80s Clothes for Women

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Punk rock influenced style in the 1980s.
Punk rock influenced style in the 1980s. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The decade that introduced Rubik’s cube, Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos," Cabbage Patch Dolls, punk rock, Game Boy and MTV also represented a colorful time in fashion history. The 1980s saw people begin to diverge into more individualized fashion trends, following their own contemporary codes influenced by such trend-setters as Michael Jackson wearing one glove and glitter suits, Nancy Regan in conservative attire, and punk rockers with holes in their acid-washed jeans.

Business Fashion

The “power suit” designed by Yves Saint Laurent coincided with women’s rise of influence in the business world. Soft bows, as were worn by Nancy Reagan, were the feminine counterpart to the man’s tie. Television shows “Dallas” and “Dynasty” took the power suit one-step further, creating a look called “power dressing,” which became a mainstay throughout the decade, characterized by rich materials, high heels and puffed-up hairdos. Shoulder pads inserted in all tops, including knitwear, showed off skinny waists, while beading and glitter decorated outfits and accessories.

Elegant Looks

Princess Di was a fashion icon of the ‘80s, with the graceful simplicity of conservative clothing designs. By not following the big-hair trend, her choice of wearing hats sparked life into the fading millinery industry. She wore suits, but left out the glitzy accessories, opting to maintain a sophisticated, low-heeled style. She opted for clothing designed by her good friend, Gianni Versace, and others, including Chanel.

Over-the-Top and Inside-Out Looks

Madonna, on the other hand thrived on the shock factor and attention-getting styles she wore when she first made her mark on the world in the early 1980s. Trademark pointy bras and fluffy hair in attempted restraint by a cloth headscarf influenced nightclub wear throughout the decade. There were also patterned stockings and clunky lace-up shoes with flirty skirts, as worn by Cyndi Lauper, who also lit up music videos with her multicolored asymmetrical hair and accessories.

Workout Wear

Olivia Newton John and Jane Fonda both called attention to the benefits of exercise in the 1980s. Unlike Madonna’s headscarf, Olivia introduced the stretchy sweatband to the world of exercise fashion. Fashionable workout clothes made of spandex clung to every curve on a woman’s body. The only areas left to the imagination were the ankles, which were covered by thick knitted leg-warmers that had become all the rage. Jane Fonda’s workout wear included wide belts over the spandex. This trend carried over into daily wear.

Casual Wear

Comfortable clothing and unisex styling were acceptable for at-home wear during the 1980s. Sweatshirts, T-shirts, jeans and sneakers were popular weekend choices. For cooler weather, worn leather jackets were fashionable.

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