80s fashion

8 Most Iconic 80s Fashion Trends & Outfit Inspiration

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Move over Y2K and 90s fashion, because the 80s are next in line to stage a comeback! You may have seen 90s and early 2000s fashion dominate recent seasons, but the spotlight is shifting onto the bold and vibrant trends of the 80s, which have already stormed the runways of Spring and Summer 2023. The 80s was a fun, vibrant and edgy decade for fashion, inspired by disco, punk rock, modern advances in technology and societal shifts prevalent at that time. Get ready to learn everything about one of the coolest fashion decades, as I bring you the ultimate guide to women’s fashion in the 80s. Whether you are looking for 80s outfit inspiration, or simply want to learn what fashion trends prevailed in the 80s, all of that and more is in this blog post.

What did women wear in the 80s?

80s fashion was a playground for rebellion, where people embraced their individuality and pushed the boundaries of style. Picture big shoulder pads, even bigger hair, and bright, vibrant, attention-grabbing outfits.

MTV brought popular disco music into people’s homes, and pop icons like Madonna and Prince had a huge influence on 80s fashion trends. The emergence of punk, hip-hop and new wave were also strong influences, as well as the advancements in technology in the 80s, popularising things like metallic fabrics, neon colors and futuristic sunglasses.

With a significant surge of women entering the workforce in this era, they rocked power suits with high-waisted trousers or skirts, and blazers worn with mini-skirts or stirrup pants. Leggings and leg warmers, acid wash jeans, denim jackets, and jumpsuits were also go-to casual-wear, while neon colors and bold prints adorned everything from dresses to workout attire.

Read also:  5 Major Fashion Trends for Spring/Summer 2020

Most Iconic 80s Fashion Trends

1. Leggings

80s leggings
HÉROS 80s Leggings. Media Credit: Shopbop

From Madonna’s neon lace leggings to Jane Fonda’s iconic workout attire of spandex leggings and neon leg warmers, this is the first fashion trend that comes to my mind when I think of the 80s. Bright, loud neon colors were part of the head-turning fashion trends that characterized fashion in this decade. Neon leggings were also super popular, and these skin-hugging, comfy bottoms were often paired with oversized tops in neutral or monochromatic patterns. Layering with denim jackets or leather jackets as well as sneakers or chunky boots also created a trendy contrast.

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2. Off-shoulder Tops & Dresses

80s fashion trend: one shoulder tops and dresses
ASOS LUXE structured one shoulder top in pink glitter. Media Credit: Asos

In the 1983 movie Flashdance, Jennifer Beals donned an over-sized light grey off-shoulder top, igniting the popularity of the shoulder-baring trend. The 80s embodied a newfound sense of liberation for women, and this revealing, sensual look was part of that freedom. Off-shoulder tops ranged from casual, off-shoulder jumpers, t-shirts, and crop tops in a range of colors including neons, and were often paired with high-waisted jeans, leggings, or skirts. Off-shoulder dresses were also super popular, where both shoulders were often exposed for that more sophisticated look and featured different sleeve types including the iconic 80s puffed sleeves.

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3. Oversized Blazers

80s fashion trend: oversized blazers
Acne Studios Oversized Woven Blazer. Media Credit: Net-a-Porter

If there’s one piece of 80s clothing that exuded power and style, it was the oversized blazer. These bad boys were the epitome of “dress for success” and were an 80s fashion trend most likely inspired by the growing presence of women in the workforce. Oversized blazers included large shoulder pads and a boxy, oversized fit which gave off a sense of confidence and authority. For a more casual look, boyfriend blazers were a top choice, which were oversized, but loosely tailored and often worn with rolled up sleeves. Patterned blazers were also widespread, featuring bright colors, geometric prints, with plaids and checks also being popular choices.

Read also:  Fall/Winter Handbag Trends 2019

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4. High-Waisted Jeans & Denim Jackets

80s fashion trends denim
Good American Good Night Crop Denim Jacket. Media Credit: Nordstrom

One of the most notable 80s fashion trends was denim everything. High-waisted denim jeans were hugely popular, made more so by a massive ad campaign from Guess, as well as Princess Diana, who favored high-waisted denim jeans for casual-wear. High-waisted jeans were hip-hugging and accentuated curves, as well as being stylish and comfortable. Acid-wash denim was also a very popular 80s fashion trend, which gave a splattered, or mottled effect. Denim jackets were also worn a lot, paired with high-waisted jeans or with skirts, leggings and just about anything.

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5. Polka Dots & Animal Print

Alexandre Vauthier draped leopard-print max dress
Alexandre Vauthier Draped Leopard Print Maxi Dress. Media Credit: Farfetch

Polka dots and animal prints were wildly popular 80s fashion trends and were often seen on runways, in magazines and on the streets. In fact, animal prints were on everything from clothes, to wallpaper, furniture and beyond. 80s fashion was all about extravagance, and animal prints, especially ones that were neon colored, really showcased that style. People embraced the fierce allure of leopard print, as well as zebra stripes, snakeskin and beyond. Polka dots were also popular, and brought a more playful charm to an outfit, with celebs like Madonna, Molly Ringwald and Princess Diana popularizing this fun print. 

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6. Punk Fashion

80s punk style
Women’s Studded & Spiked Motorcycle Leather Jacket. Media Credit: Etsy

Given the rebellious nature of the 80s fashion, it’s absolutely no surprise that punk fashion was popular in this decade. Along with Malcolm McLaren, Vivian Westwood revolutionized punk fashion with her edgy and provocative designs. As one of the most popular punk rock bands of the decade, the Sex Pistols, who were managed by McLaren and styled by Westwood, were huge influencers of Punk fashion. Leather jackets with studs and spikes, ripped clothing, clothes adorned with safety pins, chains, Doc Martens and brightly colored mohawks, were just some of the popular 80s punk fashion trends.

Read also:  Top 5 Fashion Trends for Spring/Summer 2022

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7. Big Hair

80s Fashion: Top 8 Most Iconic Trends & Looks
80s hair and make-up look by @pari.kikrili

Along with everything else big, bold and beautiful in the 80s was big, voluminous hairstyles with teased, backcombed and heavily hair-sprayed looks being super popular. To achieve these iconic styles, women used crimpers and hot rollers, and perms were also a sought-after style. Bangs were also a popular feature of 80s hairstyles, as well as side ponytails, which were often paired with big bows or ribbons. When you think of the 80s, undoubtedly the mullet comes to mind, which was a popular hairstyle among both men and women during this decade. Vibrant hair colors were also a big thing, largely inspired by punk fashion, with bright reds, purples, blues and beyond.

8. Bold Make-up

80s Makeup look by Roi Santos
80s make-up look by @roithemakeupartist

Makeup trends in the 80s were characterized by bold, colorful contrast trends like purple-colored mascara against a vibrant orange smoky eye. You may have seen photographs of Princess Diana during this era and her iconic blue eyeliner. Blush was exaggerated and bold lip colors were favored. Along with everything else big and beautiful in the 80s, full, natural eyebrows were also popular.

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Looking to learn more about fashion? If yes, then make sure to also check out my article on the 70s!

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