Vintage Style #8: 1980s Fashion

Far too much time is spent marvelling at the jaw dropping fashions of the 1970's; however, the 1980's deserve equal time.  They could be every bit as awful, and oftentimes worse.  Take for instance, the bedazzled sweaters and sweatshirts shown above. My eyes!!

I wonder if those shoes are L.A. Gear, and I think those are acid washed jeans. Never has so much 80's radness been condensed into a  400 x 267 image. It's almost too much to take in at once.

image source

This is the 1980's James Spader asshole fashion line. You basically had to be a egotistical douche to wear something like this - it's perfect to wear while giving hateful condescending stares to geeks.

image source

Can you count all the unholy trademarks of the 80's? The bright colors, leg warmers, huge hair, pastel overkill, mega tan, multi-colored eye shadow, ankle boots, cat suit, headband.... need I go on?

I have a theory why everything was bursting with loud colors in the 1980's: because it wasn't popular in the 70's. The 1970's were scorned in the 80's, and so the earth tones popular in the previous decade were verboten. Dishwater brown and avocado were OUT, and retina-damaging neon pink was IN!  The 1970's have been called the "browning of America"; so, I think it may be appropriate to say the 1980's were the pastelling of America. Personally, (and not surprisingly) I prefer the colors of the 1970's to the Care Bear colors of the 1980's. 

I have a love-hate relationship with 1970's fashions. For 80's fashions, there is only hate. When I see MC Hammer pants rolled up above the ankle, I want to kill something.... preferably something with loud obnoxious colors.  And everything California was so damn cool - these schlubs may be wearing "SoCal surf wear", but something tells me they're not going to be riding any waves anytime soon.


I found this at a flea market the other day - it's from a booklet on ways to desecrate perfectly good sweaters and sweatshirts.  What became of all these sweaters? After grunge hit in the early 90's, sweaters that looked like a unicorn threw up on them were no longer fashionable. Someone tell me what became of all the millions of bedazzled sweaters - Retrospace wants to know.

I leave you with this image from 1987, not to torture you, but to demonstrate that the awfulness of 80's fashion transcended color. Here we have some ladies with colors that actually don't cause migraines; however, they are godawful nonetheless. The title "Neckline Extravaganza" combined with this photo is just priceless. You can thank me later.


  1. I think there's plenty to appreciate and scorn from both the 70s and 80s. I love-hate it all!

    It's bittersweet to see Laura Branigan. An excellent example of 80s-ness, yet sad that she passed on much too young (47). RIP.

    What was it about oversized sweaters for women that it became a fashion rage in the 80s?

  2. This makes me shudder! Bad memories of mullets, big hair and the dreaded Beadazzler!

  3. Dang, I LOVE the '80s! Man, the colors, the hair, the eyeshadow...
    It's a thousand times better than the '70s. Ok, the picture of the girls shirts with the piano and bears is a bit much, but Laura looks fantastic!

  4. Put me in the same category as Retro Hound. I absolutely LOVE the '80s, with a few minor exceptions. I'm willing to acknowledge some negatives.. some overdone hair-styling, for example.. . and I agree about the excessive tan on Ms. Brannigan. But mostly, I look at this '80s stuff and see vibrant, colorful, cheerful optimism. The "SoCal SurfWear" pic is just '80s wonderful, and the guy with the computer just seems to be having fun '80s style. Makes me want to go back!!

    I have mixed feeling about the '70s. It had its moments. And it had quite a few downers as well. Depending on what were talking about.. pick a topic... I can either appreciate the '70s or trash it. The '70s seemed to go all over the place.

  5. Awesome. Like...TOTALLY.

    But do you remember this commercial?

    Oh man. The memories.


  6. Nice. I just tweeted a link to this.

  7. Great pics...
    And I think some of it is coming back. *shudder*

    I've been seeing some horrible neon here and there, and really bright colored plaid shirts (hot pink and neon blue). Ugh

  8. Ah the 80's....good times for all

    Who can forget the sweater dresses?

    And the fish net tank tops?

    Don't get me started on Speedos...LOL

  9. i do love the sweater with the stripes!

  10. What was it about oversized sweaters for women that it became a fashion rage in the 80s?

    Because the 80's was when everyone started to get fat.

  11. Bring back shoulder pads!! The greatest fashion accessory for those of us with thick middles!!

    I'll do without the side ponytails, the wing bangs and the feminine men, but zowie, the 80s had style!!

  12. LOL I'd forgotten how truly awful 80's fashions were, I had some acid wash jeans and some white boots just like the ones in the ad 5th from the bottom.

  13. I have a horrible feeling that I *was* that kid in the second photo! :o

  14. Interesting to see such an outpouring of 80's love. Me, I much prefer the gritty, brown marijuana stenched 70's.

    Give me a Coors Light Shirt with pit stains anyday over The United Colors of Benetton. Yecchh.

  15. Who raided Zack Morris' closet.Ahh the memories and not good ones.

  16. What about guys wearing half shirts and short shorts?

  17. if you really want to know where all the bedazzled sweaters went, google gem sweaters. leslie hall collects them and has made an online gallery. she is awesome!


    ps. thanks for the pics-they rock!

  18. AnonymousJune 19, 2012


  19. It would seem that neon is in style again, same with girls wearing over-sized sweaters. Personally, I think girls with that wear over-sized sweaters are cute. ;)

  20. AnonymousJuly 27, 2015

    I thoroughly enjoyed your photos and comments on the 80s fashions. I feel I missed the 1980s fashion scene because I had my children in the 80s: 1980, 1982, 1985, and 1988. I feel I was pregnant for the whole decade and diapers and maternity tops were the fashion trend. Although I did have one southwestern fringed, tin embellished, oversized tee that decade, I never did get to have a pair of jelly sandals.
    Here it is 2015, and I am just now watching “Dynasty” for the first time—so 80s and I am enjoying watching that show. giantic shoulder pads and all. Although, I do remember watching “The Facts of Life” a little bit back in the 1980s, I am just now getting to see that series again, and saying to myself, “I love all of Blair’s beautiful blouses and wish I had them.” At least that is how I feel about the first 5 seasons of the show. After the 5th season the fashions morph into big, boxy, men’s style blazers and ties for women and that I do not wish for. When they remodeled Edna’s Edibles gourmet shop into the novelty store called Over Our Heads, it seems the fashions changed as much as their shop. Watching “Facts of Life” throughout its 8 seasons during the 1980s provides a good example of the fashion changes of that decade—albeit the neon surfer ware and the punk rock styles of the 80s were left out. After all, they were mostly rich girls from New York, not LA. All in all, not all was bad about the fashions of the 1980s, but do you remember how big bushy eyebrows were in for ladies—now that was not a good trend of the 1980s.

  21. I love the 1970s and the 1980s both !! I give the slightest edge to the 1970s , however . I was born in 1969 , so I spent my early childhood during the 1970s . I loved the toys , movies , comic books ,books ,comic strips , TV , ect . of the era !! And , is that Dave Coulier in the first picture ??