Nine of the worst style mistakes you probably made in the ’80s

Relive the decade in all its garish glory.

Style mistakes of the ’80s

People often complain that today’s fashions are the most diabolical we’ve ever encountered, but whoever believes that clearly never lived through the 1980s.

The decade that gave us culture-defining music such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall, technology like the Sega Mega Drive and cartoons like ThunderCats, also spawned some pretty heinous style trends we’re more than happy to pretend we never partook in.

Read them and thank your lucky stars social media was still but a twinkle in Silicon Valley’s eye.

1. Skin-tight spandex
Thanks to Jane Fonda and her cult aerobics videos, spandex became the material of choice for fashion-forward folk. The favoured look was an outrageously high-cut leotard, worn over skin-tight leggings to protect the wearer’s modesty while still giving the illusion of a shapely physique.

It could have been a cute look, had it not been for the clunky dad trainers and thick white sports socks we so often paired it with.

80s dancers in skin tight spandex

2. Graphic prints
Every decade seems to have its own aesthetic, and for the eighties, it was the Memphis design. The Memphis Group, an Italian collective, was responsible for the garish, geometric patterns and abstract shapes that were liberally plastered on everything from bedding and stationery, to clothing.

It meant everything you owned didn’t really ‘go’ with anything else, and had this busy, hypnotic look that was incredibly distracting to look at.

3. Dramatic shoulder pads
The silhouette of the decade for women could be described as this: an upside-down triangle. Shoulder pads added some va-va-voom to a boring skirt suit in a way that nobody was prepared for. If you paired yours with a freshly done perm, a waist belt and some kind of beret, we salute you.

joan collins eighties shoulder pads

4. Mullets
This hair-raising trend claimed many a celebrity back in the day, including Tina Turner. Even to this day, we’re not sure of the engineering that went into keeping the eighties mullet levitating at several inches above the wearer’s head, but we’re pretty confident it involved several cans of hairspray.

tina turner mullet

5. Lace fingerless gloves
Lace fingerless gloves were the marker of any teenage girl who’d watched Desperately Seeking Susan – and desperately wanted to be Madonna. Sure, they weren’t the warmest of items, but they were the easiest, effort-free way to add some edge to your outfit. Plus, you could still tuck into a packet of chips without having to remove them. Genius.

6. Shell suits
For some baffling reason, there was a big trend in the eighties for looking like you were ready to go on a ski holiday at a moment’s notice. Shell suits were everywhere and there was no limit to the amount of neon you could wear. What it lacked in style, it made up for in practicality – the wipe-clean material meant you were always prepared for a turn in the weather, or any falling detritus from birds.

7. Bowler hats
It’s crazy to think we used to leave the house wearing a bowler hat and nobody questioned what was happening. Your bog-standard Charlie Chaplin tribute might be alright if left alone, but we went to town with reams of crushed velvet and synthetic flowers, so it legit looked like we were wearing an Easter bonnet to work. Cringe.

molly ringwald in a bowler hat

8. Eyeshadow up to your eyebrows
Eighties kids always hit pan on their eyeshadow palettes because they had a lot of ground to cover. While today’s make-up influencers carefully blend and buff a subtle swipe of neutral colour on the upper lid, we went to town with a grubby index finger and a pot of electric blue war paint. A beauty look that’s best left to the history books.

eyeshadow up to your eyebrows

9. Clunky earrings
Doorknockers were everywhere – big, plastic earrings that weighed your lobes down, slapped you in the face if you turned too suddenly and always got caught in your perm.

But this was nothing compared to the struggles of those unfortunate souls whose parents hadn’t allowed them to get their ears pierced, so had to resort to clip on versions that tortured your ears and left your raw lobes feeling they were competing in some kind of miniature World’s Strongest Man competition.

Still, we get a warm wave of nostalgia when we think about the sweet relief of running to the bathroom for a secret unclipping session, halfway through the day.

clunky earrings

Do you miss any fashion trends from the 1980s?

- With PA

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th May 2020
    Ha ha! The curly hair (not natural)! The shell suit! The worst was a red suit (red is not my colour) with HUGE shoulder pads! But I loved it all.
    6th May 2020
    Other than a mullet (which, from my memory, is nothing like what Tina Turner has), did anyone of you ever actually follow any of these "fashion" trends?
    Do any of you even know anyone who followed them?

    I'm a bloke, so a lot of them don't apply to me.
    But my wife also never followed any of them. She did have a curly perm for many years (and it looked great) but that isn't in the list.

    Some of my mates had mullets, and still do in a slightly modified form (a bit shorter at the back).
    But I spent the 80's dressed exactly the same as I did in the 70's and still do now - jeans, t-shirt and thongs, with straight longish hair (but now balding on top) and a full beard.
    6th May 2020
    I didn’t make any of those style mistakes.
    Wearing skin-tight spandex, graphic prints, shoulder pads, mullets, lace fingerless gloves, shell suits, bowler hats, eyeshadow up to my eyebrows and clunky earrings as featured by the women in the article is not my style….my wife’s perhaps. LOL
    6th May 2020
    Hey Dave,
    Is your wife also into wearing a lobster necklace?
    Or did that grow out of your chin? lol
    6th May 2020
    Haha Hawkeye.
    My wife likes big and clunky earrings and necklaces so maybe you're on to something.
    Or maybe the lobster latched on to my tongue.
    Stay safe!
    6th May 2020
    You couldn't criticise what the young wear today because they wear practically nothing except the shortest shorts possible.
    7th May 2020
    I have been a tap dancer in a mature aged women's group for 30 years and some of our costumes contain parts of the 80s era like the bowler hat, worn with a coloured band to match our partner's dress while we wear a suit and dance with a cane; lycra stocking tights which hide a multiple of varicose veins in our 80-year old legs; leotards as part of a costume but made from outstandingly patterned lycra (all so easy to get on and off between dances); and then there's the makeup without which we would look pale and sick under lights. However the blue is only on the eyelid and white between eyelid and eyebrow which is darkened to suit hair colour. We were booked by several nursing homes and retirement villages for this year plus our own big 'Christmas in July' concert - all gone by the board now. But that hasn't stopped us. Our genius teacher, Dennise, is conducting lessons on line with a view to a big concert in December 2021 and maybe fulfilling nursing home commitments earlier than that. We use a lot of old time music in our dances and it is such a pity we can't see the heads nodding or residents swaying to that music at the present time. But "We will survive!".
    15th Aug 2020
    Compared to the hideous 70s fashions the 80s at the time seemed cooled and sedate :)

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