Home » 80s Fashion for Women – Top Styles and Trends

80s Fashion for Women – Top Styles and Trends

by Jim H

Big hair and big shoulder pads. That’s what the eighties were all about. This decade heavily influenced a number of fashion trends we still see today. With style icons emerging and rock music taking over the passes, 80s fashion for women wasn’t just about clothing – it was a cultural phenomenon. Even if you do a simple search on Pinterest, you will find numerous looks that people wear, even today, which have been inspired by this era.

Acid Washed or Stone Washed Jeans

Acid Washed Jeans ad from Target was part of 80s womens fashion.

Acid Washed Jeans ad from Target.

The 1980s fashion trend saw a huge leap in the sales of jeans, especially high waist jeans. The new style of jeans included acid washing or stonewashed jeans which debut in 1986. The style was accidentally invented when jeans were washed with pumice stones and a weak bleach solution. It grew incredibly popular thanks to popular television shows and celebrities. Soon, acid-washed jeans become the go-to for both, men and women.

Stepping Out Bright And Neon

The 80s fashion for women included a rainbow of colors as is seen in the Summer 1980 Esprit Catalog.

The 80s fashion for women included a rainbow of colors as is seen in the Summer 1980 Esprit Catalog.

One of the color trends that become incredibly large during the 1980s was that of neon clothing. This was a huge shift from the decades before that focused more on somber colors. The eighties, however, were known for doing everything big and loud. Neon colors were the perfect way to express that.

Jelly Shoes

Jellly Shoes

Jelly Shoes

One theory suggests that the Brazilian company Grendene Shoes introduced Jelly Shoes to America in 1983. However, these shoes have been around since the 1950s – at least in Europe. They are made out of PVC plastic and the 80s style were produced in a variety of bold colors. The shoes were very affordable, often costing less than a dollar.  As you can imagine, they were quite comfortable and popular among students in the 1980s.

Power Suits

A screenshot of the 1988 movie "Heathers" shows the popularity of Power Suits.

A screenshot of the 1988 movie “Heathers” shows the popularity of Power Suits.

The eighties was when women really started to express themselves in the professional workplace, and the variations to the classic suit was a perfect example of this. Princess Diana was one person in particular who was responsible for popularizing the power suit. Pairing up suit jackets with pencil skirts, in particular, was something that becomes popular during this time. Power suits with bold colors and patterns marked the entrance of women in powerful positions.

Denim Jackets

Brooke Shields sporting a denim jacket for Cosmopolitan. Image: Jacques Malignon, 1985.

Brooke Shields sporting a denim jacket for Cosmopolitan. Image: Jacques Malignon, 1985.

The first time that people started to wear denim jackets on a regular basis was in the eighties. It’s something that has never really left the fashion scene since. The basic denim jacket was practical, comfortable and went with just about everything. There was no celebrity required to make this trend popular.

Animal Print Clothing

Animal prints were huge in 80s outfits.

Animal prints were huge in 80s outfits.

Nothing said you’re wild and crazy more than animal print clothing. Leopard, tiger, and zebra print clothing let everyone know you were a rocking, party animal. Animal prints could be found on pants, shirts, skirts, jackets, purses, you name it. The 80s outfits with animal prints were really popular among celebrities. Many famous rock and rollers – Tommy Lee, Bret Michaels, Blondie, and many more wore them.

Pointy Shoes

In 80s fashion for women, brightly colored pointy shoes became very popular, especially in the early 1980s.

In 80s fashion for women, brightly colored pointy shoes became very popular, especially in the early 1980s.

They didn’t look comfortable, but pointy shoes became a popular choice in 80s women’s fashion. Bright colored pointy shoes and heels were a huge hit!

80s Shoes Everyone Wanted

Shoulders Pads

Joan Collins as Alexis Colby in Dynasty wearing shoulder pads circa 1981.

Joan Collins as Alexis Colby in Dynasty wearing shoulder pads circa 1981.

When Power Suits became more and more popular with women, shoulder pads suddenly grew in popularity. Shoulder pads gave the illusion of broad shoulders and a commanding presence. Several artists such as Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker were seen wearing suits with padded shoulders, and many decided to follow in their footsteps. Let’s not forget Joan Collins in Dynasty, who became synonymous with 80s shoulder pads!

Leg Warmers

1980s fashion for women included leg warmers, especially for aerobics.

1980s fashion for women included leg warmers, especially for aerobics.

Leg Warmers are footless socks worn over the lower legs to keep muscles warm in cold weather and prevent them from cramping. They were quite popular with dancers early in the decade. However, they jumped from being utilitarian to a fashion accessory when movies like Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) made them popular. Additionally, aerobic exercises became huge in the early 80s and leg warmers became a key component for aerobics wear. By 1984, leg warmers came in every color imaginable and worn over leggings, stirrup pants and jeans. The fad reached its peak by 1985.

Stirrup Pants and Leggings

Stirrup pants came in various colors and styles.

Stirrup pants came in various colors and styles.

You can thank horseback riding in the 1920s for the stirrup pants craze of the 80s! The equestrian origin stems from women’s desire to have their pants remain tucked in their boots while riding astride on a horse. The same applies to skiing.  By the time the 1980s rolled around, stirrup pants became a fashion necessity. Schoolgirls to middle-aged women wore them. Women wore stirrup pants for athletic, casual and formal wear. Stirrup pants were designed for every lifestyle. This fashion trend is actually making a comeback. More and more women are wearing stirrup pants in the 2010s.

Did we miss any? Let us know in a comment below.

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