1980s Fashion History
For more information on this decade in fashion history, check out our list of books and reviews at Recommended Reading. Also please visit our Links page.
For bibliography referencing, the author of this page is April Ainsworth.
Women's Vintage Fashions of the 1980s
Common Designs in Vintage Clothing
Fabrics Available Virtually every fabric we know today, including most of the faux leather options. Women looked to natural fibers like wool and cotton again, though this time with the convenience of synthetic fiber like polyester or rayon mixed in for easier care. Blends of natural & synthetic fibers were now commonplace by this time.
Popular Colors and Prints Designers continued to experiment with clashing colors as in the 1970s, though by this period they were in large block panels or stripes more often than swirling smaller-scale prints. Business wear remained conservative in color as preppies and yuppies ("young professionals") gained their own sense of fashion identity. Punk and New Wave movements took the color clash to the extreme, with acid-hued fluorescents seen in windbreakers, shoes and even purposefully paint-spattered denim.
Trims and Detailing Bold prints and unusual textures were more common than elaborate trims, with cinch belts for accent in a 1950s-inspired look.
Hemlines Day and Night Mini skirts re-appeared for the first time since the 1960s, but most clothing was street-length or near it with few extremes. The tradition of ankle-length for evening wear continued, although knee-length party dresses became more common than in the prior decade.
The Latest Fads
Innovations Processing jeans for a distressed look became its own industry