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If we’ve learned anything from the life cycle of trends over the years, it’s that everything always comes back into style eventually. From the stark resurgence of the early aughts to the ever-present influence of decades like the ’70s, designers are clearly taking notes from the past. The 1980s, in particular, had a major impact on modern fashion, with enduring muses like Grace Jones, Madonna, and Bianca Jagger. And today, plenty of the signature staples of the 1980s, like biker shorts, bold-shoulder blazers, and taffeta eveningwear, are everywhere. In a post-Phoebe Philo era where neutral palettes and minimal silhouettes were king, the ’80s influences in the early 2010s gave the market a renewed sense of bold color stories and playful dressing many would argue was missing from the industry for decades.
Brynn Jones, owner of Aralda Vintage in Los Angeles, where actresses like Alexa Demie and Taylor Russell shop for archival designer finds, has always been inspired by the boldness of the era. In an interview, she tells us how she particularly loves, “the structured silhouettes, abstract and playful shapes,” and, “the unapologetic glamour and all of the statement pieces made to command the room.” Like many of us who are enamored with the time period, Jones can’t help but gush over the accessories. “The hats! The earrings! The brooches! The belts! The gloves!” she says. “Some of my favorite accessories from that era were made by Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, and Karl Lagerfeld. Also, sunglasses by Alain Mikli, Issey Miyake, and Kenzo.”
When it comes to her favorite collections, Jones says Thierry Mugler instantly comes to mind. “He ruled the ’80s. His fall 1984 show is what fashion fantasy dreams are made of. Pat Cleveland descended from the ceiling in a glistening gown looking like an ethereal angel. She was pregnant for that show and coincidentally was supposed to be representing the Virgin Mary.” She also loves the Issey Miyake fall 1981 collection, particularly the famous blue plastic bodice (which she actually has in her personal collection). As for her favorite ’80s fashion pop culture moments, she says, “Anything Grace Jones ever wore,” like, “the looks that Azzedine Alaïa created for her character May Day in the 1985 Bond movie A View to Kill.”
For those interested in expanding their ’80s fashion history knowledge into less mainstream territory, Jones suggests looking into Claude Montana’s work. “I think he is underrated as a designer, and his designs embody the chic, powerful, and aspirational ’80s woman.” There’s also ’80s Kenzo, which she feels is “under celebrated.” In addition, we recommend revisiting some of the best style moments from the decade below and shopping our well-curated selection of key pieces to help you re-create the ’80s look.
1980: Leather Dresses
French singer and model Amanda Lear wearing an asymmetric leather dress with fishnet tights. The futuristic sunglasses with a subtle motorsport-inspired edge are a nice finishing touch. Those looking to re-create the look should consider anything by Rick Owens.
Strapless Cutout Coated-Denim Mini Dress
A rock star staple.
1980: Cowboy Boots
Stylish partygoers at Studio 54 confirmed that free-flowing dresses and skirts paired with coordinating cowboy boots are timeless outfit combos. Ganni’s extremely trendy cowboy boots with a retro feel are the perfect place to start.
Embroidered Colorblocked Leather Western Boots
Western boots are an investment that will transcend seasons and trends in your wardrobe.
1980: Punk Embellishments
Punk rock flourished in London—with fishnets, chains, and studs as the go-to accessories. Worn alongside leather separates and easy silhouettes, the looks are quintessentially ’80s. Just add industrial-style jewelry from the likes of brands like Justine Clenquet, Martine Ali, or Chopova Lowena to bring the style into present day.
Silver Pansy Girl Necklace
Perfect for layering over a basic white tank.
1980: Leather Blazers
Legendary supermodel Beverly Johnson and Italian clothing designer Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo spotted in chic outfits outside of Studio 54. Johnson sports a double-breasted leather blazer with metallic gold trousers to match.
’70s Leather Blazer
Every well-dressed person needs a double-breasted leather blazer in their closet.
1980: Lace Dresses
Forever style muse Bianca Jagger arrives at A-list hot spot Studio 54 wearing a frilly lace dress. Trimmed with lace around the edges, the ’80s dress has the versatility to be dressed up and down with ease. Look to vintage-informed brands such as Ciao Lucia, Mirror Palais, or Charo Ruiz Ibiza to mirror the effortlessly chic look. Or splurge on a macramé runway piece by Valentino.
Peony Macrame Maxi Skirt
Easy and chic.
1981: Disco Tops
Actress Heather Locklear poses for a fashion portrait shoot in a draped disco top paired with high-waisted blue jeans. With the party-girl aesthetic on the rise, it makes sense that Paco Rabanne’s signature sequin and chain mail pieces have piqued the interest of the younger generation.
Sequined Stand Collar Top
Chain mail is having a major moment right now.
1981: High-Cut One-Pieces
Swimsuit models Chancela Almonsour, Sara Wills, and Shae Huckaby stun onstage in bamboo hoop earrings and high-cut one-pieces. Isa Boulder’s signature square-neck swimsuit will give you the leggy look made popular in the ’80s while offering a super-sexy alternative to the classic bikini this summer.
Isa Boulder Cut-Out Square-Neck Swimsuit
These cutouts add a sexy edge.
1982: Checked Blazers
Brooke Shields poses in a turtleneck and checked blazer, giving a lesson in strategic layering. Bringing the look together with a plaid button shirt underneath, tucked into denim, the model-turned-actress offers a polished ’80s outfit fit for the office and beyond.
The Oversized Blazer
The shirt-and-jacket hybrid is great for transitional weather.
1982: Country Club Aesthetic
Jerry Hall and Marie Helvin in black-and-white ensembles at the Royal Ascot. One of the more luxe aesthetics to come from the ’80s, the classic country club look was made popular by the likes of Karyn Parson’s character Hilary Banks on the popular television show at the time The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Spencer Cropped Cotton-Velvet Blazer
All buttoned up.
1983: Skinny Wrap Belts
Princess Diana sports a printed blouse with puff sleeves and a fitted pencil skirt to watch a polo match in the early ’80s. The era’s style icon cinches the look together with a skinny wrap belt.
Lecce Leather Belt
The skinny style is a core piece in the Parisian brand’s collections.
1983: Pattern Clashing
No one did colorful ’80s glam quite like singer Cyndi Lauper. From the bold prints, bright red hair, and always-edgy accessories, her signature aesthetic is distinct to the era. Invest in fashion insiders’ favorite skirts from Chopova Lowena for a similar look.
Multicolor Split Argyle Miniskirt
The emerging brand’s belted skirt has a become an It-girl staple seemingly overnight.
1983: Bright Hues
Bold colors are a key aspect of ’80s fashion, as seen on the runways of top-tier dressmakers like Halston. For spring/summer ’84, the brand sent a model wearing a draped gown with wraps down the runway. Today, shoppers can turn to the likes of Christopher John Rogers for beautiful silk dresses in bright hues.
Sleeveless Dinosaur Gown
It’s all in the movement.
1983: High-Waisted Denim
Pat Cleveland in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and high-waisted jeans, complete with a deep red lip, slick bun, and cable-knit jumper. The classic outfit combo is easily emulated with pieces you already own. Those looking for a more luxe approach can’t go wrong with Khaite’s cult denim.
Because you can never have too many pairs of jeans, including ’80s-inspired takes.
1984: Bustier Tops Worn à la Madonna
Madonna in her iconic white “Boy Toy” look for her “Like a Virgin” performance at the 1984 MTV VMAs. One of the most memorable looks of the era, it can be easily achieved with a tulle skirt and bustier top. For a subtler take, opt for just the corset paired with jeans—and chunky gold jewelry, of course.
Strapless Cotton-Blend Bustier Top
A top-drawer must-have.
1985: D-Shape Frame Sunglasses
Jamaican triple threat and ’80s style icon Grace Jones sports a cinched blazer with a turtleneck and scarf draped over her head. The gold accessories and blacked-out sunglasses with a D-shape frame were a nice finishing touch.
Black Acetate Cat-Eye Sunglasses
The perfect everyday pair.
1986: Chunky Pearls
Linda Evans, Diahann Carroll, and Joan Collins wearing shoulder-pad dresses and fur coats in a Dynasty promo photo. With the key word of the show’s legacy being opulence, fans of their style can successfully pull off the look with fitted turtleneck dresses and strings of pearls or gold-link chain belts.
Chunky Twisted Silvertone, Glass Crystal & Resin Pearl Necklace
Pearls for the girls.
1986: Chain-Link Belts
Inès de la Fressange in an accessorized little black dress on the Chanel runway in Paris. For the last few seasons, there’s been a resurgence in chain-link belts, proving the unexpected outfit addition is here to stay some decades later.
Gold Curb Chain Belt
It’s reminiscent of something you’d find in your favorite vintage shop.
Opulence and the ‘8os go hand in hand, as depicted with iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell walking down the YSL runway in a tufted metallic cocktail dress. Adorned with equally stunning jewelry, the designer kept the focus on the dress by giving Campbell a slick hairstyle and bold red lip.
Feather-Trimmed Silk-Tulle Blouse
Birds of a (stylish) feather flock together.
1987: Pouf Details
When you think of ’80s fashion for women, it’s likely that a few different things come to mind—fitted frocks with exaggerated proportions being one of them. Sure enough, here is a model in a little black dress complete with pink pouf detailing at Yves Saint Laurent’s runway show during Paris Fashion Week circa 1987.
Peplum Puff-Sleeve Top
It’s like an ’80s-inspired fairy-tale top.
1988: Oversized Leather Motorcycle Jackets
Cindy Crawford in an oversized leather motorcycle jacket at an event in New York City. Also sporting a little black dress, beachy waves, and a bold red lip, the supermodel finds the balance between punk rock and ’80s chic.
Oversized Biker Jacket
This motorcycle jacket is a staple regardless of your personal style.
1988: Garter Details
A model wears a silk bustier and crinoline at the Jean Paul Gaultier spring 1989 fashion show. One look on the market just confirms the undergarment trend is still holding steady. To embrace the look, opt for a corset with coned cups or a lace-up garter-style skirt à la Australian brand Dion Lee.
Lace-Up Mini Skirt
Not your grandmother’s garter.
1986: Slogan T-Shirts
The laid-back atmosphere of the 1980s helped lead to the rise of funny graphic tees. Madonna wore one while filming the 1986 video for her song ‘Pada Don’t Preach,’ that read: Italians Do It Better. In the 1985 show Teen Wolf, Stile’s famously wore one that said: “What Are You Looking At Dicknose?”
Re/DoneThere Goes Trouble-print cotton T-shirt
1984: Leg Warmers
Jane Fonda turned jazzercise into an aesthetic before styles were even described as aesthetics. But no ’80s workout outfit is complete without a set of chunky leg warmers, which have become an essential style element for Gen Zers everywhere—unitard and sweatbands not needed.
Logo-patch ribbed-cashmere leg warmers
1989: Skirt Suits
Amongst the society set, especially Princess Diana, skirt suits became a go-to for formal events. The style quickly picked up popularity outside of that scene, and was worn by women everywhere from the disco to the office.
Embellished organic cotton mini skirt
1980: Harem Pants
Originally worn for belly dancing, harem pants picked up popularity in the 1980s and became known as MC hammer pants. In our opinion though, Donna Summer did them much better.
Boulet Draped Jersey Harem Trousers
1984: Polka Dots
While fashion moved away from babydoll dresses in the ’80s, they still managed to channel childlike charm with polka dots. The print was loved and worn by everyone from Sade to Princess Diana to Madonna, and marked a distinct difference from the disco looks of the ’70s.
Polka-Dot Cutout Tank Top
1980: Laura Ashley
Laura Ashley romanticized the english countryside with feminine floral prairie dresses. They soon became a hit with urban woman in the 1980s, who were looking to channel a calmer existence with the soothing nature of her dresses. Laura Ashley has picked up popularity in recent years, with certain silhouettes marked up hundreds of dollars on resell sites like Etsy. New York designer Batsheva Hay recently collaborated with the brand to bring the looks to 2023 with a Lower East Side twist.
X Laura Ashley The Waverley Cotton Midi Dress
1980: Oversized Blazers
There are few items as ubiquitous with the 1980s as an oversized blazer with power shoulders. The best ones were often exaggerated and worn down with denim and chunky socks a-la Sarah Jessica Parker.
The Frankie Shop Boxy single-breasted Blazer
1985: Denim Jackets
Denim jackets were actually considered a part of punk fashion, and became extremely popular in the 1980s in both the US and UK. The jean jacket was meant to make the wearer look tough—so the dirtier, more worn out, and decked out with patches and pins, the better. Often seen on stage on performers like Tina Turner and Debbie Harry, the jacket eventually made its way into the mainstream.
Wrap Denim Jacket
1987: Long Gloves
No opulent ’80s look was complete without a long set of elegant gloves. Worn most often with formal dresses, the trend is becoming popular again—this time worn in a more relaxed manner as seen at The Row’s recent runway shows, where models worn them styled with lace dresses and flip flops.
The RowSimon leather full-length gloves
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