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Vintage-Inspired Fashion: 3 Totally Awesome 1980’s-Style Skirts


Cyndi Lauper
Photo Credit

Cyndi Lauper – what would the 1980s have been without her? A lot of people call Madonna the major fashion inspiration for the 80s, but I’m putting my money on Cyndi. She embodied candy-colored, loud, obnoxious, in-your-face, punk fashion – which, while not everyone’s favorite, is what fashion in the 80s was all about.

1980s-style skirts are not necessarily new: for the past few years, there have been lots of tiered skirts made of gauzy or cotton material with various patterns. But only recently has there been very good examples of well-made skirts that would have made you the most popular girl at the roller rink. Most fashion in the 1980s was about volume – oversized tee shirts, teased hair, bubble hem dresses, lots of taffeta, and, as we will see today, tiered skirts, bubble hem skirts, and long skirts.

The Tiered Skirt

Tiered 80's Skirts

Product Information: Chiffon Ruffle Skirt, Forever 21. Jeremy Scott “Rara” Skirt, MashKULTURE Juicy. Giggle Ruffle Skirt in Purple, Lulu’s.

These skirts are fun and flirty – they pair well with tights or bare legs; with flats or low heels (or Doc Martens!); and with intricate or plain tops. They are a versatile silhouette that will integrate seamlessly into your wardrobe. (It’s hard to tell, but Cyndi is actually wearing a slew of different tiered skirts under her dress – fashion inspiration?)

You would have good luck finding skirts like these in shops that advertise themselves as retro shops, which usually means they feature very specific items from certain eras (usually they are heavy on the 1940s-1960s and the 1980s). To find similar skirts, look for the obvious – tiers. But also pay attention to how those tiers lie on your hips, as you don’t want to add too much volume. The waist should be slightly higher than most skirts, but should not be too short for your height, so you avoid any embarrassing slip-ups, as these skirts will be a bit looser on the leg.

The Bubble Skirt

Bubble Skirts

Product Information: Bubble Skirt, Rizzo Skirt, ModCloth. Shimmer Bubble skirt, Forever21.

These skirts are defined by the bubble effect of the hem and can be a playful piece for any wardrobe. They would pair well with stirrup tights, high heels, and a sweater for a chilly fall day on campus, but they would also look great with just a plain tank top and some fancy sandals! They can be a bit trickier to find a proper fit, but the effect is definitely worth it – they have the distinct aura of fun and fabulousity.

Bubble skirts can be difficult to find in vintage and retro stores – the bubble hem is seen more commonly on dresses. However, you can occasionally find bubble-hemmed skirts in retro shops and sometimes also in costume shops. Keep your eyes peeled for fancier pieces, as they will be the most high quality. To find the proper fit, look for a waist-line that hits high (like with tiered skirts) and make sure the skirt is not too long – it should hit around mid-calf and not much lower.

The Long Skirt

Long Skirts

Product Information:Long Flutter Skirt, Amazon. Geoffrey Beene Skirt, Posh Girl Vintage. Straight Lace Skirt, Lulu’s.

These skirts are the most common type of skirt you will find in any vintage, retro, or thrift shop. They usually hit somewhere between the bottom of the knee and mid calf – while somewhat universally unflattering, these skirts actually provide a lot of leeway for a DIY project or a tailoring job (since you can find them so cheap, you can splurge on some great tailoring). They are typically made with some type of soft, gauzy cotton that lies relatively flat on the body without being stiff.

Long skirts can be extremely good for day wear. They pair well with long sleeved shirts or sweaters, and would look great with tights and boots. These skirts are definitely not for everyone, but they can look great if the fit and length is correct.

Since these are so easy to find in vintage, retro, and thrift shops, it would be possible to go home with four or five of these skirts at a time. However, make sure to try them on and guarantee that they can be tailored if too long (if the fabric is too gauzy or stretchy, or is lace, it will be difficult to shorten.) Also, look for a waistband that lies flat (as with the Geoffrey Beene Skirt); if it looks anything like the waistband of a pair of sweatpants with a drawstring, then leave it.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think of these skirts? Would you ever wear any of them? What do you think about the 80’s revival in general? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

Posted on on September 12, 2009 / Filed Under: Shopping / Tags: , , , , ,

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23 Responses to “Vintage-Inspired Fashion: 3 Totally Awesome 1980’s-Style Skirts”

  1. 1
    September 12th, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I like the bubble hem in dresses, but I’ve never tried it in skirts. I still think I prefer it in dresses, but you’re right about it being flirty!

  2. 2
    September 12th, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Interesting article!

    I believe in the “Bubble Skirt” section you meant mid-thigh and not “mid-calf”. ;)

    That cover photo is so outrageous that it makes me laugh. Perfect.

  3. 3
    September 12th, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Ritika – you are indeed right! :) Thanks for catching that.

  4. 4
    September 12th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    ooohh i love the bubble skirt and the tiered skirt! I own them and they look very cute! i don’t wear the long skirt though, it’s a suicide with my height. now that you’ve posted this, can you please please inspire us how to wear these trends? Outfit ideas? :D

  5. 5
    September 12th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Great post. I bought a few tiered skirts for fall but I’ve been afraid to wear them. I’m worried they look too teenagerish. But this posts confirms what I already knew-they are too cute not to wear! I haven’t tried a bubble hem skirt yet. I’d love to but I haven’t found any in stores yet. As for the long skirt, even as a tall girl, I don’t like longer skirts. I think, especially paired with tights/leggings and boots, that they look to matronly. However, I love the idea of finding thrift store skirts and tailoring them. Overall, fantastic post. I wish I could see some outfits using these skirts….maybe in a following blog?

  6. 6
    September 12th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Sam & Maria – I am definitely working on some vintage-inspired outfit posts, so stay tuned!

  7. 7
    September 12th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Great post. 80s so fantastic lol. I love the first 2 skirts. I am overall not a big fan of long skirts, but will admit that they are cute lol.

    Please post vintage inspired outfits :)

  8. 8
    September 12th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    aww.. the bubble skirt with the polka dot bow looks so cute.

  9. 9
    September 13th, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Oh, wonderful post! I am in love with the navy bubble skirt with the polka dotted red belt! It’s amazing! *stares*

    I do own a tiered skirt and I’d love to wear it, they look so cute! I have so many long skirts from hot countries and summer and they’re just so easy to slip on and the ones I have look really nice, I have sequins on some of them and different colours and they look really good!

    I’d love to see some vintage outfits too!

  10. 10
    September 13th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    awesome post. the long skirt on the right reminded me of molly ringwald in pretty in pink.

  11. 11
    September 13th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Love the bubble skirts. Long ones. not my style. really unflattering for us, not long legged models :D

  12. 12
    September 13th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I love Cyndi Lauper’s style in the 80’s! She was definitely a fashion icon during that decade!

    I love the skirts in this post! My favorite ones are the tiered skirts. I love tiers on everything (I don’t have any tiered skirts, actually, but I do have a lot of tiered tops and tiered dresses).

    By the way, I’ve seen some bubble skirts in Forever 21, Wet Seal, and Mandee (this chain only exists in about 7 states, so not everyone can go here; but you can definitely still shop on Mandee’s website if you don’t have one in your state). I hope this helps anyone who’s looking for a bubble skirt! :)

    I agree with most people here about the long skirts. I think they’re pretty, but can never pull them off due to my height (I’m only 5’2).

  13. 13
    September 14th, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I love the tiered skirt and the bubble skirt equally. I especially love wearing neutral color skirts with bright leggings or bright shoes.

    But the long skirt is a no go for me, I’m way too short! But to those that can pull it off, more power to ya! :)

    great post <3

  14. 14
    September 14th, 2009 at 11:52 am

    You’ve done it again! Another great post featuring our items! Thanks again for the support!
    <3 Aire

  15. 15
    September 14th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Haha! I just bought yesterday and am wearing right now a black, tonal polka dot, very 80’s skirt. Usually I channel more Victorian, 30’s, or 60’s glam, but my love for 80’s music occasionally takes over, like today, with a retro style MTV tee, the awesomest jacket ever…cotton jersey but cut like a fabulous blazer….and cute heels. Debated trying legwarmers…must have been momentarily insane this morning. That’s taking things WAY too literally. So went with classy heels and super-straight, flat hair to tone down any TOO literal 80’s vibe.

  16. 16
    September 14th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I love the tiered skirts, especially the purple one in that picture. I’m not a fan of bubble hem skirts, but I’m looking forward to looking nice even in the colder weather with a long skirt.

  17. 17
    September 15th, 2009 at 3:10 am

    Oh bubble skirts are my favorite. They’re fun, flirty, and feminine. Tiered skirts are something I’d like to try too – they remind me of Carrie Bradshaw from SATC :)

  18. 18
    October 14th, 2009 at 12:32 am

    I’m having my 21st birthday in December and my theam is 60 70 80tys.
    I really want to go as Cyndi Lauper and i want to find a similar outfit to the one above can anyone help?

  19. 19
    March 28th, 2010 at 1:26 am

    I love these skirts! They remind me of a movie called Teen Witch. It has some really great 80’s outfits!

  20. 20
    September 6th, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Lovely skirt and nice color of purple i like it. Thanks for sharing for us.

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