You either love it or hate it, which is why ’80s vintage fashion styles are probably the most controversial of all the eras. First, many vintage sellers argue that the ’80s clothing 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 fashion trends like stonewash denim, batwing sleeves and shoulder pads. While 1980s fashion is 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.
<< CHECK ‘EM OUT! The best 1980s vintage fashion clothing trends you love to remember, wear and (perhaps) chuckle at
SHOP The 80s NOW
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?
What do you think of 80s vintage fashion? Comment below, or say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
’80s VINTAGE FASHION CLOTHING
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
#1: Pin-Up Tropical Style
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.
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).
#2: Cut-Out Shoulders
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.
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.
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
#3: Peplum Dresses
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.
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.
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
#4: Diane Freis Dresses
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.
WORN TODAY: A Diane Freis dress isn’t quite office or day appropriate, but you can certainly channel this luxury ’80s fashion 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!
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
#5: Stonewash Denim
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 ’80s vintage 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.
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.
BUY IT: ’80s Vintage Fashion Stonewash Pencil Skirt ($30) by Charming Gypsy Vintage on Etsy / ’80s Stonewash Print Pumps ($26) by Tight Pressed Vintage on Etsy
#6: Denim Jumpsuits
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!
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 vintage fashion garb for an appearance that doesn’t scream the era.
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
#7: Coogi “Cosby” Sweaters
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.
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.
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
#8: The Padded Power Blazer
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 vintage fashion 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.
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.
BUY IT: ’80s Bold Red Power Blazer ($105) by Erstwhile Style on Etsy
#9: Batwing Sleeves
So much of ’80s vintage fashion 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!
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!
BUY IT: ’80s Cobalt Blue Batwing Jacket/Top ($72.54) by Honeymoon Muse on Etsy
#10: The Old Hollywood Black Dress
The LBD was revolutionized in the ’80s vintage fashion 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.
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 vintage fashion 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!)
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
MORE 1980s CLOTHING
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
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!
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.
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
Linzi Carlisle says
we had such a chuckle looking at all these fabulous eighties fashions and remembering wearing so many of them, thanks so much!
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
Linzi Carlisle says
yes, it’s good to laugh! and, oh, definitely lots of style inspiration too Sammy!
Sammy Davis 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
~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 :)
Oh, just FYI I owned that EXACT same jacket. I thought that fringe made me just about the coolest chic ever.
Sammy Davis Vintage says
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!
YES THAT JACKET IS THE BOMB. haha! xx SD
I do love to bring out the 80s every now and then. My favorite 80s trend? Sequins! And the big power blazers, too.
You know what they say about me, E. SHE’S A SUCKER FOR SEQUINS. Thanks for dropping by! I miss you!
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,
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
Jill - Sunshine Girls Vintage says
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 :)
Hey Sunshine Girls!! Thanks for stopping by … from Hawaii! Aloha to you as well ;-)
Gail-Heart & Sow Designs says
Love your photos and especially the red blazers and the black dresses. They look really great!
Thanks Gail! I love that red blazer too. It’s so crisp and clean ;-) xx
Heart of Vintage says
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.
PEPLUMS ARE POWER! I so agree. There’s something super sassy about the structure and shape of a little booty flare ;-)
Deconize Vintage says
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
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
80s clothes were very baggy.
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.
Wau! I do not love the 80’s style but your posts are spectacular!
It’s OK. I FORGIVE YOU. There’s a little bit of ’80s in us all. ;-)
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.
Dee this is super important to point out. Thank you for this correction!
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
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
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!!!!!!!!!!
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 ;-)
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
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.
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!!
Intimo Donna says
For me the best is the Denim Jumpsuit <3
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.
Your articles are always spectacular!
I personally LOVE 80’s
I like the black dress of OWN IT