80’s Fashion Trends and 80s style

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The 1980’s was the decade more commonly known as “the time that fashion forgot” and for that very reason 80s fashion trends tend to feature frequently on our Crimes of Fashion pages here at The Fashion Police. From shell suits to leggings, acid wash jeans to poodle perms, there was just very little about 80’s fashion to love. Let’s take a look back at the decade.

A collage of 80s fashion looks

The basics of 80’s Fashion trends

eighties fashion shellsuit

The 80’s silhouette was a very distinctive one. Hair was big, and either spiky or curly. Shoulders were equally big – think Crystal Carrington in Dynasty and you’re on the right track. Sweaters were big, baggy and bat-winged. Nice. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t big about 80’s fashion was the legs, which were generally encased in leggings, creating a “sack balanced on two sticks” look. Hmmm.

The Shell Suit: May it never return

If you lived in the UK in the 80s, you probably looked a bit like this:

OK, maybe not exactly like this. This, after all, is a fancy dress costume, so you might not have had the hair and moustache. (Especially if you’re female) Shell suits, however, were ubiquitous during the decade, and many were even more colourful than the one pictured. Surprisingly, this is one of the 1980s fashion trends that hasn’t made a comeback yet. We wonder why? Speaking of which…

A list of 80s fashion trends

Headed to an 80s fashion fancy dress party? Just love that retro look? Here are some of the top 80s fashion trends…

1. LeggingsBright leggings were everywhere in the 80s!

No follower of 80s fashion would consider their wardrobe complete without a pair of leggings. Leggings were the mainstay of 80s fashion, and were worn with everything from puffball skirts to cotton dress – and sometimes just on their own with a crop top and some legwarmers. Yes, it was a bad time for fashion. 80s leggings were far louder, and much more obnoxious than the ones you tend to see in stores today, though. The 80s fashionista shunned all those boring blacks and greys in favour of loud prints and clashing colours – and if any of those colours could be neon, then so much the better.

2. Puffball skirts

That exaggerated silhouette we were talking about? One of the items creating it was a puffball skirt, ideally made from some kind of shiny, satiny material.

3. Lace. On everything.

Lace gloves leggings and socks 80s fashion

In the 80s, if they could make it, they could make it in lace. And they did. Frequently. Lace cycle shorts were worn over puffball skirts, with lace fingerless gloves and, if you were REALLY fashionable, maybe a pair of lace ankle socks, which would always be worn with…

4. Neon stilettos

Neon shoes, big in the 1980s

Neon was another big part of 80s fashion. It appeared on dresses, pants, leggings… and shoes. 1980s shoes were high, super-pointed, and so bright you needed sunglasses to look at them. (Neon sunglasses, naturally.) You can still buy shoes like this today, and neon is currently going through something of a fashion revival: pity.

5. Acid wash denim

80s acid wash denim shorts, skirts and jeans

When it came to denim, there was only one wash that mattered in the 80s: acid wash. It appeared on jeans (which were high-waisted, with tapered legs), jackets, skirts and dresses. Best worn with neon and lace accessories, it was as ugly as sin, and yet it can still be found in stores today: 80s fashion never dies, it just gets recycled…

The 80s fashion trends that came back to haunt us

Of course, if 80’s fashion had just stayed in the 80’s, it would all be well and good. We’d look back and laugh at it occasionally, but there’d be no harm done. Sadly, though, that’s not the way it worked out, and 80’s style continues to come back to haunt us, perhaps more so than any other decade before or since. Leggings, leg-warmers, puffball skirts, shiny prom dresses… they’ve all found their way back into the fashion landscape in the last few years, with even acid wash jeans struggling to become acceptable attire in the 21st century. Some items of 80s fashion are now fully integrated back into the mainstream: leggings, for instance, made a comeback a few years ago now, and it looks like they’re here to stay. In fact, very few aspects of eighties fashion have missed out on a revival: it’s now not so much the decade fashion forgot as the decade fashion just can’t stop remembering, and at times you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d woken up in 1984. Will 80’s style really die? Sadly, it seems the answer to that one is “not if Topshop and American Apparel have anything to do with it.” 80's jelly shoes

The Ultimate 80s Fashion Checklist:

(With thanks to our readers….)

  • Acid wash jeans (bonus points for a tapered leg with ankle zipper)
  • Shoulder pads
  • Poodle perms
  • Shellsuits (if you were in the UK)
  • Neon spiral laces
  • Flintsone jeans
  • Ugly prom dresses
  • Smiley face shirts (“they called it aceeeed!”)
  • Body suits (or just “bodies”, as they became known. “Tonight I think I’ll wear a body with my Flintstones jeans.”)
  • High top sneakers, the chunkier the better, worn with the tongue pointing at the sky
  • Snoods
  • Leggings – preferably with a loud print, and worn with an oversized sweater or t-shirt
  • Leg warmers
  • Pointy-toed stilettos, ideally in neon colours, or bright white. Wear with ankle socks for added impact
  • “Frankie Says RELAX” t-shirts
  • Mohair sweaters, ideally falling off one shoulder
  • Scrunchies
  • Jelly shoes (and we’re not talking Vivienne Westwood for Melissa here…)
Madonna 80s punk in fashion krystle carrington, the 80s fashion icon Frankie says relax t-shirt

Some other 80’s Pages

See the ugliest 80’s items on Fashion Crimes of the 80s.  If you are into prom dresses then check this page out 80s style prom dresses.  And lastly if you’re having trouble finding 80’s items for sale on the high street then take a look at what we found on 80’s fashion on eBay[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


  • Olivia Oct 18, 2011 at 1:08 am

    I’m 16 and I have a lot of that stuff…. OOPS.

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    • nathan Jan 31, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      don’t say oops. it’s totally back. yeah, i said totally on purpose.

      View Comment
    • Martine Jan 5, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      The worst fashion crimes were the early 2000. I used to wear jeans with a three inch zipper. I could never even buy shirts that were long enough to cover my stomach. I especially liked True Religion, which had the added benefit of a fugly horseshoe design on the back pockets. I threw away all of my low rise or lower mid rise jeans last year finally, Now I only wear a high rise, or at least a high mid rise. Who invented that, and how did we all think that was OK? Actually, most of that stuff is not bad. I like puff skirts, as long as they are not crazy wide, and I don’t think acid wash is bad. High rise jeans are actually the normal way to wear jeans. Leggings are not a bad thing either, as long as people don’t wear them all the time…

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  • I AM AWESOME Oct 24, 2011 at 4:01 am

    those jelly shoes r THE ugliest things i have Ever seen in my LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • vickie Nov 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    i loveee the pink leggings!!

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  • Alex and kazzzzzzz Dec 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm


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  • never mind Dec 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    i soooooo. agree with that, the leggings are better……

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  • benefits of fruitbenefits of papayaFruit benefit Dec 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I take pleasure in, cause I discovered just what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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  • Michelle Anthony Dec 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    WOW!! Your 80’s cloths collection is really beautiful and attractive. I love to wear 80’s trendy clothes a lot. Thanks for cool sharing.

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  • Shazter Jan 26, 2012 at 11:29 am


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  • darius Feb 3, 2012 at 11:37 am

    most people really don’t remember the 1980s too clearly as it seems on the internet but if they do its vastly blown out of proportion…..do yourself a favour and choose 80s fashion magazines on ebay from 1983 to 1989,even better magazines from different countries and don’t depend to seriously on the given word by some people,some people strangely believe everybody dressed like madonna or cyndi lauper,but don’t realize that was music televison not the general public on the street, in the mall or junior high school

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  • George Feb 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Hi, I agree with Darius and I will go one step further. As a guy, the 80’s were the highpoint in fashion because some of the jeans that women were wearing. You should not fixate on the stonewash trend, you should instead consider that for example there were light blue 7/8 length brushed demin jeans with a zip on the bottom of the leg. These were my personal favourates. The jeans were high wasted and the rear pockets were placed above the crotch line making a beautiful upside down heart shape. To look best on a great body, these jeans had to be worn tight – and I mean TIGHT – and some girls just looked f****** amazing in those jeans. I soooo wish they would come back in fashion. Check out youtube’s video of Dr. Hook’s “Baby Makes her Blue Jeans Talk” – this is a good example or though there are also much better ones but sadly not available on youtube. Today’s low-rise jeans just don’t look as good, they create bulges in the wrong places, shorten the apparent leg-length and, just look sloppy and saggy-assed. The 80’s women’s tight jeans lengthened the leg, created an emphasis on the wasteline and accentuated curves where you want them accentuated. As a guy I want that women’s fashion from the 80’s to come back, you can keep the rest though!

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  • Kuerstin Feb 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Ummm….. I dont about these fasions, but I guess the jeans are ok

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  • empirestate Mar 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’m a guy and I love the 80s style also, I was only a baby in the late 80s so now is my chance to have fun like people in the 80s did. I’m totally in to the 80s looks, so much better than the bland boring stuff we had in the early 2000s

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  • Samantha Mar 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    im at school doing a research prject!! luv the site!!!!;)

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  • Gracie May 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Im at school doing a reserch project. totally bored.

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  • Erika Garcia May 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    everything is cute<3

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  • Pure Costumes Jul 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    We actually carry a lot of 80s costumes for those looking for the 80s theme. Also, I like the content of this site and would like to sponor it. Is that something available here? Thannks

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  • Sammy Davis Vintage Sep 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I was an ’80s baby (born 1986) and I have to tell you that I love ’80s fashion trends — the good, the bad and the ugly! I think it’s hilarious to rock one stylish piece of ’80s clothing and see what the reactions are. There are some ’80s trends that aren’t half bad, either … I list some of them on my site, if you want to check ’em out and let me know if you love or loathe ’em! http://sammydvintage.com/vintage-style/80s/80s-clothing/

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  • miranda Apr 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    im at school doing a reaserch poject and its super helpfull

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  • Nikolina Mar 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    omg the smiley leggings!! i love them!! <3

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  • Nikolina Mar 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    i have actually bought the smiley leggings, right now!

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  • alviranicholas Oct 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    thanks for the post…fashion does not have any age, it’s just that it evolves with progression of time

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