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How to Incorporate '80s Fashion Trends Into Your Wardrobe

You can still wear some trends today!

There's a reason why so many modern-day parties have '80s fashion trend themes: The decade had a definitive style that you can recognize in an instant. "The '80s credo was more is more, which gave way to its extreme fashion trends that lacked restraint, subtlety and, oftentimes, taste," explains Elizabeth Kosich, certified image stylist and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling. In any case, these trends are easy to mimic, whether you're playing dress-up or looking to incorporate something a little bit retro into your personal style.

Before diving into the biggest '80s fashion trends, it's important to understand where they came from—and that started in the '70s. Style icons of the decade, like Farrah Fawcett, Jane Birkin, and Patti Smith, ushered in the hippie, boho era, filled with floaty dresses, bold patterns, bell bottoms, and mini skirts.

Well, the '80s were a reaction to that. Punk style came into vogue, and adornments like shoulder pads hit the scene as a major power dressing trend (this was a time when women were advancing their careers like never before!). Bright color palettes and big hair abounded.

Keep reading to learn the standout fashion trends, accessories, and hairstyles of the '80s. Plus, discover how you can incorporate them into your wardrobe today. Remember: What goes around comes around!

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Classic '80s Fashion Trends

Boxy Suiting With Shoulder Pads

Yellow and green fashion concept with young stylish woman wearing suit and purse
mikeforemniakowski / Shutterstock

Skirt suits and oversized blazers with shoulder pads go in and out of style, but they were trailblazing during the '80s. This mainstream fashion trend surged in popularity as women entered the corporate workforce en masse for the first time ever.

"Boxy suits became the uniform de rigueur for pop-culture representations of working women, from Melanie Griffith in Working Girl to Diane Keaton in Baby Boom," writes The Cut in a retrospective on the outfit.

High Waisted Jeans

Close up of a woman wearing mom jeans with copy space during a bright day, fashion and styling concept

By the '80s, almost everyone had grown accustomed to denim, which was first worn by women in the '30s. For the new decade, high-waisted silhouettes reigned supreme. Nowadays, the cut is sometimes referred to as Mom jeans—and while low-rise options are becoming more popular, high-rise jeans are still one of the trendiest types of denim out there.

Acid-Wash Jeans

acid wash jeans, 20th century nostalgia

To get this look, denim is washed with chlorine to achieve a bleached, lived-in color. The popular fashion trend was started by surfers in California during the '60s, but it didn't become synonymous with a decade until the '80s. That's when hard rock and heavy metal musicians began sporting the style.

Today, you can wear acid-wash jeans with a basic white T-shirt to upgrade your everyday outfit. And if you really want to commit to the look, there are plenty of denim jackets out there to pair with your jeans.

Head-to-Toe Spandex

Happy woman with short haircut wearing colorful leotard and tights posing on blue background with pink yoga mat on her shoulder
South House Studio / Shutterstock

Aerobics instructor Gilda Marx kicked off the Spandex craze when searching for outfits for her A-list clientele at her fitness studio in Los Angeles, according to InStyle. She came across the somewhat newly invented synthetic material Lycra and used it for leotards, which were already being worn by dancers. In the years following, synthetic materials spread like wildfire through the fitness industry—and now, the entire decade is associated with stretchy neon workout gear.

RELATED: 9 Classic Fashion Trends That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

Iconic '80s Accessories


a pile of green, yellow, pink, orange, and multicolored scrunchies

These fun accessories are just as popular now as they were during the '80s.

"One of fashion's 'surprise and delight' accessories, it's an unexpected pop of fun in a… peek-a-boo place—consider terry cloth and cotton scrunchies by day and velvet and satin scrunchies by night," says Kosich. "The trend is cheap, cheerful, and easy to care for, wash, and wear, so load up on multiples to delight in a rainbow of color and style options."

Fanny packs

Young woman walking down street wearing denim shorts, white t-shirt, plaid open shirt, and a brown leather belt bag while holding her skateboard
Kuznetsov Dmitriy / Shutterstock

You probably spot at least a few of these practical pieces every time you run errands, but Kosich says they're often disguised as "belt bags" these days—aka, the fanny pack's elevated older cousin.

"Everyone loves being hands-free, which explains why the trend has been gaining popularity," says Kosich. "From designer to sportswear, take your pick of color, material, pattern, hardware, or style." You can wear one over a jacket to cinch the waist or throw it over your shoulder or across the body.

Corset Belt

Closeup of woman's torso wearing white shirt and belt
Tatiana Chernikova / iStock

You could also opt to keep your '80s-inspired belt a bit more streamlined with a corset option. They're popular today but have their roots from decades past.

"Dress down your corset belt with a cotton tank, boyfriend jeans, and Mary Jane flats, or dress it up by cinching your favorite cocktail dress—like an LBD, frilly chiffon maxi, or classic jersey wrap dress," says Kosich.

Punk Accouterments

Young woman with blue air wearing bold accessories, a black lather jacket, and corset dress posing against a pink background
patronestaff / Shutterstock

The anti-establishment scene brought about several accessories like metallic studs, spikes, chains, buckles, and fishnets. These were often paired with things like leather jackets and graphic T-shirts, but you can wear them on their own to jazz up an outfit.

Big Earrings

Young woman wearing a red off-the-shoulder sweater and yellow statement earrings laughing on isolated yellow background
Atstock Productions / iStock

The earrings during the '80s were just as big as the hair!

"While statement earrings are always stylish, be measured when adopting this trend by first considering your scale," suggests Kosich. "Petite and delicate facial features are best with mid-size statement earrings that appropriately frame the face, while square and round-shaped faces are better with huge sizes."

You can never go wrong with a hoop. "Or try a mismatched earring set to really channel the '80s-style spirit," says Kosich.

Fingerless gloves

Woman in 1980's fashion theme on a pink background. She's wearing a black jacket, pink fingerless gloves, a yellow headband, and white glasses
Melpomenem / iStock

These might resemble a Madonna costume you'd find at your local Halloween outlet, but they can work in real life, too.

"Part-romantic, part-rock 'n' roll, fingerless gloves are back in vogue," says Kosich. "Channel your inner 'Material Girl' with a pair in black lace, or make a bigger statement with a bold pop of color—yellow, orange or pink."

Put chunky bracelets or rings on top to play up the '80s even more.

Leg Warmers

Cropped shot of woman wearing sneakers and blue leg warmers, preparing for working out at gym. Her orange gym bag is next to her, along with green hand weights and a water bottle.
golubovy / iStock

These have a practical purpose: to keep dancers' muscles warm as they start practice. However, like Spandex, they were picked up by the general public in the '80s, typically in bright colors. They've come in and out of fashion a few times in the decades since, often in more understated colors (think the balletcore craze on TikTok, which embraced them in pink and beige).

RELATED: 6 Retro Fashion Trends Everyone's Wearing Now, Stylists Say.

'80s Hair Styles

Big, Bold Blowouts

Young beautiful model with bright make-up standing on the street girl with expressive make-up and curly hair.

Icons like Princess Diana, Jane Fonda, and Meg Ryan all sported layered cuts with lots—and we mean lots—of volume. The style is back in fashion, with influencers sharing ways to recreate it with velcro rollers and hair-teasing techniques. It doesn't get any more '80s than that.

Mullets and Wolf Cuts

woman with thick blonde hair sporting a wolf cut
okskukuruza / iStock

Some of the most iconic '80s mullets were sported by men. Think Billy Ray Cyrus and John Stamos. But these days, the edgy style has been embraced by everyone. Women are gravitating toward the wolf cut, which is a little less dramatic than a mullet but still has tons of layers and face-framing pieces.

Crimped Hair

Young woman with voluminous crimped red hair
More Than Production / Shutterstock

Crimped hair was all the rage during the '80s, and the style had a brief resurgence during the 2000s. Today, people are less likely to crimp their entire head of hair. However, there is a trend of crimping the under-pieces to create volume.

Half Up, Half Down

Rear view of woman with brown hair pulled half-up in beige claw clip.
Charlotte Clinton / Shutterstock

Ariana Grande wears this style in a fun and modern way. Instead of affixing the hairstyle with an oversized scrunchie, like you might have seen in the '80s, use a less conspicuous hair tie. Big curls add volume and glamour.

Side Ponytail

Young woman wearing a white t-shirt, blowing a bubble of yellow gum, with a side ponytail against a pink background
master1305 / iStock

There's perhaps no easier '80s hairstyle to recreate than the famous side ponytail—so give it a try for your next workout class or errand run.

To accomplish the look, simply scoop your hair into a ponytail at the top of your head and let it tilt to the side. Keep it in place with a loose scrunchy. The messier and more laissez-faire, the better!

RELATED: 6 Classic Clothing Items That Never Go Out of Style, Fashion Experts Say.

'80s Fashion Icons We Still Love


madonna performing on stage in prague

The "Express Yourself" singer helped launch trends like bustiers, ponytails (and side ponytails!), underwear as outerwear, and much more. Some of Madonna's most iconic looks include the Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra she wore on her Blonde Ambition tour and her white lace "Like a Virgin" dress.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson on stage for NBC Today Show Concert with JANET JACKSON, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY, September 29, 2006
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

"Her style embraces the sculptural shoulders and bold colors of the 1980s," writes Women's Wear Daily of the singer-songwriter and actress.

In her 1989 "Rhythmm Nation" music video, Janet Jackson sported a leather jacket with shoulder pads, buckles, and chains. She also pioneered some of the trendiest hairstyles of the day, like teased curls and flippy bobs.

Brooke Shields

brooke shields in the 1990s
Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock

When you think of the '80s blowout, there's a strong chance you think of Brooke Shields. In many of her '80s appearances, she's wearing puffy sleeves, shoulder pads, and bright colors. The model and actress was photographed often, and what she wore made an impact.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta in Cross Hall at the White House
Reagan White House Photographs / Wikimedia Commons

She married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, and skyrocketed to fame afterward. Her fashion influence started on her wedding day when she wore a totally '80s dress with puffy sleeves and a ruffled neckline with a feathered bob. Some of Princess Diana's most memorable outfits came in the years immediately after.


Cher at the premiere of "Sidney" in September 2022
Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock

Cher's fame started in the '60s and '70s, and she hit her stride in the '80s. Her showgirl-inspired ensemble for the 1986 Oscars, designed by Bob Mackie, drew many headlines. "She said, 'I don't want to look like a housewife in an evening gown,'" Mackie told Vanity Fair. "We never have to worry about that."

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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