In the 1980s, women’s clothes were both dressy and casual. Gym clothes started to be worn on the street and poorly influenced fashion trends. Costumes were a crazy mix of old and new ideas. They had big hair, puffy sleeves, ruffles, jewel tones, and padded shoulders.
Popular fashions of the 1980s
In the 1980s, fashions and cultural trends were created or became popular. Some of them have lasted and can still be seen today.
- New Romantics or New Wave
- Preppy and Yuppie
- Sportswear Inspired
The transition from the 1970s to the 1980s
As the 1980s went on, people who were tired of the tough times of the 1970s were glad to hear about wealth and success. Even though it was hard for some people, like those with mortgages with 12% interest, others made a lot of money from the high-interest rates.
The power suit and evening elegance came about because of how much money was praised. The professional businesswoman, the archetype of financial success, wore suits with big shoulder pads that tapered into slim, short skirts.
At the beginning of the 1980s, women started to wear all black, but by the middle of the decade, suits for women had bright jewel tones that were often put together in strange ways. Some blouses were tailored like men’s clothes and had big or stand-up collars, like a Gibson Girl, with tiny ruffles around the edges.
Princess Diana brought scalloped collars, pie crust collars, out of the New Romantic club scene and into the mainstream. Tunic tops with bold prints, stirrup pants that are tight and stretchy, and short, slouchy boots. On either hand, parachute and harem pants had tight waistbands and wide, flaring legs held together at the ankle with elastic or a band.
Styles mix across social and economic classes.
In the 1970s, when the economy was bad, people had to cut back on spending. This made haute couture less important. To make more money, fashion houses came up with new ways. American and European designers made styles for the ready-to-wear market through franchised boutiques and licensing deals for perfumes, jewelry, handbags, clothing, and home linens.
No longer did you have to be extremely wealthy to be able to buy Versace, Prada, or Dolce and Gabbana. Wild, over-the-top outfits were shown at fashion shows as works of art, and the public could buy less extreme versions. From the bottom up, youth culture and streetwear have greatly impacted fashion.
High-end designers looked to urban youth for ideas, which led to the idea of style tribes. Hip Hop, which started in New York’s South Bronx, gave young African Americans a sense of ghetto fabulousness as they bought designer jeans, sneakers, oversized gold jewelry, and clothes with big designer logos.
The women wore Gloria Vanderbilt’s black denim pants, midriff shirts, and little skirts. People liked to wear braids, weaves, and fake fingernails. Hip Hop gave us the idea of wearing tracksuits on the street, wearing clothes that are too big, and wearing baseball caps backward.
In the 1970s, the punk movement kept affecting fashion. A style worn by poor white people in cities quickly made its way to fashion shows. There was a place on the runway for ripped pants, ragged shirts, and bold bondage clothing that didn’t match or look clean. Dresses worn by people in the middle class had safety pins, big zippers, and graffiti prints.
Women wore combat boots with skirts, fingerless gloves, fishnet stockings, black lace, and hair that weren’t its natural color. Hair cuts were often uneven and had parts that were only partly shaved. Women with more than one piercing could wear more than one pair of earrings.
Goth or Gothic Style
Styles from different tribes often mix with styles from other groups. A style called “goth,” which is short for “Gothic” was influenced by punk. Goths wore black clothes that made them look like vampires.
Goth women wore long black-laced dresses, long black cloaks, and long coats. Faces with a lot of makeup and black lipstick were framed by hair that had been dyed black. Heavy eyeliner drew attention to the pale makeup on the face. Also, young women painted the tips of their fingers black.
Also known as New Romantics or New Wave
Goths, punks, the ’80s love of pouf, and historical styles influenced the New Romantics. The over-the-top style, also called “New Wave,” reminded people of Victorian military dress jackets, pirates from fantasy stories, and other things worldwide.
Strange hairstyles and makeup, such as bright splashes of rouge, framed pale faces. You could mix and match parts of this look from 1930s Hollywood, Scottish tartans, and Regency-era fashion. The New Romantics brought back the fun of dressing up by combining drama with humor and fantasy.
Preppy and Yuppie Styles
A more conservative style became popular as a balance with the occasionally extravagant glance of new artistic street fashions. Preppies wore oxford shirts, LaCoste polo shirts, chino pants, and sweaters that were thrown over the shoulders.
Women’s hair was long and straight, and they often wore clips or headbands to hold it back. They wore little or no makeup on their faces. Young urban professionals, or “grown-up preppies,” called “yuppies,” wore conservative suits and business clothes. Ralph Lauren sold these classic styles and clothes that made me think of America’s rural past.
Style icons from the 1980s
When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles of Wales in 1981, everyone went crazy over her. After the British royal family stopped being important in the fashion world, a new royal princess with the height of a model appeared out of nowhere.
Princess Di arrived dressed to impress as a member of the Sloane Rangers, a group of young women who wore Hermes scarves, Liberty patterns, and low-heeled shoes. She went to public events wearing clothes made by British designers, which helped them sell more of their clothes.
She made a look that matched the New Romantic club scene and the traditional British country style. Young women worldwide were influenced by her kindness, grace, and desire to help others.
The King of Pop had a look that young men and women could wear. His tight pants, loafers, and white shirt gave him a preppy look, while his bright red jacket with big zippers gave him a New Wave look.
Vivienne Westwood was a British fashion designer influenced by and inspired by Punk, Goth, and New Romantic groups. In 1981 and 1982, she made a Pirate collection of puffy shirts with big collars and military jackets that looked from the 18th century. In 1982 and 1983, she made a “Buffalo Girls” line of clothes based on traditional Peruvian patterns with shades of brown. Her clothes had a theatrical feel, making way for more out-of-the-box styles.
Madonna’s dramatic stage clothes, shown in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan, affected fashion. With her bras and corsets, Madonna showed us how underwear could be worn as outerwear. She wore several ropes of long beads, black lace gloves, and mesh knit tops. Madonna used her fame to make money by licensing her brand of clothes and accessories.
In 1984, when he started his label, John Galliano made a big splash. Galliano was one of the most famous people in the New Romantic movement. He made clothes that were theatrical and avant-garde, combining historical themes with modern design. His dresses and skirts with bias cuts were soft and flowy. His wild and dramatic designs had a kind of campy romance, and in 1987, he was named British Designer of the Year.