’80s Clothing Trends You Love to Remember (or Wear!)

October 10th, 2013
1980s clothing trends

1980s clothing trends

You either love it or hate it, which is why ’80s clothing trends are probably the most controversial of all the eras.

First, many vintage sellers argue that the ’80s isn’t even “vintage” — because we are still only two decades away from its time, the era is best qualified as “retro” or “nostalgic” and the style value less.

Second, I’ve encountered many vintage lovers who strongly dislike the era, shuddering at the thought of ’80s clothing trends like stonewash denim, batwing sleeves and shoulder pads.

While the clothing styles of 1980s are a far cry from the feminine fashion of the 1950s and may not make your vintage lovers’ heart go pitter patter with delight, I believe that the ’80s is worth honoring because its trends were so avant garde in style, design and wear by the modern woman of her day.

shop now button

<< CHECK ‘EM OUT! The best 1980s vintage clothing trends you love to remember, wear and (perhaps) chuckle at 

Admittedly, even I cut out shoulder pads before wearing an ’80s garment — but I still like totally love ’80s fashion and have respect for what shoulder pads, along with 9 other rockin’ ’80s trends, represented for women’s fashion!

Do you love or loathe the ’80s?

I wanna hear what you think in the comments below the post, or by saying hello on TwitterFacebookInstagram or by subscribing to my newsletter!

xx, SD



Feel free to scroll through the post to see these totally trendy ’80s clothing styles, or click any of the links below to be taken immediately to the text within the article!

#1: Tropical Print

#2: Cut-Out Shoulders

#3: Peplum Dresses

#4: Diane Freis Dresses

#5: Stonewash Denim

#6: Denim Jumpsuits

#7: Coogi “Cosby” Sweaters

#8: Power Blazers

#9: Batwing Sleeves

#10: Old Hollywood Black Dresses


’80s Clothing Trend #1: Pin-Up Tropical Style

1980s clothing trend hawaiian print skirt

Skirt Available from Hinesite Vintage

The 1980s did the 1940s and 1950s in all the right ways by playing up pin-up style with tropical prints (think “Hawaii Five-O”) and designs loved by the California girl with Rockabilly flair.

80s hawaiian style clothing worn by fashion bloggers

WORN TODAY: It’s easy to wear an ’80s piece with tropical print, whether you want to wear the print full-on with a matching top and short like Victory Vintage Boutique (left) or as a bottom paired with a solid colored top like Retro Minx (right).

80s hawaiian style clothing on etsy

OWN IT:  ’80s Tropical Romper ($24.99) by Tati Tati Vintage on Etsy / ’80s Tropical Crop Top ($16) by Sunshine Girls Vintage on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #2: Cut-Out Shoulders

1980s clothing trend cut out shoulders

Blazer Available from Hinesite Vintage

Showing skin in the ’80s got creative with well positioned cut-out holes/openings on a garment’s sleeve.

The cut-outs could be found anywhere from the shoulder to the chest area, but you’ll often see ’80s blazers (like above) or shirts (shown below) with missing material along the shoulder line.

cut out shoulder 1980s clothing trend

Source: Stylish in Suburbia / The Aurora Sky 

WORN TODAY: The cut-out shoulder trend made a comeback in modern fashion, as contemporary fashion brands are now offering their own versions of the missing shoulder button-up.

I’ve seen DIY fashionistas thrift store shop ’80s oversize blouses for a steal, and then add a touch of modern femininity to them by removing the shoulder material themselves.

cut out shoulders 1980s clothing on etsy

OWN IT: ’80s Cut-Out Shoulder Mesh Sleeve Body Con Dress ($58) by Fabled Fancy on Etsy / ’80s Cut-Out Shoulder Lace Sleeve Body Con Dress ($50) by Fabled Fancy on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #3: Peplum Dresses

'80s clothing trend peplum dress

Peplum Dress – My Own!

Like the ’80s did the ’40s with pin-up tropical style, the ’80s did the ’40s with some pretty peplums, too!

The peplum is best described as a “skirt on a skirt,” creating a flare that varies in length and cut but usually begins around the natural waistline and falls shorter than the length of the dress’ actual skirt.

80s vintage peplum dresses worn by fashion bloggers

Source: Yours Truly Mag / LuLu Tresors 

WORN TODAY: If you shop Forever 21, you may have noticed the fast fashion chain’s serious penchant for the peplum last spring.

The peplum is a great girlie touch on top of a skin-tight dress because it adds structure and volume, also helping slender, petite girls accentuate their waist line for a more curvy body look.

'80s peplum dresses available for purchase on etsy

BUY IT: Dark Floral ’80s Peplum Dress ($76) by The Paraders on Etsy / Light Floral ’80s Peplum Dress ($52) by Pom Pom Clothing on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #4: Diane Freis Dresses

1980s clothing trend dian freis dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

You don’t know her today, but Diane Freis was a highly coveted department store based designer brand from 1983 (when she released her dresses stateside after launching the brand first in Hong Kong) into the 1990s.

Once you know her design personality, it’s not too hard to recognize a Diane Freis dress. Like Pucci, her abstract floral prints are unmistakable and intended for girls of bold personalities.

Her dresses are usually mid-length (below the knee) and cut to skim the waist and flow loose and billowy everywhere else.

1980s diane freis dress worn by fashion blogger

WORN TODAY: A Diane Freis dress isn’t quite office or day appropriate, but you can certainly channel this luxury ’80s brand (with inflation in consideration, her dresses average $1,000 each today) for evening rooftop affairs (like blogger Fashion Park Station above) or as a fresh dance frock at a forthcoming Fleetwood Mac reunion tour!

diane freis '80s dresses available to buy on etsy

BUY IT: Diane Freis Red ’80s Dress ($116) by Stairway to Vintage on Etsy / Diane Freis ’80s Purple Dress ($69.50) by Quirk Vintage Clothing on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #5: Stonewash Denim

1980s clothing trend stonewash denim jacket

Stonewash Denim Jacket – My Own!

You can’t not think of stonewash denim when you think of the ’80s, and rightfully so because the trend of stonewash literally was invented by an Italian ’80s denimwear company after late ’70s punk rockers were spotted bleaching their jeans in rebellion of the fashion trends.

Head banger rock bands like Motley Crue and AC/DC popularized the wash to the mainstream during the early ’80s, and before you knew it every groupie girl was buying her own version of this stonewash-acid wash light denim look.

1980s clothing trend stonewash denim

WORN TODAY: Roll your eyes if you will, but stonewash is stellar and definitely here to stay as a modern trend of 2012. I’ve been seeing the wash in contemporary stores, and many a vintage store in NYC is now carrying a small selection of stonewash denim jackets, skirts and high-waisted pants.

The stonewash skirt is a great choice for the girl who loves to layer in denim, as you can wear dark denim on top with a white tee and the stonewash below, as seen on Revival Vintage to the left.

Fashion blogger Natural Beings rolled the cuffs of her thrifted high-waisted stonewash jeans. She kept it low-key and contemporary chic with sneakers, leather belt and a striped tee.

stonewash denim 1980s clothing on etsy

BUY IT: ’80s Stonewash Pencil Skirt ($30) by Charming Gypsy Vintage on Etsy / ’80s Stonewash Print Pumps ($26) by Tight Pressed Vintage on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #6: Denim Jumpsuits

1980s clothing trend denim jumpsuit

Jumpsuit Available from Hinesite Vintage

The jumpsuit originated in trend from the 1940s and found its way back into the fashion consciousness in a good (or arguably bad!) way in the 1970s.

By the 1980s, the jumpsuit went super casual with the era’s love of all-things-denim, and designer denim brands like GUESS? were producing 100% denim jumpsuits with long sleeves, high necklines and tapered legs!

1980s denim jumpsuit worn by fashion blogger

WORN TODAY: The denim jumpsuit of today is a personality piece that with colorful accessories – like fashion blogger Beckerman Bite Plate so brilliantly does with her red pairings – need not look like you’re wearing a trucker’s uniform or something pulled from your mom’s closet (although honestly, that’s OK too!)

I love how Miss Beckerman is wearing her pinstripe denim onesie with light grey heels and silver-white bangles on both arms. Down to her bold red lip, she’s consciously styled her ’80s garb for an appearance that doesn’t scream the era.

1980s denim jumpsuits available to purchase on etsy

OWN IT: ’80s Diane Von Furstenberg Denim Jumpsuit ($105) by Tiger Lily Frocks on Etsy / ’80s Button-Up Denim Jumpsuit ($58) by Rock Street Vintage on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #7: Coogi “Cosby” Sweaters

1980s clothing coogi sweater

Sweater Available from Hinesite Vintage

Coogi brand sweaters were bright and bold knits that were very expensive and therefore a status symbol, especially amongst rappers of the ’90s (RIP Notorious BIG!).

The mixed knit color and pattern trend inspired the entire era’s trend of over-the-top patterned sweaters, also known as a “Cosby” sweaters because actor Bill Cosby wore them so often on “The Cosby Show” during the decade.

They look a bit like your Grandmother took a psychedelic trip and busted out her knitting needles for creative expression, but these sweaters retailed for hundreds of dollars in their day and are still considered the “cool girl-guy” sweater of today when styled with modern influences in mind.

1980s coogi oversize sweater worn on fashion blogger

WORN TODAY: When wearing a Coogi sweater one might as well dress with Coogi confidence, which is exactly what fashion blogger Teffopia is doing here mixing Coogi knits with leopard print pants and the ombre coloring of her hip length braided hair.

Since the sweaters are more masculine in cut, pairing one with fitted trousers and slipper shoes feels right in place of a jacket on a cool fall day.

1980s coogi brand oversize sweaters on etsy

BUY IT: ’80s Coogi Style Sweater ($59.99) by Love Charlie J on Etsy / ’80s Men’s Coogi Sweater ($45) by Buddy Buddy Vintage on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #8: The Padded Power Blazer

80s clothing trend red power blazer

Blazer Available from Hinesite Vintage

Ugh, shoulder pads! I totally understand — it’s quite alright if you are thinking that right now!

I for one cut the shoulder pads out of practically every ’80s garment I’ve ever owned. I just don’t have the frame for them plus the style isn’t always embraced by the times.

That’s not to say shoulder pads won’t come back (have you seen the September 2012 issue of Vogue? Lots of ’80s influences!) or that the power-padded blazer can’t be worn appropriately with today’s style in mind.

For the working girls of 1980s corporate America, the masculine styling of the padded oversize blazer was a confidence booster in an era when women were making greater leaps and bounds in their careers than ever before.

The style represented a shift in the expectations of females: They could be the CEOs and wear the pants with a blazer, just like the men in the office.

80s red blazers as worn by fashion bloggers

Source: Drowning Equilibriums / The Kissing Tree Vintage

WORN TODAY: The ’80s blazer is a great compliment to the high-shorts trend. Wear a longer style (with or without the shoulder pads – up to you!) that hits right above the bottom hem of high-waisted shorts.

Pair with a solid colored button-up below and heels for a professional look that’s fashionably fierce, not sexy secretary.

oversize red blazer from 1980s available to purchase on etsy

BUY IT: ’80s Bold Red Power Blazer ($105) by Erstwhile Style on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #9: Batwing Sleeves

batwing sleeves '80s clothing trend

Jacket Available from Hinesite Vintage

So much of ’80s styling was dressing in oversize “top” garments, and the batwing jacket and sweater trend is one of these oversize examples.

This particular type of sleeve is like wearing a free waist skirt — it doesn’t matter how big your arm is, it just fits! Spread your arms out like a bird and it looks like you could fly away with those wings, baby!

1980s clothing batwing sleeves

WORN TODAY: While the ’80s girl may have worn batwing jackets, tops and sweaters with skintight leggings and legwarmers below, the modern girl is better choosing a pretty patterned batwing garment (like these polka dots above) and pairing with a simple pencil skirt and stellar heels.

Since you’re covering so much of your upper body and creating the allusion of more volume than you actually have, showing off some skin below balances your silhouette and prevents you from looking like an oversized mess!

'80s clothing trend batwing sleeves

BUY IT: ’80s Cobalt Blue Batwing Jacket/Top ($72.54) by Honeymoon Muse on Etsy

’80s Clothing Trend #10: The Old Hollywood Black Dress

'80s clothing trend old hollywood black dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

The LBD was revolutionized in the ’80s toward “Old Hollywood” glam style.

The difference between the LBD of eras before and that of the ’80s is how the 1980s focused styling from the chest up and along the dress’s neckline.

Since the shoulder was officially an area of attention for the ’80s, sleeves were more prominent on black dresses as was a decorative neckline of more than just your average scoop line or sequin trim. The neck was where all attention centered — and it held a style stage all its own!

The rest of the dress was typically cut straight to the floor (Old Hollywood) or had a very prominent slit for leg exposure.

This was another example of how the ’80s did the ’40s, since Old Hollywood is a direct reference to the Golden Era of 1940s film and its many female celebrities who graced us with their glamorous fashion personas.

1980s black evening gown with sequins front and back

WORN TODAY: The ’80s LBD is the ultimate street stopper of dresses. You’re not so bold and bright that you feel like a circus freak, but heck yes  people going to give you a double look as you enter the party!

I modeled an ’80s black dress from Olive’s Very Vintage last spring. The front slit was a delight, and such a different feel from the modern “side” slit used to draw direct attention the leg. But with this slit’s positioning, it’s key that a lady cross her legs when she sits!

The sequined shoulders are perfect for those party photos too, since most shots enter around the neckline and up. That’s why the ’80s dress is truly the ultimate socialite stunner (eat your heart out, Gossip Girl!)

1980s Clothing Trends Glam Black Dress

BUY IT: ’80s Old Hollywood High Neck Black Dress ($80) by Wolf’s Mouth Vintage on Etsy / ’80s Old Hollywood Scoop Neck Black Dress ($44) by Luv Stoned Vintage on Etsy


1980s CLOTHING: ’80s Edwardian Blouse’80s Greek Key Blazer’80s Fishtail Skirt &  ’80s Bustier
FASHION: My ’80s Dresses Shoot with Olive’s Very Vintage
PHOTOSHOOT: An ’80s Fashion Photoshoot Like No Other on Mirror80
HISTORY: Get Decade Crazy on Like Totally ’80s! 
’80s FUN: My New Favorite Website All About ’80s Fashion Dress
’80s VINTAGE: How to Date 1980s Clothing When Shopping Thrift
TRENDS: Why ’80s Fashion Trends Are So Memorable by The Great ’80s

Tags: , , , , , ,

Facebook Comments


  1. Sammy says:

    I’m such a sucker for the ’80s — I think it’s because I was an ’80s baby! Who thinks I should wear the stonewash fringe jacket this fall?! ha!

  2. laura says:

    Hi Sammy! I have my favorites from the 80s. And I have some things I dislike A LOT from the 80s. I really don’t like high waist-ed or pleated pants and shorts, or leggings. But mostly, what I like about the 80s is a lot of pieces from that era can be mixed with modern pieces to make the cutest statement of individuality. Like a lot of the shoes, your great denim jacket, and blouses that can be paired with modern jeans. Thanks for posting some really cute pieces from the 80s.

  3. Sammy Davis says:

    Laura, thank you for this comment and for being awesomely honest! I agree that the ’80s really offers a hot dose of individuality. Matching ’80s garments need not be worn together! I think each era has likes/dislikes for all of us. Not all trends are created equal! xo

  4. we had such a chuckle looking at all these fabulous eighties fashions and remembering wearing so many of them, thanks so much!

  5. Sammy says:

    haha! If I can provide a laugh, I have accomplished GOOD in the world! Thanks Linzi ;-) I hope that some of them are more than a good laugh, but perhaps style inspiration too xx

  6. yes, it’s good to laugh! and, oh, definitely lots of style inspiration too Sammy!

  7. Marci says:

    I graduated in 86′ so I love the 80’s. Such fond memories and good times! My fav things in the 80’s?
    Big hair on everyone from girls to rock bands
    ~My thousand pleat jeans with the button up high waist, roomy thigh and tight fitting ankle!
    ~Round plastic neon t shirt clips
    ~Oversized button up mens looking shirts with a wide belt slung low on my hips!
    ~Side ponytails/banana clips
    ~pegged jeans
    ~High top velcro Reeboks
    OMG I could go on and on but you get the picture. Thanks for bringing back the memories and making me smile :)

  8. Marci says:

    Oh, just FYI I owned that EXACT same jacket. I thought that fringe made me just about the coolest chic ever.

  9. Marci you are an angel! I love these insights from a woman who LIVED THE ERA! Especially as a teenager, when you knew the trends top to bottom and followed them obsessively.

    I think from your list, I’d personally want to wear high top velcro Reeboks today. Maybe in leopard print, ha!


  10. E. says:

    I do love to bring out the 80s every now and then. My favorite 80s trend? Sequins! And the big power blazers, too.

  11. Sammy says:

    You know what they say about me, E. SHE’S A SUCKER FOR SEQUINS. Thanks for dropping by! I miss you!

  12. LOVE your blog and thank you for including my vintage Freis dress!

    I admit, the 80s isn’t my favorite decade for fashion, but I do delight in seeing these amazing 80s pieces reworked and coupled with today’s styles.

    Thank you, Sammy for, “spreading vintage love”!

    Your newest fan,

  13. What an awesome post and blog! You are totally SPOT ON about the 80’s…either love it or hate it! I personally LOVE it. It’s fabulous to see a lot of the 80’s trends making a comeback…and even crazier when I tell my kids, ‘Mom used to wear that when I was a kid!’. Thanks for featuring my tropical floral crop top and all your other picks are so fun! Have a wonderful weekend :)

  14. Sammy says:

    hey Stairway to Vintage! Yes, the ’80s is not the favorite child of the era bunch. But she has her quirky ways ;-) Thanks for doing what you do! I really love your name. I hope you own copyright to that. So catchy!

    lots of love xx

  15. Sammy says:

    Hey Sunshine Girls!! Thanks for stopping by … from Hawaii! Aloha to you as well ;-)

  16. Love your photos and especially the red blazers and the black dresses. They look really great!


  17. Sammy says:

    Thanks Gail! I love that red blazer too. It’s so crisp and clean ;-) xx

  18. We LOVE the 80’s!! Who doesn’t love watching 80’s movies to see these great fashions. Peplum is SO on-trend right now too! I swoon every time I find a peplum dress out of the 80’s.

  19. Sammy says:

    PEPLUMS ARE POWER! I so agree. There’s something super sassy about the structure and shape of a little booty flare ;-)

  20. The original Cosby sweaters were actually designed and made by Koos Van Den Akker, you can watch a mini doc on him here where he talks about them: http://www.vice.com/behind-the-seams/koos-and-the-cosby-sweaters

  21. Sammy says:

    I had no idea. Thank you so much for clearing the air about this! I will add a note and give you credit. Bless you ;-) xx

  22. Elf says:

    80s clothes were very baggy.

  23. Sammy says:

    Some styles were, but not all! It depends on the style preference of the wearer. Body con (tight clothing) was quite big in the ’80s too.

  24. Wau! I do not love the 80’s style but your posts are spectacular!

  25. Sammy says:

    It’s OK. I FORGIVE YOU. There’s a little bit of ’80s in us all. ;-)

  26. Dee says:

    I’m late on this comment, but I just noticed the “Stonewash Denim” section. Most of what’s pictured was referred to as acid-washed, at least where I lived. Stonewashed had more even coloring, less bleached. More like the jumpsuit pictured in the other section.

  27. Sammy says:

    Dee this is super important to point out. Thank you for this correction!

  28. Joyce says:

    I wish that fashion back, so beautifull, playfull, and some very feminine.

    I need some eighty style colar up and shoulder padded white blouses. Where can I buy that in uk.
    If from US, do I have to pay customs aswell.

    Hope to hear from you soon

    Kind regards


  29. The PERFECT resource for the Style Me 80s party I’m helping at this week. Of course I could count on you for comprehensive fashion guides. <3

  30. omar says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Omar working in a Buying agency called Apparel Sourcing, which sources orders for different retail stores from the worldwide to established manufacturers here in Bangladesh. We actually strive to provide quality service with shortest possible lead time to our customers.
    We are able to produce different Knitwear items for Men and Women. We are currently specializing in Ladies/Girls, Men’s/Boys polo shirts with special printing and leggings and also Boys/babies t-shirts .

    We are also supplying products at a very competitive price for all our customer.
    I will be also pleased to have some technical file to quote the price and also make the samples to present our work and the quality.

    Eagerly looking forward to hear from you.

    Thanks for your time.

    Best Regards,
    SKYPE: omar_seu
    CELL: +8801677774777
    Apparel Sourcing
    Email: omar@apparelsourcingbd.com

  31. Madi says:

    we have an 80s say at my school and i have NO clue what to where!!! HELP ME SAMMY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i have heard you are my friends idol for years now!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Sammy says:

    hey Madi! How about an easy ’80s look, like leggings, leg warmers, a cut-off sweatshirt and lots of bracelets and jewelry? Plus tease your hair ;-)

  33. TheGreat80s says:

    Love your 80s Fashion posts. You got the cut-out shoulders, but what about the cut-out neck? You know, the “Flashdance Look” as seen here: 80s Fashion – The Flashdance Look

  34. lynn brooks says:

    the cut out shoulders was more early 90s. we were more into off the shoulder looks like flashdance style or off shoulder peasanty tops.

  35. robert says:

    oimy names robert

  36. Melissa says:

    Hey There! I love the stonewash jeans! I was wondering if you knew where I could get those thrifted high-waisted stonewash jeans from? I’m in Australia, age 16 and absolutely love them! I’ve been trying to find them everywhere!!

    Mel x

  37. Holly says:

    thought you guys might appreciate http://youtu.be/hkeM_-wVgWU?hd=1

  38. Intimo Donna says:

    For me the best is the Denim Jumpsuit <3

  39. Mary says:

    I have been looking for a pair of high rise Levis from the 80’s. Preferably the ones with the orange tab. The problem is I am skinny, I guess. Well, I am fairly normal, but in mens jeans I would need waist 28X32 and in a woman’s cut I would need a size 26X32. Its really hard to find a pair thats the real high rise type. The modern high rise skinny Levis are cool, but they are stretch denim, and I want the old 100 percent cotton. In fact i really want the originals, so i have checked a ton of vintage shops. I don’t like Etsy for jeans, because you almost need to try them on to even consider them, and returning things is a bummer. The closest i got was Goodwill! I found some p[retty good ones, but not tapered as I would like. I really would love some suggestions…it doesn’t help that now everyone is ditching the low rise jeans and getting on the high rise bandwagon with me….I was a bit early for that by American standards.

  40. ManiaStore says:

    Your articles are always spectacular!
    I personally LOVE 80’s

  41. Kiara says:

    I like the black dress of OWN IT

Leave a Reply