Fashion of the 1980s placed heavy emphasis on cheap clothes and fashion accessories. Hair was big, make up heavy and visual style was everything- think Boy George, Adam Ant and Madonna. Apparel tended to be very bright and vivid in appearance. With trends spanning from ripped jeans and oversized jackets to puffball skirts and power suits, it was one of the most eclectic decades in fashion history.
T-Shirts and Sweats
In 1984 a music video by Wham! reinvigorated the iconic fashion tee- with its stark, black-on-white imperative, CHOOSE LIFE, designed by Katherine Hamnett. During the same year Frankie goes to Hollywood’s exhortation to RELAX cemented the fashion. Worn oversized and these tees quickly became a simple staple of everyone’s wardrobe. The basic t- shirt became a billboard for the slogan of your choice.
A natural extension of the expressive t- shirt was an explosion of designs for both tee and sweat shirts. Many have become extremely collectable, Keith Haring’s pop art designs enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity.
There are several fashion trends which are synonymous with the 80s; maybe the most enduring was the advent of sportswear as a fashion item. In 1981 Olivia Newton-John had a hit with Physical and frankly I blame it all on her- it was all lycra, headbands and leg warmers thereafter! Fitness and body sculpting was a popular leisure pursuit and the clothing in which to pursue was a big market. Sports sponsorship and product endorsement became the norm instead of the exception, everyone wanted to wear their favourite sporting icons style.
Naturally, working women had to look the part, and they did so in menswear-inspired power suits. Instantly recognizable from their extended shoulders, an effect achieved by the large shoulder pads in the lining of the jackets and an oversized boxy look. For the summer shoulder pads in blouses were perfectly acceptable and bold prints too. Roll up your sleeves and get in the yuppie swing. Shoulder pads invaded all areas of 80s fashion so it was virtually impossible to find a dress or jacket without them.
The 1980s were the decade for designer denim, with Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein leading the pack. Designer jeans came in many colours, patterns and styles. There were wide leg jeans, stretch pull on jeans and coloured jeans. Jeans were normally flat fronted but in the 1980’s pleated fronted jeans were very much a thing. Acid wash or stonewash jeans, previously only worn by subcultures like punks, entered mainstream fashion in the mid ’80s. But the predominant jean style of the decade for women was high-waisted with a straight or tapered cut. Oh and dungarees too!
Another very popular look was to pair an oversized sweatshirt or sweater with a pair of leggings. Luckily, there is such a large selection of legging styles available now that finding the perfect 1980s style is not difficult!
The jumpsuit, which started gaining fashion momentum with the disco movement of the 1970s, hit peak fashionability in the 1980s. Women in the ’80s could choose from a wide variety of styles, from casual to dressy, from colourful to sparkly!
Dresses are a great source of 1980s inspiration. Fishtails, peplums, wrap overs and – I may have mentioned- shoulder pads, all featured heavily in many creations of the day. Flounces and bows the bigger the better and asymmetric lines were very typical too.
Another key look from the 1980s is the hair. Big hair was popular- heaped perms, backcombing and hairspray were big business! Equally popular was the more manageable Princess Di sweep, women wore short styles too, ooh and don’t feel shy about tying a scarf round your head either. Gloves with or without fingers, worked as a great canvas for your chunky bangles. Large earrings -dangling or not but big either way- and necklaces were all popular – guitars not obligatory!
At Repsycho we stock many 1980s items, browse instore or online for an authentic yet affordable look, please get in touch if you need advice.