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How Did Women Dress In The 80s

18 Jun 2024

The 1980s were a time of bold fashion statements, vibrant colors, and unique styles that continue to influence the fashion world today. For fashion enthusiasts, understanding how women dressed in the 80s offers a fascinating glimpse into a decade defined by creativity and individuality. This blog post will take you on a nostalgic journey through the key elements of 80s fashion, from iconic trends to timeless pieces. Get ready to explore the glam, the grit, and everything in between.

The Birth of Bold Colors

The 80s were all about making a statement, and nothing did that better than bold, vibrant colors. Women in the 80s embraced a spectrum of neon hues, bright pastels, and primary colors. These colors were often mixed and matched in daring combinations that defied the subdued palettes of previous decades.

Power Dressing with a Pop

One of the most memorable aspects of 80s fashion was power dressing, which often featured bright, bold colors. Women wore tailored suits in vibrant reds, electric blues, and vivid pinks, making a statement in boardrooms and beyond. This trend symbolized confidence and empowerment, reflecting the growing presence of women in the corporate world.

Casual Chic in Neon

Neon colors weren't confined to formal wear; they also made their way into everyday casual outfits. Neon leggings, t-shirts, and accessories were staples in many wardrobes. These items added a playful and energetic vibe to even the most relaxed ensembles.

The Influence of Pop Culture

Pop culture icons like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper played a significant role in popularizing bold colors. Their music videos and public appearances showcased a fearless approach to fashion, inspiring women to experiment with their style and embrace eye-catching hues.

The Rise of Oversized Silhouettes

Oversized silhouettes were a defining characteristic of 80s fashion. Women wore clothing that was intentionally larger than their actual size, creating a distinctive and dramatic look.

Big Shoulders, Big Impact

Shoulder pads were a must-have accessory in the 80s. They were incorporated into everything from blazers to dresses, giving women a powerful, structured appearance. This trend was not just about fashion; it was a statement of strength and authority.

Loose and Lounge

Casual wear also embraced the oversized trend. Baggy jeans, oversized sweaters, and loose-fitting tops were popular choices for everyday wear. These items provided comfort without sacrificing style, making them perfect for a variety of occasions.

Layering for Effect

Layering was another way to achieve the oversized look. Women often layered multiple pieces of clothing, such as a t-shirt under a loose sweatshirt paired with baggy pants. This approach added depth and dimension to their outfits, making them stand out.

Iconic 80s Fabrics and Textures

The 80s saw an explosion of unique fabrics and textures that added flair to women's fashion. From luxurious materials to innovative synthetics, these fabrics played a crucial role in defining the decade's style.

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Leather and Lace

Leather and lace were two contrasting materials that often found their way into the same outfit. Leather jackets, skirts, and pants added a rebellious edge, while lace tops and dresses brought a touch of femininity and elegance. The combination of these two materials created a striking balance between tough and tender.

Denim Everywhere

Denim was another staple of 80s fashion. Women wore denim jeans, jackets, and skirts in various washes and styles. Acid-wash denim became particularly popular, adding a unique, edgy look to casual ensembles.

Shiny and Metallic

Shiny and metallic fabrics were everywhere in the 80s. Women wore metallic dresses, tops, and accessories that glistened under the lights. These materials added a futuristic and glamorous touch to evening wear, making them perfect for parties and nightlife.

The Legacy of Accessories

Accessories were an essential part of 80s fashion, often taking outfits to the next level. From statement jewelry to stylish hats, these items completed the look and added a personal touch.

Chunky Jewelry

Chunky jewelry was a defining feature of the 80s. Oversized earrings, bold necklaces, and large bracelets were popular choices. These pieces were often made from colorful plastic or metal, adding a playful and eye-catching element to any outfit.

Belts Galore

Belts were used not just for function but for fashion. Wide, cinched belts were worn over dresses, blazers, and even oversized sweaters to define the waist and add structure to the outfit. These belts often featured bold buckles and designs, making them a focal point of the ensemble.

Hats and Hair Accessories

Hats and hair accessories were also significant in 80s fashion. Women wore everything from berets and fedoras to headbands and scrunchies. These items added a fun and fashionable touch to hairstyles, enhancing the overall look.

Footwear Fads

Footwear in the 80s was as diverse and bold as the clothing. Women had a variety of options, each offering a unique style statement.

High-Top Sneakers

High-top sneakers became incredibly popular, thanks in part to the rise of hip-hop culture. Brands like Nike and Reebok released iconic designs that women paired with both casual and sporty outfits. These sneakers were often brightly colored, adding to the overall vibrant aesthetic of the decade.

Bold Boots

Boots were another footwear staple. From ankle boots to knee-high styles, boots came in various materials like leather and suede. Many featured bold embellishments, such as studs and fringe, making them a standout piece in any outfit.

Elegant Pumps

For more formal occasions, elegant pumps were the go-to choice. These shoes often had high heels and came in a range of colors and materials. They added a touch of sophistication to dresses and suits, completing the polished look of power dressing.

Hairstyles and Makeup

No discussion of 80s fashion would be complete without mentioning the iconic hairstyles and makeup trends that accompanied the clothing.

Big Hair, Don't Care

Big hair was a hallmark of the 80s. Women used volumizing products, curling irons, and lots of hairspray to achieve high-volume hairstyles. Perms were also popular, adding curls and waves to create a full, dynamic look.

Bold Makeup

Makeup in the 80s was all about making a statement. Bright eyeshadows, bold lip colors, and heavy blush were common. Women experimented with different looks, often drawing inspiration from pop culture and celebrities.

The Power of the Brow

Eyebrows were another focal point of 80s makeup. Fuller, more natural brows were in vogue, often accentuated with brow pencils and gels to add definition and shape.

The Influence of Music and Film

Music and film had a profound impact on 80s fashion. Icons from these industries set trends that women eagerly followed.

MTV Generation

The launch of MTV in 1981 brought music videos into homes across America. Artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince used fashion as a key element of their personas. Women emulated their styles, incorporating elements like lace gloves, leather jackets, and statement jewelry.

Silver Screen Styles

Movies also played a significant role in shaping 80s fashion. Films like Flashdance and Footloose popularized athletic wear and dance-inspired outfits. Meanwhile, Working Girl highlighted the power suit as a symbol of ambition and success.

Concert Culture

Live concerts were another avenue for fashion inspiration. Fans attended shows dressed in outfits that mirrored their favorite performers, from rock band tees to glam rock ensembles.

Fitness Fashion

The 80s saw a fitness craze that influenced everyday fashion. Workout clothes became a staple in women's wardrobes, blending style with functionality.

Aerobic Attire

Aerobic exercise was hugely popular, and so was the attire that came with it. Women wore leotards, leg warmers, and headbands, often in bright colors and bold patterns. These outfits made their way from the gym to the streets, becoming a casual fashion trend.

Tracksuits and Windbreakers

Tracksuits and windbreakers were also popular, offering a comfortable and stylish option for both workouts and casual outings. These items often featured color-block designs and were made from lightweight, breathable materials.

Sneakers and Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes became an everyday fashion statement. Brands like Adidas and Puma released stylish designs that women paired with both workout gear and casual outfits. These shoes provided comfort and support, making them a practical yet fashionable choice.

DIY and Personal Expression

The 80s encouraged personal expression and creativity in fashion. Many women embraced DIY (do-it-yourself) projects to create unique, customized pieces.

Customizing Denim

Denim was a popular canvas for customization. Women added patches, embroidery, and paint to their jeans and jackets, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that reflected their personalities.

Handmade Accessories

Handmade accessories were another way to stand out. Beaded jewelry, friendship bracelets, and personalized pins were just a few of the items women crafted to add a personal touch to their outfits.

Thrift Store Treasures

Thrifting became a popular way to find unique and affordable fashion. Women scoured thrift stores for vintage pieces, often repurposing or altering them to create modern, stylish looks.

The Return of the 80s

The influence of 80s fashion is still felt today. Many modern trends draw inspiration from this iconic decade, blending nostalgia with contemporary style.

Retro Revivals

Retro revivals bring 80s fashion back into the spotlight. Designers often incorporate elements like shoulder pads, bold colors, and oversized silhouettes into their collections, giving them a modern twist.

Pop Culture Homage

Pop culture continues to pay homage to the 80s. TV shows like Stranger Things and movies like Wonder Woman 1984 celebrate the fashion of the decade, sparking renewed interest in its trends.

DIY Resurgence

The DIY spirit of the 80s is alive and well. Modern fashion enthusiasts continue to personalize their clothing and accessories, drawing inspiration from the creativity and individuality of the decade.


The 80s were a time of bold experimentation and self-expression in women's fashion. From vibrant colors and oversized silhouettes to iconic accessories and DIY projects, the decade left an indelible mark on the fashion world. For today's fashion enthusiasts, exploring 80s fashion offers valuable insights and inspiration for creating their unique style.

Ready to bring some 80s flair into your wardrobe? Share your favorite 80s fashion trends in the comments below, and don't forget to book a consultation with our stylists to help you incorporate these iconic looks into your modern outfits.


What were the most popular 80s fashion trends for women?

Popular 80s fashion trends included bold colors, oversized silhouettes, shoulder pads, neon clothing, and chunky jewelry. Women also embraced DIY fashion, customizing denim and creating handmade accessories.

How can I incorporate 80s fashion into my modern wardrobe?

You can incorporate 80s fashion by adding statement pieces like a bold blazer with shoulder pads, neon accessories, or high-top sneakers. Combining these items with contemporary pieces will give you a modern twist on the classic 80s look.

What role did pop culture play in 80s fashion?

Pop culture had a significant impact on 80s fashion. Music videos, movies, and live concerts set trends that women eagerly followed. Icons like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper popularized bold colors, unique accessories, and experimental styles.

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