How To Get The 1980's Look

Fashion in the 1980s was bright, bold and loud. Chunky jewelry, shoulder pads, bright colors, parachute pants and big hair were a norm. Back then, fashion was all about materialistic values and a way to flaunt wealth. People spent lots of money to buy designer labels. There were no cell phones or the internet. TV channels were few and far between in those days, and watching a movie was a luxury not granted to everyone. Because of this, magazines and advertisements were the regular person's main source of fashion inspiration. This gave celebrities and clothing brands significant influence over the fashion scene, unlike today where there are fashion blogs, influencers, fashion startups and even regular people setting trends.

For quite some time now, minimalism has been the way to go when it comes to clothes, but contemporary fashion definitely draws inspiration from the '80s at times. Several '80s fashion trends are making a comeback. If you want to know how women did it back then or want to get the 1980's look, read on as we travel back in time to the era of eye-catching and exciting statement outfits. 

Permed hair

The easiest way to get the '80s look is by perming your hair. The rule to live by was: the higher, the wider and the curlier, the better. A few hours at the salon, along with hair gel and hair spray gave women the perfect, crunchy hair. Whether they wore it up or down, their hair was almost always big and wild.

Photo: retrokitsch

Ripped jeans

The effortless and deconstructed look of ripped jeans originated from the glam metal bands of the '80s. You can either distress your own denim jeans or you can buy an already ripped pair. This is one '80s look that never seems to go out of style. High-end designers and fast-fashion retailers alike have been holding on to it for many years and don't have any plans of letting go. 

Photo: Archzine

Legwarmers and other workout clothes

Jane Fonda's aerobics videos brought a wave of new workout fashion in the '80s. Her legwarmers and leotards matched the decade's theme of bold and excessive. '80s workout fashion consisted of high-rise bodysuits, neon-bright leggings, bike shorts, bright oversized t-shirts and headbands. If you want to go for this look, try wearing a bright coloured t-shirt with running shorts. Or wear legwarmers to your next spin class. 

Photo: Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Photo: Unknown

Shoulder pads

A blazer or jacket with huge shoulder pads is what you need if you're going for a formal '80s look. In fact, a sharply tailored suit with wide padded shoulders cinched at the waist, and worn with a knee-length skirt, was a must if you had an office job in the '80s. 

Photo: HubPages


Neon and bold colours

Colours in the 1980s were bold and bright, just like everything else. Today, you can use colour to infuse a minimalist modern-day outfit with the '80s vibe. A few shades of silver, gold, magenta, fuchsia and cobalt will do the trick.

Photo: Archzine



Although ruffles originated from the '80s, they have become incredibly popular once again, which makes it easy to rock this trend. Today, you can find ruffles on all sorts of fashion items, including dresses, tops, skirts and pants. 

Photo: TVGuide

Pleated trousers 

Pleated trousers are another trend that have returned in recent years. In the '80s, they were normally worn high-waisted and paired with cropped tops. 

Photo: bychrishaimerl

Off-the-shoulders tops and dresses

This is another glamorous look that is making a comeback. If you want to wear this look during the day time, go for an off-the-shoulders top with jeans or a skirt. Keep the classic '80s vibe single shoulder dresses for evening occasions as they are bound to attract attention due to their statement style. 


Photo: Archzine

High-waisted denim

High-waisted anything was a go-to look in the '80s. To get this look, wear high-waisted denim jeans or a skirt with a fully tucked-in shirt and maybe a big belt. 

Photo: Archzine

Striped Pants

Printed outfits were a mantra in the '80s and stripes were an incredibly popular print. You can go for loose striped pants or stretched tight ones. 

Photo: BirdiesVintageCloset

Polka dots dresses 

If anything screams 1980s, it's polka dots dresses. If you want to go all-out, throw in a wide belt that cinches at the higher waist and wear some chunky jewelry too. A pair of black heels will complete the look. 

Photo: Shutterstock 


Overalls are probably the easiest way to get the retro '80s look. Wear them with an off-the-shoulders top or a bright coloured t-shirt. 

Photo: weheartit

Oversized t-shirts with denim

You may be thinking that most of us practically live in these today. But these are not a new trend and are definitely not a millennial thing. Wearing oversized t-shirts tucked in to denim pants or skirts was the most common look in the 1980s. 

Photo: Instagram


Sequined dresses and tops made for an exciting evening look back then. You can nail this style today by pairing your sequined dress with a t-shirt or a loose overcoat to get a more casual look. 

Photo: Archzine

Bold accessories 

Women in the '80s, just like women today, were on top of the accessories game. Statement earrings, big hoops, crystal watches, bandanas, fanny packs and socks were all essentials back then. If you want to add a subtler '80s touch to our outfit, without big shoulders and neon colours, wear some chunky jewelry.

Photo: Pinterest

Intense eyeshadow

Not only were the colours of the eyeshadows fierce but also their application. Often, women applied eyeshadows right up to their eyebrows. You can get this look today by applying a bright coloured eyeshadow on your lids, just above the crease, and along your lower lash line. 

Photo: Pinterest

That was one sweet trip down the memory lane, was it not? If you're from the 80s, we hope this made you nostalgic. If not, we hope you found some inspiration to add a touch of the 80s to your everyday look or for a themed party. Do you like the loud and bold fashion of the 80s? Or do you prefer the minimalist path that fashion has taken now? Let us know in the comments below! 

Looking for more fashion history inspiration? Read: Skinny jeans: a brief history

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