Overalls in the Eighties

By Julie Anderson

The 1980s had some undeniably bitchin’ fashions. Acid wash denim, parachute pants, neon everything, and stirrup pants come to mind easily, right? But, there’s one 80s fashion trend trend that might seem a bit out-of-place amid all that glitz and those linebacker-padded shoulders – that is, unless you lived through it.

Overalls, dude.


Overalls were casual and playful, sporty and relaxed. Perhaps not the most figure-flattering items in our closets, but remember – these were the days of big shirts and baggy sweater dresses. Clothing didn’t have to hug our forms to be cool.

Unconvinced? We’ll start easy. Then, as now, overalls were totally acceptable on kids. I love this adorable 1983 picture of little Jess and her cousin. Those embellished Osh Koshes and matching heart turtleneck would still totally fly today:

Embellished Osh Kosh Overalls with matching Heart Turtleneck (photo credit: Jessica LeClair)
Photo credit: Jessica LeClair

Moving on, here’s a vintage pic featuring not only stylin’ Guess overalls, but black Wayfarers, pleated Bermuda shorts, and a Benetton rugby. 80s casual fashion, cranked up to ELEVEN:

80s Fashion: Guess Overalls & Bermuda shorts with a Benetton rugby. (photo credit: Like Totally 80s)
Photo credit: Like Totally 80s

But ladies still wore (and wear) overalls! This vintage Guess overall skirt is completely wearable today:

Overall Skirt (photo credit: vintage urban renewal)
Photo credit: vintage urban renewal

With a bolder, brighter look, here’s Jennifer and her friend Susie modeling some fab fashions from ’85.

Kelly green overalls + loads of bracelets + heavy eye-makeup = RADICAL

Kelly Green Overalls (photo credit: Zombie Normal)
Photo credit: Zombie Normal

And look how beautiful Demi Moore was in the final scene of 1986’s “About Last Night” in her baggy overalls:

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s all well and good for girls to wear overalls, but teenage boys of the eighties wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

Ohmygod, some dudes LOVED overalls!

Check out this dapper fellow. Now THAT’S how a guy wears overalls, people. I can’t tell if those are black Reeboks or jazz shoes, but he’s totally rocking the look. Note the popped collars on layered shirts:

Overalls with Popped Collars on Layered Shirts (photo credit: dugn)
Photo credit: dugn

And who could forget Jon Knight of New Kids on the Block?

NKOTB's Jonathan Knight sporting some overalls (photo credit: xnkotbx)
Photo credit: xnkotbx

Are you feeling the overalls love now? I totally am. As the icing on your overalls cake, may I present one of the catchiest songs ever, 1982’s “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners? Be patient through the first images you see in the video, and you’ll be rewarded with stylin’ overalls and bouncy music that will put a bit ol’ 80s smile on your face:

Want more overalls? Check out LOVELYiSH’s article “Are Overalls Stylish? Plus: A Gallery Of Celebs Wearing The Trend.”

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. You should do an article next year about little Christmas gifts kids would exchange in the 80s, either as part of a school “name drawing” or just among one’s friends. Things that come to mind include small bottles of perfume like Love’s Baby Soft (often in a gift set with a small stuffed animal), Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, 45 RPM records, Ande’s Candies, and of course, Life Savers books, which you already covered.

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  2. Love ur homage to all things 80 – but u forgot something! I worked at a department store name Bamburgers ( now Macy’s) and we sold and adored the brief cult following of MULTIBLES!! These were jersey knits that fit everyone and we’re all interchangeable – I have pics of myself and friends wearing them – when I find them I will share them

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  3. I remember how I used to insist on wearing them without an undershirt, & they’d always cut into my shoulders & make them bleed. Same as wearing jellies without socks.

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