade’s shift towards more sophisticated, nuanced scents. Other popular fragrances include Dior’s Poison and Love’s Baby Soft.

Accessories

1980s Accessories Woman Sunglasses Bracelets Crimped Hair
Colorful accessories are all a part of 1980s style. Photo: Deposit Photos

Accessories were all about going big or going home. Oversized was the name of the game, with chunky statement jewelry and bold sunglasses taking center stage. Belts with massive buckles and wide shoulder pads were also popular choices.

Jewelry: Life in Plastic

Jewelry 80s Fashion
A model rocks 80s jewelry, mixing plastic and metal styles. Photo: FP

Plastic accessories were pivotal to 80s jewelry, with pieces that popped in neon or pastel. Picture adorning your wrist with a vibrant array of bangles, complemented by a simple gold necklace. Oversized, dangling earrings were all the rage, as were large, circular clip-ons, adding a daring touch to any outfit.

Belts: The Finishing Touch

Belt 80s Fashion
Statement belts were popular during the era. Photo: AGCreativeLab / Deposit Photos

Belts were a fashion statement on their own. They came in metallics, leathers, and even fabric, often worn loose and hanging or cinched to create a paper bag waist. Whether studded or simply colorful, a belt increases the fashion quotient.

Gloves: A Wardrobe Essential

Gloves 80s Fashion
Lace gloves add a dash of 80s elegance to the wrist because details matter. Photo: Deposit Photos

Gloves were a far cry from the traditional white, elbow-length styles of the past. This era embraced fingerless lace and leather styles, which were more Madonna than debutante. These accessories thumbed the norms of being the proper lady.

Scrunchies: A Fun Accent

Scrunchie 80s Fashion
A colorful scrunchie delivers a vibrant look. Photo: Free People

No ’80s hairstyle was complete without a scrunchie. These fabric-covered elastic hair ties came in a wide range of colors and patterns, making it easy to add a pop of style to any retro hairdo.

Leg Warmers: Playful Details

Leg Warmers 80s Fashion
Leg warmers: the ultimate 80s accessory that warmed ankles and turned heads. Photo: FP

Leg warmers gained popularity in the era thanks to movies like Flashdance. Worn over leggings or jeans, these knitted tubes add a layer of warmth and a touch of style to any look.

Shoes: Stepping Through the Era

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker channels 1980s Madonna in a costume on set of Sex and the City.
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker channels 1980s Madonna in a costume on the set of Sex and the City, wearing white pumps. Photo: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Shoes in the ’80s laid the foundation for iconic styles, featuring diverse footwear that kept fashion dynamic. High-top sneakers transitioned from basketball courts to urban fashion, while the resurgence of stilettos contrasted with the popularity of flat loafers and Keds. 

Cowboy boots and patent leather heels were also everywhere, highlighting how footwear in this decade was practical yet stylish.

Movies & Television

Dynasty

Dynasty 80s Fashion
Joan Collins and Linda Evans with John Forsythe in 1981: The Dynasty stars set the gold standard for television style. Photo Credit: IMAGO / United Archives

TV shows like Dynasty and Dallas were fashion influencers in their own right. Linda Evans, the striking actress from Dynasty, had a natural broad shoulder that became a muse for designers crafting unique suits. 

Shoulder pads became must-haves for nailing that look, coveted by everyday people and the celebrity crowd. The show’s reach was massive worldwide, capturing an audience of over 250 million viewers in the ’80s alone. 

Heathers

Heathers Cast 80s Fashion Winona Ryder Shannen Doherty
The cast of Heathers, Winona Ryder, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, and Shannen Doherty wear preppy fashion. Photo Credit: Allstar Picture Library Limited. / Columbia / Alamy Stock Photo

The film Heathers brought preppy fashion into the cult classic spotlight. Picture plaid skirts, knee-high socks, and blazers were worn as if the characters just stepped out of an Ivy League handbook. Stars like Winona Ryder and Shannon Doherty took on the East Coast prep look with a dark twist.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty Pink Molly Ringwald 80s Teen Fashion
Molly Ringwald starred in the popular film Pretty in Pink wearing 80s fashion for teens. Photo credit: PARAMOUNT / Allstar Picture Library Limited. / Alamy Stock Photo

Molly Ringwald was another iconic face of 80s teen movies, defining youthful style. Her roles in Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club showcased a range from statement hats to that iconic pink prom dress. Playing Andie in the former film, she creatively transformed two old dresses into one memorable, fashionable prom outfit.

Models

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields 80s Fashion Model
Model Brooke Shields with John Mills in the 1983 film Sahara. Photo Credit: Yoni S.Hamenachem, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 80s saw plenty of supermodels. Brooke Shields is one of the most notable, known for her brown-haired beauty and distinctive appeal that transcended genres. From Calvin Klein ads to the pages of high-end fashion magazines, she became a household name.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones 1980s Fashion
Grace Jones wears a hooded design in 1984 in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grace Jones is an enigma wrapped in avant-garde fashion and an audacious attitude. The actress, singer, and model is a multi-faceted force that defies categorization. Wearing bodysuits and leather pieces, her style certainly stood out.

The Black model’s androgynous look and dramatic appeal were a siren call to the fashion world, which often struggled to keep up with her trailblazing style. Jones became the muse of designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Elle Macpherson

Elle Macpherson, an Australian sensation dubbed “The Body,” became an international icon when she graced the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue pages. Her global recognition catapulted her career and set a new standard for what a swimsuit model could achieve.

Nostalgic Styles

Playful Prints 1980s
Playful prints were a stand-out of 80s style, as shown by a Coty fragrance ad (left) and Maybelline makeup campaign (right). Photo Credit: FGR Scan

80s fashion is making a notable comeback on runways and red carpets, inspiring costume parties celebrating iconic styles like puff shoulders, bright colors, and vibrant makeup. 

Incorporating 80s elements into your normal wardrobe can be both fun and fashionable, blending the decade’s eclectic nature with contemporary trends. 

Polka Dots Madonna Inspired 80s Fashion
Young women wore colorful looks inspired by Madonna in the decade. Photo: Deposit Photos

Mix power suits and denim jackets with minimalist pieces from the 2000s, or pair high-waisted jeans and off-the-shoulder tops with modern accessories for a balanced look. 

This fusion creates a unique style that honors the decade yet remains fresh today and paved the way for 90s fashion for women.


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