80s Fashions Return With 21st Century Corrections

By Nicki Elson, author of 1980s novel, “Three Daves”

80s Fashions Return With 21st Century CorrectionsAs I sit here in my newly-purchased bright pink Tee, plaid walking shorts, and giant hoop earrings, I find myself wondering—what ever happened to 80s fashion? It was so vibrant, so fun, almost as if every day was a costume party. Then I think back to that blog I recently typed up about this year’s spring and summer fashions, and I flip through a few articles here on Like Totally 80s. Then I look in the mirror and murmur, “Good God, Alli’s right—they are back!”

Yes, as anyone who’s taken a good look through the fashion section at this site or simply gone shopping lately knows, 80s-influenced styles are heavily trending in the fashion industry. Just take a look at this paragraph from the aforementioned blog:

The “boyfriend” blazer continues to be a wardrobe staple and is a simple way to look chic. Another continuing trend is tunics over leggings, skinny pants or shorts. Solids are no longer a requirement for bottoms! You’ll see skirts and pants in all varieties of prints.

So we all accept that the 80s are back…but with a twist. I like to think that we’ve learned a few things and that perhaps—just maybe—in twenty-five years when we look back at old snapshots, we won’t laugh quite as hard at the digitals as we do at the Polaroids. Here’s what I see as three lessons learned:

Lesson #1: Better Fabrics to Improve Our Blood Flow

80s jeansThe denim of the 80s was a stiff unforgiving fabric—the fabric didn’t mold to us; we molded to it. I have a vivid memory from high school in the early 80s of me in my one and only pair of beloved Jordache jeans. Skin tight. Oh yeah. The usual method of lying on bed and exhaling didn’t work one morning, so there I was in the kitchen with my mom yanking up my zipper with a pair of pliers while I pulled the waistband tight. And let’s bear in mind, I probably weighed all of 105 pounds at the time. What I remember most from that morning is my mother muttering under her breath, “What am I doing?” What indeed.

Jordache jeansSo skinny, tight jeans are back en vogue, but not to worry, because genius fabric technicians have apparently made important discoveries in the past twenty years. I’ve got a pair of skinny jeans from H&M that fit like a glove and feel like a pair of sweat pants. What’s in the magical denim blend? Spandex? Poly? I don’t know, and quite honestly don’t care. When something both feels mahvelous and looks mahvelous, I don’t ask questions. But I guarantee that Heidi Klum is feeling pretty cozy in the new Jordache.

New fashion trend to be on the lookout for: The jegging. It’s leggings that look like jeans (see pic at top).

Lesson #2: Girls Like to Look Like Girls

And boys like to look at them looking like girls, so today’s oversize shirts and sweaters come with a bit more tailoring to acknowledge our feminine curves. They are . . .

less garbage bag, more figure-friendly
. . . less garbage bag, more figure-friendly.

. . . less “I’m an egg,” more “I have a waist.”
. . . less “I’m an egg,” more “I have a waist.”

Lesson #3: We’re Not Linebackers

80s shoulder pads make a comebackAre you sitting down for this one? Good, because it may come as a bit of a shock — shoulder pads are coming back. You’ve probably heard about the ridiculous spectacle they’ve made on the runway, but we all know that’s just pretend and not something they expect us real people to wear, however, the buyers at the local fashion boutique tell me that shoulder pads are now creeping into the lines of mainstream designers.

The good news? What they’re seeing is much more tame that what we had going on in the 80s. It seems designers realize that most of us don’t require several inches of padding to protect us during the normal course of our day. So the padding is thinner and less obvious. But . . . well, what I’m wondering is, if we give in and accept the thin pads, then what’s to stop them from going a little thicker next season, and then even thicker the next? Before you know it, we’re all going to look like this again:


What’s the fashion industry’s damage? I say we stand strong on this one. We’ve thus far resisted stirrups on our leggings, we can keep the shoulder pads out of our jackets too. All we have to do is stick together and not buy them when they start popping up in our local boutiques and department stores. Are you with me?

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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1 Comment

  1. I prefer extreme shouldaerpads, like a suit with shoulderpads covered with a coat with shoulderpads…Makes you look more serious & imposing. When Marcy D’Arcy on Married with Children did it, it made her look like she owned the world.

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