How Did Teenagers Dress in the 80s?

1980s teens loved color!

Do you ever find yourself wondering, "How did teenagers dress in the 80's?" The 1980s are often looked at as a time of crazy fashion when fashion icons like Madonna, Jennifer Grey's character in Dirty Dancing and club trends reigned supreme. During this decade, more elevated fashion by designers who are still iconoclastic like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani also came to a precipice. These designers became popular largely due to their casual, "street" styles.

How Did Teenagers Dress in the 80s

Several trends in the 1980s became popular in women's fashion like:

  • More casual clothing like jean jackets, stonewashes and oversized wear.
  • Jelly-style clothing like jelly shoes, bracelets and other accessories
  • Workout clothes like sports bras, jumpers, and trainers
  • Bright, neon clothing was also paramount
  • Leggings rose to their height of popularity during this period
  • Shoulder pads

Casual Styles

Denim became more popular with designers who put more relaxed denim on runways and store models. The demin jean jacket became the quintessential accessory of the decade and many teens found the look comfortable and weather friendly. Stonewashed denim blends became available in more styles, such as the relaxed boyfriend fit that rose in popularity over the decade. Teens in the 1980s also started the trend of wearing ripped or faded denim blues. Unlike later decades, however, these styles were are all self-made rather than purchased at the store. Teens would just take razor blades to the knees of their jeans and 'scuff' them up.

Jelly Styles

Jelly was a transparent, plastic material that rose to popularity. The style was most known for it's shoe stylings as well as thick bracelets and bubbly necklaces. Jelly shoes were often called Jellies and frequently were flat and supportive to the arc of a woman's foot. It also frequently came in bright neon colors to accommodate other 1980s trends.

Workout Clothes

If you're wondering, "How did teenagers dress in the 80s?", the answer can largely be found in the movie Dirty Dancing. In the film, the main character is frequently working out. Her style became a marker for teens of the era. Styles like cotton workout headbands, legwarmers, wristbands, oversized sweaters that had the neck stretched out to only fit on one shoulder and spandex all became acceptable clothing choices for teens. Tight leggings and sneakers helped to complete the ensemble.

Neon Colors

One of the larger color trends of the decade was going as big and bright as possible. Neon colors like purple, pink and green were not only popular but colors that someone would dye his or her hair! Clothing came in a wide cornucopia of patterns and colors and it was common to see plaid designs using these colors. Bright colors meshed well with other form styles of the decade such as jelly jewelry, which often came in the brightest colors under the sun.


You know those tight and colored pant-like tights that teens in the 2000's wear under just-too-short dresses? In the 1980s, leggings were first developed as part of popular style garb. Often in bright colors, it was acceptable to wear leggings as pants and to adorn them with strong jewelry choices. Teens in the 1980s often paired leggings with bold, curly hair for a complete style.

Shoulder Pads

While we may now scoff at wearing shoulder pads, this form-building cushion was popular in many silhouettes of the time. The padding helped to develop more boxy styles that paired well with other trends like jean jackets and sweaters that let the shoulder peak out. It was also a popular style to wear in many more formal work ensembles, like those a teen might wear to work only to come home and wear it out with friends.

80s Teen Fashion

As time changes, fashion develops. Styles come, styles go. Fads rise and then die really quickly. While the 1980s saw the height of numerous fads, those fads have lasted as being a part of the decade and have become a serious part of our fashion lexicon.

How Did Teenagers Dress in the 80s?