The decade of the 1980s is infamous for its loud and obnoxious fashion. From shoulder pads and perms to neon colors and leg warmers, 80s fashion was a visual assault of bold styles and bright colors that are best left in the past. Yet at the time, you likely embraced these over-the-top trends as the height of fashion and glamor. Looking at photos today of your teased bangs, acid wash jeans, and Members Only jacket, you may cringe at what seemed so stylish then. The maximalism of the 80s that valued flashy excess and brash flamboyance led to fashion choices that haven’t aged well. But for a brief, blinding moment in time, the 80s produced a fashion zeitgeist that shaped an entire generation. Love it or hate it, 80s fashion made a statement that still reverberates today.

The Rise of Bold Shoulder Pads

The 1980s saw the rise of bold shoulder pads that added power and stature to the silhouette. Massive shoulder pads were inserted into jackets, dresses, and blouses, building a triangular shape that made heads turn.

The Power Suit

The “power suit” emerged, featuring a fitted blazer with robust shoulder pads worn with a skirt or pants in a complementary color. This style conveyed authority and confidence in the workplace. Career women donned these ensembles to climb the corporate ladder and shatter glass ceilings.

Dynasty Inspired

The popular soap opera Dynasty inspired fashionistas with its over-the-top glamor. Joan Collins and Linda Evans epitomized the decade’s style in their shoulder-padded power suits, opulent gowns, and ostentatious jewelry. Viewers sought to emulate the Carrington women’s wardrobes of form-fitting dresses, fur coats, and dazzling gems.

A Symbol of Success

Padded jackets became popular for both men and women, seen as a symbol of success and status. Designers like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana built their brands on the bold shoulder trend. The wider the shoulder pads, the more commanding the silhouette.

By the late 80s, shoulder pads started to shrink in size and popularity. While they defined the era’s esthetic, bold shoulder pads were best left behind in the 80s. The statement they made, however, still resonates today in contemporary power dressing.

Legwarmers and Leotards for Aerobics

The 1980s saw some rather eccentric fashion trends, but none quite as memorable as the aerobics craze that spawned legwarmers and leotards. ###

If you participated in an aerobics class during this era, you likely sported a fitted leotard, legwarmers, and a sweatband. Leotards, or skin-tight one-piece suits, allowed for flexibility and range of movement during intense workouts. Legwarmers, knitted tubes that extended from ankle to thigh, were not just for keeping muscles warm but also for making a fashion statement.

Some other hallmarks of 80s aerobics attire included:

  1. Neon colors like hot pink, electric blue and highlighter yellow. The brighter and bolder, the better.
  2. Stripes, especially on legwarmers and sweatbands.
  3. Stirrup pants, a style of leggings that looped under the arch of the foot.
  4. Patterned tights to wear under shorts. Geometric prints and dots were popular.

While 80s aerobics fashion may seem over the top today, it embodied the energetic and optimistic spirit of the fitness craze during that era. The clothing was designed not just for function but for self-expression and fun. Although the trend was short-lived, it represents an important moment in fashion that celebrated health, empowerment and unapologetic flashiness.

Looking back, the legwarmers and leotards of the 80s aerobics era elicit nostalgia for a time of experimentation and lighthearted flair. The bold styles from this period continue to inspire retro-futuristic looks on runways today, proving that true fashion has a way of coming back around again.

Big Hair and Bigger Accessories

The 1980s were a time of bold style choices, and no area was bolder than hair and accessories. Big, bright, and over-the-top, 80s fashion pushed boundaries that today seem gaudy and excessive. Yet in embracing maximalism and rejecting minimalism, the 80s also championed self-expression, individuality, and fun.

Big Hair

No 80s look was complete without an extravagant hairstyle. For women, big hair was the standard, with sky-high bangs, teased roots, and copious amounts of hairspray and mousse required to achieve maximum height and volume. Popular styles included the bouffant, the mullet, and the perm.Men’s hairstyles were equally statement-making, from the shag to the hi-top fade.

Bigger Accessories

If the hair didn’t attract enough attention, outrageous accessories would seal the deal. Shoulder pads, neon colors, leather, lace, and sequins were staples of 80s fashion. Jewelry was bright and bold, from door-knocker earrings to gemstone rings to nameplate necklaces. Legwarmers, sweatbands, sunglasses, and gloves were popular arm and leg accessories.

Belts, scarves, suspenders, and pins were used creatively to accentuate an outfit. And no one did accessories bigger than Madonna, from her fishnet stockings and bracelets to her fingerless lace gloves and crucifix jewelry.

While today we may look back and cringe at the sheer excess of 80s style, it represented the fun, rebellious spirit of the era. The 80s fashion scene encouraged people to take risks with how they looked and to use style as a means of self-expression. Though best left in the past, the bold and outrageous fashion of the 80s made a lasting impact on pop culture and paved the way for more adventurous street style today.

Neon Colors and Geometric Prints

The 1980s were a time of bold fashion choices, especially when it came to colors and prints. Neon hues and geometric patterns were hallmarks of 80s style.###

Bright colors like hot pink, electric blue, and neon orange dominated the decade. These loud, vibrant shades were used for everything from clothing and accessories to makeup and hairstyles. Neon colors were all about making a bold statement and standing out from the crowd.

Geometric prints were also popular, with zigzags, triangles, and diamond shapes repeating on shirts, pants, dresses, and jackets. These prints created an almost hypnotic, dizzying effect. The bolder and more clashing the colors were in the print, the more fashionable it was considered.

Some of the most memorable and cringe-worthy 80s fashion combinations were neon colors paired with geometric prints. An electric blue top with a zigzag pink and green print, anyone? These looks were certainly eye-catching but did not stand the test of time.

Thankfully, like all fashion trends, the neon and geometry craze eventually faded. By the late 80s and early 90s, plaid, grunge, and minimalism came into vogue, ushering out the bright colors and busy prints of the previous decade. However, 80s fashion still remains an iconic symbol of the era, even if the styles themselves are not ones people are keen to bring back. The 80s was a decade about experimentation, expression, and pushing the envelope – neon colors and geometric prints were bold embodiments of the spirit of the times.

Fanny Packs and High-Waisted Jeans

The 1980s were a time of bold fashion choices that many now look back on with a mix of nostalgia and regret. Two of the era’s most memorable and cringeworthy trends were fanny packs and high-waisted jeans.

Fanny Packs

Fanny packs, also known as belt bags, were popular in the 80s as a hands-free way to carry essential items. These small pouches with shoulder straps allowed people to keep their belongings close without needing to carry a full bag or purse. However, fanny packs were not the most stylish or flattering accessory. They added bulk to the midsection and were seen by many as unfashionable. Their popularity has had a resurgence at music festivals and for travel, but fanny packs remain an 80s fashion relic for most.

High-Waisted Jeans

High-waisted or “mom” jeans were another memorable 80s fashion flop. These loose-fitting, light-wash jeans featured a waistband that hit at or above the belly button. They were seen as comfortable but unflattering as they failed to accentuate the figure. High-waisted jeans have made a comeback in recent years as part of the 90s revival and interest in vintage styles. However, the modern versions are more fitted and stylish, lacking the boxy, ill-fitting cut of their 80s predecessors.

The 80s saw people pushing fashion boundaries and embracing new styles without much regard for how they looked. While fanny packs and high-waisted jeans were practical and comfortable, they failed to achieve a stylish or fashion-forward esthetic. Looking back, these trends are seen as iconic symbols of 80s excess and experimental fashion. Though some elements have reemerged in modern styles, fanny packs and original high-waisted jeans remain confined to the 80s.


After looking back at the fashion trends of the 1980s, you realize that while some aspects were fun and memorable, many styles were quite bizarre and exaggerated. The bright colors, big hair, shoulder pads, and neon spandex have not aged well. Fashion is always evolving, but the 80s took risks that did not pay off and resulted in quite a few fashion faux pas. Though nostalgic for some, the bold and often garish styles of 80s fashion are best left in the past. The 80s taught us that more is not always better when it comes to clothing and hairstyles. Let’s keep the best of the 80s in our memories but leave the fashion to evolve in newer, more stylish directions.

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