The top 80s Fashion Trends and 80's costumes for Halloween

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 fashionkrystle carrington, the 80s fashion iconFrankie 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