How to Dress for an '80s Party

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How to Dress for an 80s Party

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Theme parties are popular and fun. You may find yourself invited to an 80’s party and have no idea what to wear to the party. Using these tips to resurrect the look and feel of the fun and groovy 1980s can help you fit in or even become the talk of the party!


Making Your Own Outfit

  1. Shape your outfit.The 80s were a time of experimentation with many different styles. Women’s styles tended to be big on top and small on the bottom. An oversized shirt was often paired with a miniskirtor tightly-fitted pants or leggings.
    • If you have an oversized sweatshirt, cutting the neck out of it so that it hangs off the shoulder will give it a more 80s look. Wear a tank top or sports bra underneath, preferably in a bright color.
    • If you do not have oversized tops or undersized bottoms, try looking in your parents’ closet (they may even have actual clothes from the 80s). Younger siblings may have tight clothes that are too small for you that you can borrow for the bottoms.
  2. Find or make shoulder pads.Shoulder pads were very popular in women’s clothing. The bigger the shoulder pads, the better. If you do not have a shirt with shoulder pads, try stuffing your shirt with some kind of padding.
  3. Mix and match colors.Many 80s fashionistas went for bold, bright color combinations. Neon colors were particularly popular.
    • Match your top and bottom and add a pop of contrasting color. For example, electric blue pants and top can be accented with a bright yellow or pink belt and chunky earrings.
    • Contrast your bright colors. If you do not have a matchy outfit, you can also put different bright colors together.Try to mix three or four different colors that are all different but all bright.
    • Bright tights can be worn underneath a miniskirt and topped with legwarmers of a different color.
  4. Try an 80s punk look.Another approach is to go for more of an 80s punk look, which would involve mostly black and denim.
    • Wear at least two different denims. Men typically wore denim pants with denim jackets.Women wore denim miniskirts with a denim jacket. Men and women typically wore a tight shirt underneath the denim jacket.
    • Combine denim and lace. A classic 80s look is a lace top paired with denim acid-wash jeans or a denim miniskirt. The contrast of drastically different materials is a key feature of 80s style.
  5. Wear athletic clothes.Athletic clothes were also popular in the 1980s. However, they tended to be far more matchy than modern athletic clothes.
    • Puffy athletic pants and a matching jacket paired with some sneakers can be a perfect 80s look. Though they may be hard to find, velvet or velour sweat sets are preferable.
    • Another approach to athletic wear is the iconic 80s woman workout look: a leotard, tights, and legwarmers. All in contrasting bright colors is preferable.

Finding Vintage Clothes

  1. Visit your local thrift store.The best way to find great 80s-style clothing is to find authentic clothing from the 80s. Thrift stores can be treasure troves for tacky, outdated styles, so they should be your first stop.
  2. Ask older relatives about 80s clothing.You may be surprised about what people will keep stored in their attic or basement. Ask any family members or neighbors who were in their teens or early 20s in the 1980s (born in the mid 1960s) if they have any of their old clothes for you to borrow.
  3. Look for specific clothing items that were popular.A few iconic 80s items to look for specifically are Members’ Only jackets, parachute pants,acid washed or dyed jeans, shirts with large logos on them, miniskirts, leg warmers, stretch pants with stirrups, one-piece jumpers, and denim jackets.
  4. Look for materials that were popular in the 80s.Mixing different materials was very popular in the 80s. Try to find clothing that is leather, denim, velvet, velour, or lace. Put together some visually contrasting materials.
    • Also look for bright colors and wacky prints.
    • Ask older people at the thrift store if they think that the items you have chosen seem like they are from the 1980s.

Styling Your Hair

  1. Go big or stay home.The 80s was characterized by big hair.People with straight hair often got perms, which permanently curled their hair. However, hair can be temporarily made big with a comb, hairspray, and some patience if you tease your hair.
  2. Crimp or curl your hair.A crimper is a special type of flat iron that crimps waves into your hair with high heat. Crimping can be somewhat time consuming, but it will give you a definite 80s flair, and it will make even the flattest hair much more voluminous. Curling your hair with a curling iron or curlers then tossing it with your fingers and applying hairspray can also be a good way to make your hair bigger.
  3. Wear a mullet.Though the mullet is most thought of as a men’s hairstyle (exemplified by iconic country singer Billy Ray Cyrus), in the 80s men and women wore their hair in mullets.
    • If you do not want to cut your hair into a mullet style, you can find a mullet wig at a party store. You may also be able to cut a long wig into a mullet style.
    • Be sure to tell everyone that your hairstyle is “business in the front” and “a party in the back.”
  4. Wear a side ponytail.Whether your hair is straight or curly, a side ponytail is a classic 80s hairstyle. Bigger is always better, so if you can curl or tease your hair before putting it into a side ponytail, it will look even more authentic.

Accessorizing Your Look

  1. Cut the fingers out of gloves.Fingerless gloves were very popular, especially when paired with a more punk look with denim and lace.Lace gloves are preferable, but any gloves will work.
  2. Wear big earrings.The earrings do not have to match each other. Wearing two different large earrings—for a man or a woman—was quite popular.If they are a bright color that either matches or contrasts your outfit, even better! If no chunky colorful or feather earrings are available, gold hoop earrings will work.
  3. Find chunky necklaces.Repeat. Layering on many different chunky necklaces will help create a punk 80s look. Thick chains or beads were popular, and the inclusion of a crucifix was common as well. The more necklaces, the better. You may also want to layer on several different types of bangle and chunky bracelets in contrasting metals.
  4. Wear big sunglasses.Large sunglasses with plastic rims were very popular in the decade, even indoors or at night. Cheap children’s sunglasses with bright earpieces are very similar to popular 80s sunglasses. Gold-rimmed glasses were also popular and can often be found at party stores.
  5. Apply 80s makeup styles.Classic 80s makeup included dark lipstick (for women and for punk men!) and very bright eye shadow.The eye shadow can be applied over the entire lid of the eye, to the eyebrows. Some 80s celebrities experimented with multiple eye shadow colors at one time, making two to three blocks of color.
  6. Wear a sweat band.A wide sweatband over your hair (preferably over a mullet) will give you an 80s look. This accessory works best with the 80s workout attire: either a matching velour sweatsuit or leotard/tights/legwarmer combination.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What hairstyles did people wear in the 80s?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    One word...BIG! Side pony tails and crimped hair are good, and tease your bangs. If you're a boy, spike your hair up or grease it back.
  • Question
    What did kids in the '80s wear?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Ripped jeans, baggy sweaters, Converse shoes and baseball caps.
  • Question
    What kind of shirts did they wear?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Tie-dye T-shirts, and black, ripped shirts.
  • Question
    What shoes were popular in the 80's?
    Top Answerer
    There were quite a few; these include Keds, KangaRoos, Air Jordans, and Adidas Superstars.
  • Question
    Are there any ways to dress for a 90s party?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Just do a simple internet search for 90s trends. Grunge was a big movement in the 90s and so was hip-hop, so look at some images of 90s fashions and model your outfit after one that inspires you.
  • Question
    What is the best way for me to appreciate music from the 80's?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Try listening to as many bands from the 80's as you can, and talk about it with anyone that likes 80’s music!
Unanswered Questions
  • How do I dress like Cyndi Lauper or Madonna for an 80s party?
  • How do I dress like The Bangles?
  • How can I dress like Baby from Dirty Dancing?
  • How do I dress like Alex Owens from Flashdance?
  • How do I dress like Madonna, Michael Jackson or Prince?
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Quick Summary

If you need to dress up for an 80s party, look for baggy, off-the-shoulder tops with leggings, athletic wear, parachute pants, and anything in bold, bright colors. Use a comb to tease your hair to make it as big as possible, whether it’s long or short, and if you wear makeup, opt for dark lipstick, lots of bright eye makeup, and plenty of bold blush high on your cheekbones.

Did this summary help you?
  • If you don't have something for your costume, try to replace it with something similar. For example, if you don't have legwarmers than you can replace them with knee-high socks.
  • Exaggerate your 80s look. The point of an 80s party is to have fun and be wacky.
  • Be wacky and fun go for interesting. Be sure to wear neon pink, dark red or dark purple lipstick.
  • Bright nail polish and especially fluorescent nails, all of the same color - orange, yellow or green. The color did not have to match your outfit.

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Views: 1,011,492

Lily Motcoviz

Sep 18, 2019

"It really helped me figure out what I was going to wear to a friend's 80's party. I used this article because myparents have passed on, so I could not ask them what to wear. Thank you for creating this."

Bonnie Peart

Sep 7, 2019

"At the store where I work, we start in September and most days have a theme as for what to wear leading up toHalloween, so this article is really great! Thanks so much!"

Carmen Roman

Feb 22, 2019

"It help me a lot. I'm invited to a party, and we all have to dress back to the 80s. Now I know what to wear andhow to do my hair. Thank you very much!"


Feb 5, 2019

"When I read the types of clothes people wore out loud to my mom, she laughed very hard! This gave me lots of ideasfor an 80s party I'm throwing."


Oct 17, 2019

"Even though I lived through the 80's, this article helped with an 80's party I am going to. Unfortunately, I don'thave any of the clothes left."


Nov 6, 2019

"The first step because it explain what kind of blouse you could use, and the third one because it was a little morespecific."

Fran Taylor

Oct 28, 2019

"Going to an 80's party. Information brought back memories and laughter, will get the hairspray out. :)"


Nov 10, 2019

"I knew almost everything except for the chunky necklace. I'm glad I have a few for my friend and I!"

Sasha Laurence

Aug 4, 2019

"It was exactly what I had been looking for, super helpful, because now I know how to dress 80s."


Mar 15

"Awesome! I was invited to an eighties party completely clueless but you guys helped me a lot!"

Elisabeth Brown

May 26, 2019

"I have an 80's themed thing and this really helped me to find what to wear. "
Rated this article:


Aug 26, 2019

"Exaggerate your 80s look! The point of an 80s themed party is to HAVE FUN!"

F. Burnett

Feb 6, 2019

"Helped with ideas for a petite frame who had to wear 80s clothes, thanks."

Debbie Karlson

Oct 6, 2019

"This is very helpful because my school is having a flashback Friday."

Sissy Rogers

Jun 3, 2019

"All of the tips helped me remember the Eighties iconic looks. "
Rated this article:

Kara Shaw

Sep 4, 2019

"We're having decade day at school, and this totally helped!"

Billy Bob

Sep 22, 2019

"Thanks so much. I had the best clothes on for my party.


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