One Size Fits All – UNITS.

The 80s offered many great and legendary mall-based stores where teenaged girls could shop after stopping off for an Orange Julius. For example, who can forget the awesomeness of Lerner? The new-wave chic that was Contempo Casuals? The sweater staples of The Limited?

To set the scene, think of the opening montage of ‘Valley Girl‘ with the girls tearing up the Galleria and their parents’ credit cards. Ok, now that you are in the right 80s mall mindset, we’ll remind you of one 80s clothing store that you may have forgotten about; let me give you a few hints:

  • They sold skirts that could double as tops.
  • Belts that could double as headbands.
  • Four words: ONE SIZE FITS ALL.

Welcome to Units.

Units Store

Units was the brainchild of Sandra Garrett who based the clothing concept on a school project at her fashion design school; she created a basic line of jersey knits that could be worn together, reversed, and interchanged to create completely new outfits. In the age of excess that was the 80s, Units was modern, clean and cool.

Units - 80s Fashion Trend

The designs took off, especially in Florida where I was living and (…this makes sense) teenage girls loved the look for its fashion-forward approach and senior citizens loved the pieces because of their simplicity and elastic-waist ease.

Units clothing chart

Walk into any Units store back in the day, buy six basic pieces (or “units”) and walk out with a completely new and modern wardrobe at a very reasonable price.

80s Units outfit

80s Units outfit

I recall lots of tunics, leggings, skirts over leggings, headwraps (loved the headwraps,so dramatic!) and single color blousy jumpsuits paired with a contrasting bands scrunched up and worn as a belts. My b/f/f Susanne had a very cool Units jumpsuit in tan that she wore with a navy belt. I was just so excited that I could finally share clothes with Susanne as she was tall and thin – with Units we were finally the same size!

The stores were small and didn’t have mirrors in the dressing rooms so you’d have to come out with your various bands on to take a look at what you’d done to yourself – that’s where the store associates would take time to work their magic, transforming tops into skirts and jackets into blouses.

Pretty cool.

Units - 80s clothing

The fun part of Units was seeing how many pieces you could layer on yourself before hitting the point of ridiculousness. A tunic, some leggings, a band as a belt, a slouchy skirt, a headwrap and you looked like you belonged in a music video. Or maybe like you woke up and forgot how many articles of clothing you were actually supposed to put on.

Sadly Units is no more: I wish it was.

Because let’s face it — some mornings it would just be easier to throw on a jumpsuit along with a giant colored band, and matching headwrap. Instead, life has become more complicated and decidedly less one size fits all.

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Author: Lori Ferraro

Lori is a writer and actor living in Portland, OR. Her website, Drawn to the 80s, is where her 5 year old draws the greatest music hits of the 1980s. She is a blogger for The Huffington Post and her own blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like beauty products, music, her obsession with Mick Jagger and of course...the 80s.

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11 Comments

  1. I have been thinking of an 80s equivalent to the term “Stuck in the 60s” for those of us who grew up in and still adore the 1980s. Perhaps this article is an appropriate metaphor for my slogan “Ensconced in the 80s.” Especially since ensconced has to do with comfort… so much better than being “stuck” somewhere…

    Anyhow, I propose all of us 1980s people make it our slogan- We are “ensconced in the 80s!”

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  2. OMG, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Units! I think that’s all I wore for five years.

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  3. Can you still buy units? That was all I wore when I was pregnant in 1992. The thing I loved about them is that I didn’t have to buy maternity clothes. I would wear them without the band. Then after my pregnancy, I just added the band back. I loved the silky feel they had. I still have several pieces. Bands, pants and tops!

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    • I wish you could. I was pregnant with my second child in 1989 and I basically lived in their clothes. My daughter is pregnant now, hence my flashback.

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  4. Please bring Units back! I loved loved loved those pieces. You can now sell online if you don’t want a retail store. I’m sure they would again be a big hit. They say everything old is new again.

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  5. I’m with you Karen, fashion and comfort wrapped up in one unit! A quick Google search showed a few random pieces available but nothing new. Hopefully Units will make a comeback and we will see the store in the mall again someday!

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    • We have clothing like units Go to Facebook group “Lularoe clothing in Texas “

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  6. They were the most ideal piece of clothing I owned. I could use them for a casual event or for a semi formal one. I just love them the mix match I just think they are really neay.

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  7. I swear that I’m in the first picture wearing the fuscia Units outfit with a bad case of Sun In. Any chance this picture is from Lakeforest Mall in Germantown, MD?

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  8. I have a black pair of slim leg knit Units pants that must be 25 years old! I wear them still!
    I would give anything to find clothes of this durability and quality today!!! Every so often I look on Ebay, hoping someone has some old stash of UNITS to sell!!! I know this is an old thread, but had to comment!!! Wish someone would bring UNITS back.

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    • LOL I’m with you….I know the thread is old but I adored them and still use pieces to this day. A dress, a jacket and tons of the belts. The bright colored band/belts to this day brighten up a knit dress and people are always saying how they wish they’d thought of it. And quality?! No pilling, stretching, etc. Man, what happened to quality?

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  1. Top 10 80s Fashion Trends: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly | Like Totally 80s - […] featuring knit skirts, shirts, belts and leggings in coordinating colors. The clothes were sold in UNITS boutiques located in…

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