Behind the seams

Fashion history | Sneakers | Fashion trends and news

Blog postFashion history

Fashion of the 1980’s

Welcome to a thrilling journey through time as we explore fashion of the 1980’s. Known for its flamboyance, excess, and bold experimentation, the ’80s left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. From power dressing to pop culture influences, this decade was a melting pot of styles that continue to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts today. Discover the iconic trends, memorable looks, and fashion icons that defined the 1980s.

What shaped Fashion of the 1980’s

The economical landscape of this decade influenced how people wanted to be perceived. For most of the times the 80’s were prosperous for many. Therefore people were obsessed with money and wanted to show that they have it, even if they didn’t. And the easiest way to do that is through clothes obviously. This cultural phenomenon was adressed by creative industry in movies like “Wall Street” or song “Material Girl” by Madonna.

Fashion of the 1980’s – most popular trends

Power Dressing – go big or go home

Fashion of the 1980's power dressing suit by Armani
Armani suits, Source: Pinterest;

Fashion of the 1980’s witnessed a significant shift in women’s attire as they entered the corporate world in larger numbers than ever before. Power dressing became synonymous with the era, as women adopted a more assertive and professional style.

Popularized by influential figures like Joan Collins and Princess Diana, the power suit emerged as the epitome of ’80s fashion. Sharp shoulders, boxy silhouettes, and tailored cuts dominated both office attire and eveningwear. Brands such as Armani and Versace became household names, offering sleek and luxurious designs that exuded confidence and authority.

Flashy Colors and Bold Patterns

Fashion of the 1980’s was all about vibrant and eye-catching colors. Neon hues, from electric pinks to fluorescent greens, adorned clothing, accessories, and even hair. Color-blocking was a popular technique, where bold, contrasting colors were paired together in unconventional ways.

Patterns also took center stage, with graphic prints, geometric shapes, and abstract motifs adorning everything from blouses to leggings. Designers like Betsey Johnson and Patrick Kelly embraced the exuberance of the era, creating playful and unique garments that celebrated individuality. United Colors of Benetton was one of the best performing brand during this time.

Streetwear enters the scene

While power dressing ruled the boardroom, the ’80s fashion also saw the birth of streetwear and the casual chic aesthetic. Inspired by the emerging hip-hop culture and the rise of MTV, sportswear and athleisure became a dominant trend. Iconic items like parachute pants, tracksuits, and high-top sneakers gained popularity among both men and women.

Everyday fashion in the 80's
Source: Pinterest;
Everyday fashion in the 80's
Source: Pinterest;

Labels like Adidas, Nike, and Puma became synonymous with urban fashion. With the rise of hip-hop logomania became a trend. Considering that this decade was obsessed with money, overexposing logos was a way to show that I’ve got money. But for those who didn’t have the access to that, especially people of culture and gangsters were catered by the iconic Dapper Dan. His knock offs of luxury brands were so popular that even Mike Tyson visited his shop (which didn’t end up good).

Additionally, denim reached new heights during this decade, with acid washes, ripped jeans, and oversized denim jackets becoming wardrobe staples. Denim started to be designed by the likes of Calvin Klein, who created one of the most controversial and popular campaigns with Brooke Shields.

The more the better

You couldn’t go wrong with adding as many accessories as you wish in the 80’s. Voluminous hair was a good way to make a statement but if you didn’t have the time to stylise them just put on a scrunchie. Big hoop earrings grew in popularity as a way to frame one’s face. To finish up the outfit many wore belts, often with unique embellishments or shapes.

Fashion of the 1980’s – cultural influence

The ’80s were replete with iconic fashion moments driven by music, movies, and television. Madonna, with her rebellious style and layered accessories, pioneered the look of the decade. The “Material Girl” aesthetic inspired legions of fans to don fishnet stockings, fingerless gloves, and statement jewelry.

On the big screen, films like “Flashdance” and “Dirty Dancing” showcased the allure of ripped sweatshirts, leotards, and leg warmers, sparking a dance-inspired fashion craze. The TV show “Miami Vice” introduced the world to pastel-colored suits, rolled-up sleeves, and loafers, influencing men’s fashion choices.

Fashion of the 1980's Madonna in the music video for Material Girl
Madonna in the music video for Material Girl, Source: Pinterest;
Fashion of the 1980's Miami Vice look for men
Looks from Miami Vice, Source: Pinterest;

The biggest fashion icon of the 80’s

Princess Diana, the beloved “People’s Princess,” was the truly the fashion icon and had a profound impact on the fashion industry in the 1980s. With her innate sense of style, grace, and willingness to break royal conventions, she became a global fashion icon, captivating the hearts of millions. Diana’s fashion choices not only shaped trends but also served as a powerful vehicle for fundraising and charitable endeavors.

One of the most notable examples of Diana’s philanthropic efforts in the fashion world was her involvement with the “Fashion Aid” event in 1985. This star-studded charity fashion show, organized to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, brought together top designers, models, and celebrities. Princess Diana served as a patron of the event, using her influence to encourage participation and generate awareness for the cause.

High Fashion of the 1980’s

When Lagerfeld took the helm at Chanel in 1983, the fashion house was at a crossroads. It had a rich history and an iconic legacy built by its founder, Coco Chanel, but it needed a fresh perspective to navigate the changing times. Lagerfeld embarked on a mission to infuse modernity and relevance into the brand, while respecting its heritage and distinctive aesthetic.

Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto had a vision of fashion opposing the 80’s trends. They are nutorious for the use of black, focusing on the shape and material of garment. Kawakubo’s designs were a rebellion against the established aesthetic, often featuring deconstructed silhouettes, asymmetrical cuts, and unconventional proportions. The work of Yohji Yamamoto was characterized by clean lines, voluminous shapes, and monochromatic palettes, exuded a sense of quiet sophistication.

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanell Autumn/Winter 1986/87, Source:”World of Art – Fashion since 1900″;
Yohji Yamamoto 1986/87
Yohji Yamamoto 1986/87, Source: maramarietta;

Donna Karan, a pioneer of American fashion, introduced a fresh and modern approach to womenswear in the 1980s. Her eponymous label, Donna Karan New York, celebrated the working woman with sleek and sophisticated designs. Karan’s creations embraced the power suit, featuring tailored jackets, wide-legged trousers, and sleek silhouettes that exuded confidence and femininity.

Franco Moschino was known for his whimsical designs and tongue-in-cheek approach to fashion, the brand brought a sense of joy and irreverence to the fashion of the 80s. Moschino’s collections featured bold prints, vibrant colors, and witty slogans, challenging the seriousness of high fashion.

80’s fashion outfit ideas

If you go to a party inspired by the fashion of the 1980’s or just want to feel the vibe of this decade try to mix current trends with 80’s style. For example if you opt for an ensemble with padded shoulders choose one in neutral colors instead of saturated.

Look for tracksuits with geometric patterns and keep it casual. You don’t have to buy everything new though, take out this old pair of jeans and try to bleach it yourself (but please keep in mind safety). The best place to find 80’s clothes is by visiting local thrift shops.


“World of Art – Fashion since 1900” book by Amy de la Haye and Valerie D. Mendes

3 thoughts on “Fashion of the 1980’s

Leave a Reply