No doubt the 80s were full of varied and sometimes far out fashion choices. The Reagan era inspired plenty of folks to lean more heavily into yuppie-attire (that is, the type of stuff you’d wear to the office), but it wasn’t just button-downs and slacks that were popular. Sure, movies like Wall Street and Bright Lights, Big City helped to popularize ties and suspenders, but then think of the way the 80s truly made blazers their own a la the pastel-heavy cop show, Miami Vice. Working women of the time were also deep into plaid suits—think Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, and don’t forget the comfortable walking shoes! 80s-inspired fashion picks then might include a number of more office-friendly attire, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
From there, the looks get more casual and out there. The iconic film the Breakfast Club certainly shows us how the 80s not only embraced conservative looks, but also the loudly femme hot pinks and frills of Molly Ringwald—as well as the darker, brooding styles of Ally Sheedy’s character. Many women of the time sported more Aquanet in their locks than any human ever should. Puffy princess sleeves were often mixed into a dress with a short hemline, and almost always in shiny fabrics. Other attention-grabbing accessories include chunky jewelry and just about anything in neon (watches, eye shadow, nail polish, you name it).
To counter that, ladies who were more into political punk rock or living a more angsty, goth life would definitely opt for darker colors in their outfits. Studded leather, plaid, mohawks, fishnets, mesh tops, combat boots—these were worn by those who lived on the fringe. 80s-inspired fashions incorporating leather jackets or animal prints would certainly be a good nod to the decade. Like we said, the 80s were anything but short on imagination when it came to looks both on and off the runways. If you’d like to freshen up your wardrobe by imbuing it with trends from the past, we’ve got you covered with looks that would even get Madonna jealous.
No one made it through this entire decade without having at least one pair of acid wash jeans. While the style you wore long ago might not be all that flattering today, you can totally update these skinny jeans with with a more modern top.
If you ever attended a dance or a New Year’s Eve party in the 80s, chances are you ran into a number of lamé dresses. Made of a metallic fiber, these shiny dresses were the epitome of cool to young women in the 80s. Try this one by Marc Jacobs, which incorporates one of the more conservative looks of the era.
Neon was notoriously popular in the 80s, but today, that might not be quite as acceptable in every instance. There are, however, more subtle ways to rock this 80s-inspired fashion trend. Try a stylish, crossbody handbag by Calvin Klein—in “shocking pink,” no less.
Who knew you could still buy a fresh pair of jelly sandals? Try going for the clear variety if you don’t appreciate much attention at your feet. But if you don’t mind going a little bright, strut around in Green, Orange, or Fuchsia Neon.
The people of the 80s truly appreciated a bare shoulder. And this trend was often spotted under the disco ball of a high school prom. Velvet was also having a little time in the spotlight during this decade. You can sport both of these fashions by way of this cabernet-colored dress by Bardot, that’s still modern despite its retro appeal.
Windbreakers, complete with large geometric patterns in pastel or neon colors, were worn by many in the 80s. This casual piece of outerwear has been modernized with more neutral colors so you can keep it on hand for cover on a windy day.
Suspenders were worn frequently by at least two vastly different groups of people in the 80s: investment banker-types and punk rockers. Walk both of these subculture lines today with a pair of chic suspenders, in a dark blue buffalo check pattern you can dress up or down.
Working girls everywhere were wild about houndstooth everywhere in their wardrobes. You could easily spot women opting for this pattern for their skirts, blazers, and more. Now, you can give a solid nod to those kitschy office looks with this 80s-inspired fashion pick: a hot houndstooth jacket, complete with bold, gold buttons and some exceptional shoulder pads.
Adidas Superstars were first invented as basketball shoes in the late 60s, but they enjoyed a renaissance in the 80s thanks to popular hip hop group Run DMC. Wear these laid-back kicks on your day to day errands to stay comfortable and chic.
Bodysuits are another trend that can easily transfer over to a become a more current, 80s-inspired fashion pick. Propelled into popularity thanks to Jane Fonda’s Workout and films like Flashdance, the women of the era were loving these workout-friendly pieces. But you don’t have to relegate your own bodysuit to being exercise-only. Pair with some well-fitting jeans and a nice blouse or jacket and you’ve got a great new look.
The late 90s and early 2000s saw young people rebel against this type of sleeve, but now that it’s 2019, the puffy sleeve is starting to look appealing once more. This fashion trend of the 80s (which was really a nod to much, much older fashions) was predominantly seen on women’s evening wear. Bring it into the new millennium by opting for a puffy sleeved-blouse with jeans and modern accessories.
Although Member’s Only jackets were first created in 1975, they didn’t make it into America shops and American wardrobes until 1980 and beyond. These outwear pieces quickly became a staple among 80s youth, and still retain some of their coolness credibility—especially in a new ombre-style. Besides, they’re exceptionally functional jackets, so there’s no reason not to have one yourself.
Folks in the 80s truly appreciated large (some would say even oversized) jewelry, often in geometric shapes and bright colors. We’re going to modernize this particular trend by eliminating one of those three qualities, aiming for earrings that are chunky and geometric, in a more neutral color. You’ll certainly turn heads with these luxe, retro earrings by Halogen.
Maybe it was the aftermath of one too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie, or maybe it was something else, but prairie dresses really did gain notoriety in the 1980s. These flowy, floral-style dresses are conservative enough that a woman of any age could pull it off without a hitch. Who wouldn’t want such a cute sundress in their wardrobe?
Remember the hair bands of the 80s? If you do, you might recall, among other trends, seeing ladies in all kinds of animal print—especially big cat prints. It’s not solely a nod to the 80s, of course. Animal prints have always been eye-catching, and you can be too in this long-sleeved blouse by Topshop. Truly a fun way to add some 80s-inspired fashion flair.
Millennials might think of plaid and reminisce about the Clueless 90s era, but you recall when it was the signature look of the Heathers. Nothing screams 80s mean girl more than a boucle plaid jacket (with or without the matching skirt). That said, you can still play nice and don this chic jacket, though pants might help bring it more to date.
While they were certainly the preferred footwear of skaters and surfers of the eighties, you don’t have to partake in either sport to wear them today. And though the older styles might’ve been limited to the black-and-white checker print, nowadays you can find them in all kinds of colors and patterns. Try the violet ice pair for a look that’s casual and fun, but that can still be dressed up for fancier occasions.
You know how old fashion trends often come back around after a decade or two? This was certainly the case in the 80s, when popular styles of the 50s and 60s would occasionally pop up. Take this Gucci Silk Tie Neck Blouse, for example. Definitely has some vintage early 60s flair, but it’s also reminiscent of the more covered-up looks of working 80s women. And truth be told, it can just as easily be worn today and still look stellar.
Television certainly has a strong influence on the styles worn during a certain era (or are TV shows merely representative of what’s already popular?) Whatever the case, you can’t deny the effect Miami Vice’s broad-shouldered suits and pastel-colored everything had on fans. You can definitely give a nod to Crockett (Don Johnson himself) with this gleaming white blazer, complete with the requisite shoulder pads.
Sequins may have grown in popularity during the 1970s, but they were still seen as extremely fashionable in the 80s. Go for a more regal and sophisticated look with this breathtaking, long sleeved gown by Mac Duggal. The sequins here create a dreamy, leaf-like pattern that will give you a magical appearance—never a bad thing, right?
Many folks became a bit more health conscious in the 80s—perhaps again thanks to the aerobics dance craze and its rise in popular culture. And so it was that athletic wear also became much more common. We like to think that fitness should always be popular, and recommend this stylish tracksuit by Adidas as both a nod to the 80s and a nod to your own health.
We hope you enjoy finding ways to add some 80s inspiration to your wardrobe! For your information, Livingly may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.