1980's Workout Wear

Bright-colored workout clothes are symbolic of '80s fashion.
Bright-colored workout clothes are symbolic of '80s fashion. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Workout attire in the 1980s was distinctive to that decade and is entertaining to recreate for costume or theme parties. Aerobic icons of the '80s such as Jane Fonda served as inspiration for fitness fashions that soon caught on as trends. One of the important things to note about 1980s workout wear is that outfits were tight and colors were bright.


Unitards resembled women's one-piece swimsuits. They extended from the shoulders to the top of the legs and were available in tank-top or long-sleeve versions. Sometimes they were worn by themselves with socks and shoes. Other times, they were worn over leggings or shorts. Unitards were designed to fit the form of the body to aid flexibility and movement during workouts. For this reason, they were commonly made of spandex or other stretchy materials.


In the '80s, tights were a fitness fad. Nude-colored tights resembled bare legs, and colorful tights were added to outfits to create a bold contrast. Tights, available in all the colors of the rainbow, were used with unitards or worn under biking shorts. Fishnet tights created a "harder" '80s workout look.

Leg Warmers

Some thought no '80s workout was complete without leg warmers. Leg warmers were like socks for the calves. You slid your foot through the opening, pulled the leg warmer over your ankle and positioned it on your lower leg. Many workout enthusiasts wore leg warmers with socks and shoes or bare feet. Leg warmers came in various colors and complemented a unitard with nude-color tights.


Sweatbands were worn around the head and wrists and were more fashionable than functional. While sweatbands are intended to absorb sweat, many people sported them as accessories in colors that matched or complemented the rest of the outfit.

Cut-Off Tees

Cut-off T-shirts were fashionable workout attire for guys and girls in the '80s. Rather than simply wearing a tank top, people would cut the sleeves off a T-shirt, as well as some of its length, to show off their bodies. Sometimes a T-shirt was tied in a knot to the front or the side.

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