A Fashionable History: ’80s Edition

Channel this decade for a totally rad look.

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1980s Bloomingdale’s advertisement

’80s fashion is a little like fight club, in that the general rule is to talk about it as little as possible.

While ’90s and ’70s looks have been resurfacing for years now, it’s taken us a bit longer to re-embrace ’80s fashion. Perhaps it’s because we’re still shaken by the crazy prints and parachute pants of the decade. And that’s not even bringing up the hair! 

All jokes aside, though, there’s a lot we can learn from ’80s fashion. After all, is there any other era that was so unashamed of making a statement? While we usually associate the ’80s with neons and bold patterns, jelly bracelets, and kinda ridiculous makeup (seriously, google any picture of Cindy Lauper), it also brought us athletic-inspired trends, a re-imagining of glam rock style, and fashion icons like Madonna and Molly Ringwald. The ’80s challenged how big, bright, and bold we dared to be.

{RELATED POST: ’80s Style Clothing Ideas You Should Try This Spring}

So if you’d like to see how you can bring back a bit of the 80’s, check out these three looks of varying levels of ’80s-ness. Grab your fanny pack and keep scrolling!

80s Fashion Outfit #1: You Better Work

80s fashion - outfit with galaxy leggings, converse, jelly watch, oversized long sleeve shirt

Products: Leggings – Yoins, Shirt – Victoria’s Secret Pink, Watch – Amazon, Shoes – Amazon

While the full intensity of the ’80s aerobics trend may be a bit much for your day-to-day look (leg warmers, anyone?) the overall idea of the style is super fun and super comfortable. 

For a more 2019 take on an athletics-inspired look, start with a casual varsity tee and pair it with these amazing galaxy leggings, which harken back to the bright tights of the ’80s. Some sneakers – Converse in this case – keep you ready to go. This jelly watch is a little throwback to the bright bangles that could be found on any cool ’80s teen. 

Related reading: What to Wear to an ’80s Party: The Best ’80s Party Outfits for Ladies

80s Fashion Outfit #2: Material Girl

80s fashion - outfit with bralette, oversized trousers, ankle boots, denim jacket

Products: Joggers – H&M, Bralette – Topshop, Heels – Charlotte Russe, Jacket – American Eagle, Earrings – ASOS

This outfit is a fun night-out look that combines two ’80s music trends. Unlike most things in the ’80s, glam rock fashion actually became a bit more toned down during the decade. Also, Madonna, as I mentioned earlier, helped define ’80s fashion with her simultaneously edgy and elegant looks. This outfit draws from both the rock and pop vibes.

Joggers are kind of a modern girl’s answer to parachute pants: just as comfy, but with 50% less M.C. Hammer.

Red heels and a sequined purse add a bit more glam to the look, while a distressed denim jacket keeps this look from being too dressy.

80s Fashion – Outfit #3: Neon Lights

80s fashion outfit with neon pink skirt, black sweatshirt, ankle boots, mini backpack

Products: Sweater – H&M, Skirt – Shein, Shoes – H&M, Nail Polish – Dermstore, Necklace – Simons, Backpack – ASOS

Now, just in case those last two outfits gave you the impression that the ’80s had any chill whatsoever, let me just remind you that they did not. 

The patterned sweaters, neon crop tops, and stirrup pants you usually see associated with ’80s fashion were actual things that people wore back then. This may seem like the hardest trend to work into your own style, but never fear, it’s far more wearable than it seems!

The secret with neons is that you really need to limit yourself to only one or two neons per outfit. A highlighter pink pencil skirt may seem like a bold choice, but when paired with a boxy black knit sweater and black ankle boots, it just becomes a fun pop of color. If we only had one neon, though, it wouldn’t be very ’80s, so I recommend nail polish, sunglasses or even a short pair of socks in a lively pink as a secondary neon.

Finally, the bag itself isn’t a necessity, but by finding a brightly colored bag like this cute little mini backpack, you too can have a totally ’80s way to carry your stuff.

What do you think?

What’s your opinion on ’80s fashion? Are you planning to incorporate it into your look this year? Are there any ’80s trends you think I should have included? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2016; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos and information.

1 thought on “A Fashionable History: ’80s Edition”

  1. I think the 80s pop musicians like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna represent the *actual* practical 80s looks as much as Lady Gaga represents the practical looks of today 😛 Look to 80s movies and clothing (not make-up) advertisements for inspiration. I think also that the 90s and 70s have air of the casual and care-free which appeals to people today, but the 80s, despite the leggings and a few things, were a bit more formal. I rock the 80s fashion regularly and I think the decade is very underrated.


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