A Deep Dive Into 80s Fashion


The late 1970s were an explosion of color. This was because the 1970s was the decade of disco. This meant colorful outfits, maximalist clothes, lots of accessories and quirky dressing styles. However, with the advent of the 80s, there was a lot of pushback with regards to maximalist fashion. Call it the changing times, or that disco was going out of style, or the changing social milieu or the zeitgeist but the fact was, when the 1980s came, people swapped their wardrobes for something more minimalist to keep abreast of the changing times. 

The 1980s were a time of social turmoil, economic troubles as well as widespread movements in politics. It was a time when the two superpowers in the world were at odds with each other, Princess Diana was a fashion icon, and Margaret Thatcher was still in power. 

They might’ve started with minimalism as a pushback to the punk disco movement, but eventually the minimalism took a backseat as the 1980s came into their own and developed a style of themselves. Bit by bit, 1980s became the year of larger-than-life fashion, buoyed by excess and capitalism and more money than anyone ever thought was possible. 

One of the characteristics of the 1980s were Jane Fonda workout clothes. This was a trend started by Jane Fonda, who popularised aerobics. Her workout videos in which she performed aerobics as a form of workout became extremely popular, leading to extremely high sales of her videos and her books. It popularised workouts for women, as well as neon spandex, printed leotards, leg warmers and scrunchies. 

Another characteristic of 80s fashion were the iconic Jordan sneakers. Jordan sneakers, made in collaboration with Michael Jordan. Nike’s endorsement deal with Jordan meant he had to wear the shoes on court. However, the NBA banned the sticker because it didn’t conform to the guidelines on colors. Jordan still decided to wear the shoe while performing with his heroic talent, attracting a 5000 dollar a day fine but still managing to cement the shoe in everyone’s minds, making it overall a great marketing campaign. 

In the 1980s, women were just beginning to work professionally, as a result of the liberalisation around women working in the workplace, as well as the feminist first wave movement that asked for additional rights for women. Women in the workplace meant they had to dress professionally and that meant workplace attire that projected strength along with femininity. Challenging their traditional perceptions and roles as women, they decided to wear attire that reflected that, such as shoulder pads. The shoulder pads allowed women a chance to combine their feminine look with strength, allowing them to project a more assertive image. 

Pearls were a huge fashion accessory in the 1980s, becoming popular because of fashion icons such as Princess Diana. Her love for pearls was well known and well documented, and she was seen wearing pearls multiple times on multiple occasions. In fact, at her wedding to Prince Charles, she wore a wedding dress with 10,000 pearls. Pearls were becoming popular again, as a symbol of wealth, opulence and purity. Large pearls and opulent jewelry were the norm of the day in the 80s, and people wore pearls to showcase the various qualities associated with them. Pearls have been associated with power, money and opulence for decades. It is why they made a comeback in the larger-than-life fashion of the 80s. 

A puffy hairdo, with permed hair was another hairstyle that got extremely popular in the 80s because of the TV show Dynasty. Almost everyone was inspired by Joan Collins’s characters Alexis Colby, and wanted to look like her and project confidence and power like she did. So they copied her outfit, with their permed hairdos, shoulder pads and purple makeup. 

It was also in the 1980s that the first supermodels emerged on the scene, and they earned their popularity by endorsing household items. A lot of models became popular, and their popularity meant that they could sway popular opinion because of their standing. This meant that a lot of the fashion sense that was derived for common people in the 80s came from the supermodels that endorsed these household products such as Coca-Cola.