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The Worst Fashion Crimes of the 1980s

Updated on September 25, 2020
Chris Waddle and his 1980s mullet hair cut
Chris Waddle and his 1980s mullet hair cut | Source

1980s Fashion

I was a teenager for a majority of the 1980s and this part of life is probably the one in which we most try to follow the latest fashions. When I look at photos of myself from this era I inwardly cringe at many of them when I think of what I'm wearing. The 1980s is often referred to as the decade that fashion; shoulder pads and leg warmers are just two fashion culprits!

There are other fashion crimes from the 1980s that I'm going to explore including make up, hairstyles and accessories. All of these elements combine to create a look that now looks tasteless and dated yet at the time was one that we all tried to emulate.

Dynasty showcased many 1980s fashion trends
Dynasty showcased many 1980s fashion trends | Source

The Clothes

One of the most infamous 1980s clothes trend was the shoulder pad. Nowhere was this trend more showcased than Dynasty, a popular TV show from the 1980s, it almost seemed as if there was a contest going on between the characters played by Joan Collins and Linda Evan for who could wear the largest shoulder pads. Shoulder pads got into everything, dresses, t shirts, jackets, coats and blouses. Today if I see an item of clothing with shoulder pads I steer clear as I associate them with the 1980s.

Other notable clothing items from this era include ski-pants (stretch stirrup pants in the US), mini skirts, leg warmers, oversized tops, strapless dresses, puffball dresses, the pencil skirt, opaque patterned tights and animal prints. The list could go on. Thinking back to my own wardrobe at the time I had at least one of these items. One of my favorite dresses at the time was one I called my 'Bet Lynch' dress (a character from Coronation Street, a UK soap opera), a leopard print mini dress with a baggy top part the hung over the thin elasticated waist while the skirt part clung tightly to the legs, I think it even had shoulder pads. Unfortunately I have no photographs of myself wearing this dress so its image is just committed to memory.

Some of today's fashions have their roots in 1980s fashions such as the leggings, sweatshirts and jogging trousers. The 1980s fashions, like today's fashions were influenced by celebrities. The rise of MTV in the 1980s meant we were able to closely look at the outfits worn by stars. Madonna's looks were closely copied through the 80s. I remember starting back in my second year at sixth form college in 1985 and during the summer break one girl had transformed herself into a Madonna look alike from the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Today magazines show us how to achieve looks created by our favorite celebrities.

The Hair

The mullet is the hair style most associated with the 1980s. The style was long at the back with the sides shorter. There were many variations of this, some had the sides shaved, the back could be straight, curly or wavy, the back could even be tied back leaving the sides loose. I'm sad to admit that I did have a mullet of sorts, I kept the sides shorter than the back of my hair and used to clip up the back of my hair with a snappy clip. The mullet was often styled into big hair by ladies, sometimes achieved with a perm.

Other notable hair trends from the 1980s are spiral perms, crimping, scrunchies and the bouffant type blow dry style. These styles were about being over sized and over emphasized, even shorter styles were full and worn high.

The accessories were big and bold
The accessories were big and bold | Source

The Accessories

Accessories were as much a part of fashion as the clothes themselves. We carefully planned our accessories so they became part of out outfits. Again, as with the clothes, influences very much came from celebrities, Madonna with her finger-less gloves and over sized ear rings, Princess Diana with her clutch bags and choker necklaces and Jane Fonda with the leg warmers. These influences were modified by designers into products we wanted to buy. I remember the vast choice of huge hooped ear rings, the garishly colored clutch bags and the many shades of leg warmers.

Today accessories are still important to our outfits but have been toned down somewhat since the 1980s. They complement the outfit or give the finishing touch rather than being a statement in themselves.

The Music

I can't write about the 1980s without mentioning the music from this era. When me and my family listen to music from the 80s much of it still sounds as fresh as the day it was created. The fashion may be worthy of forgetting but the music definitely makes up for it. Fashion and music were intrinsically joined in this era as many of the fashions drew on what the stars were wearing and buying. Popular music in the UK was created by Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Wham!, Adam and The Ants, Blondie, Bananarama, Madness, Madonna and many more with many of these becoming world wide celebrities. Without doubt, the best thing the 1980s gave us is the music!

A Medley of 1980s Music

Shoulder pads are making a comeback, 2 items in my Nasty Gal haul have them!!


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