Fashion in the 1980s

Analysis of Fashion in the 1980s

By: Tiffany Alexander

The 1980s was the “Me generation of status seekers” (Whitley). Everyone wanted to have a certain status and it was acceptable to show your status. In fact a quote from the 1980s said  was “If you got it flaunt it and you can have it all.” The 1980s was the generation of rebellion against the “normal.” One way this was shown was through the cultural backlash of the preppy style, and this inspired social sensibility that extended to include all manners of consumables and socializations (1980s in Fashion). This style of going against the “normal” was shown throughout many of the trends of the 1980s.

Why would anyone wear these clothes? This was the first thought that I had after building this website. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to have big hair, neon clothes, or even wear leg warmers. To me, all of these trends were just ugly, but then I started to realize that at the time these trends were in style and you wouldn’t be ‘cool’ if you didn’t wear these kind of clothes. Anyhow, the point I am making is there were a lot of different reasons for why these clothes became popular. I found that one huge influence of fashion from the 1980s was the inspiration of movies, TV shows, and celebrities.

There were numerous individuals like Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, and Madonna, who were trend setters for this generation. Madonna was known as the material girl of the 1980s. Each of these individuals had their own style (as shown on their webpages) and influenced the American young adult population.

Another huge influence of the 1980s were the television and movies. This was different than in the 1970s because Cable television became more accessible in the 1980s and by the middle of the decade 70% of the American Population has a Cable Television (1980s). Since there was more access to the TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty could have a larger impact upon fashion trends of the 1980s. An example of this influence was shoulder pads and how since the women in Dynasty were wearing shoulder pads, you should be wearing them to (1980s in Fashion).

Another large influence of the 1980s were movies. A few of these movies were Flash Dance, Sixteen Candles, Valley girl, and many other movies as seen throughout the website had a large impact on the 1980s. Each of these movies than impacted the fashion style of the 1980s. For example, Flash Dance inspired many different trends like the ripped oversized sweatshirts with one exposed bare shoulder.

Yet another influence on fashion in the 1980s were fashion brands. Brand names became increasingly important to this decade (1980s in Fashion). Some of these brands were Anne Klein, Perry Ellis, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein (Whitley). These influenced what teenagers were wearing because they wanted to be wearing these designers’ clothes because it was fashionable to wear these clothes.  

Another large influence onto this decade was MTV. This was said about MTV “Although originally conceived as a promotional tool for the popular music industry, it quickly assumed a life of its own and was embraced by young America as a source of information on the latest trends in music, fashion, and opinion” (MTV & its influence). MTV started a new phenomenon of teens watching the television to know the latest fashion. The video component of MTV also changed fashion in the 1980s. “As a visual companion to rock 'n' roll, the video clips shown on MTV were frequently juvenile, vulgar, tasteless, and violent—which inevitably delighted teenage viewers and offended their parents” (MTV & its influence). These videos brought up a sense of rebellion of teenagers in the 1980s that can be seen throughout the fashion in the 1980s.

In conclusion, there were many different aspects of popular culture that affected Fashion in the 1980s. Whether you totally regret the era of the 1980s or wish it would come back, the 1980s was an age of Ronald Regan, MTV, and of course crazy fashion fads and styles that are still given the title of the‘80s look today.  


“1980s.”  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  26 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2011.
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“MTV changed the music” CNN Entertainment (1981): n. pag. Web. 27 Apr 2011.
"MTV and its Influence." 1980's Media. Gale Cengage, 1996. 2006. 27 Apr, 2011
“Whitley, Peggy. "1980-1989." American Cultural History. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.