Blast from the Past: The 80s revisited

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Fashion
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By Sanelisiwe Maliza

Fashion is much like karma. “What goes around comes around”.  The 80s have come around again this summer and is bringing in neon colours, oversized shirts, leggings, shoulders pads and a bright attitude. Fashion is taking us back to a time we know nothing about; this was the time when most of us were still learning how to walk. So as a little guide to the 80s the inspiration for the season is a little bit of Madonna during the Like a Virgin period (without the cone bra of course) and a touch of The Breakfast Club,  the 80s was a bright time; it was a time for change. The sexual revolution and the wars were over and communism had collapsed. All of this was reflected in the clothing during the 80s.  This means it’s time to revamp your wardrobe – out with the old – including those boring LBDs (little black dresses). Summer is calling for more colour, prints and drama!

Tips on achieving the 80s look

The key to achieving the modern 80s look is to take an 80s item and incorporate it with your clothing

There is a fine balance between looking 80s-inspired and looking like you have just walked off Madonna’s Like a Virgin video. The key to looking modern with the 80s look is to ensure that you incorporate an 80s item with modern pieces. If you are going to wear an 80s dress make sure that the shoes and accessories are modern to look like you are still living in the 21st century like the rest of us.

The 80s are all about accessories…Lots of them!

The 80s were characterised by lots of shiny accessories, necklaces and bracelets. To achieve the 80s look without going drastic, you just have to add accessories to an outfit.  Even if it’s just a pair of jeans and a top, the accessories will glam up an outfit, making you ready for a night out.

Bright colours and prints

It’s all about standing out, and bright colours and prints help to achieve it. Neon colours are the quintessential 80s colours. They are bright and bold, yet to look modern they have to be combined with a muted colour like white or black to attain some sort of balance.  Prints are usually best for thin and slim-figured people as they tend to accentuate curves. If you are bigger, the best way to incorporate prints into your outfit is to wear prints through accessories like shoes or a bag.

Ensure that your clothes are tailored! Especially the shoulder-padded jackets!

80s clothes tend to be baggy, like the T-shirts and jackets and make a person look bigger than they actually are.  Make sure that padded jackets are well fitted and tailored to enhance your figure. Wearing oversized T-shirts with either leggings or skinny jeans balance the outfit and ensure you don’t look like a balloon. They can also be worn with a belt which can be used to accessorise and make the T-shirt more form-fitting.

Stonewash and Skinny jeans

The stonewash and skinny jeans are also surprisingly back in fashion, for both girls and guys. The stonewash jeans, which were worn with mullets in the 80s, have come back but a little more modest. They are now worn with muted colours or a simple top. They are great to go out with, worn with a beautiful heel, they can make an outfit.  Stonewash jean jackets are great to be worn with a casual dress or black jeans.   


Flashdance inspired the sleeves-off-the-shoulder look in the 80s. Now as they come back, the T-shirts give the easy look for any Friday or Saturday. They can look sloppy at times so to create a unified look, they are to be worn with skinny jeans. The cut-off, off-the-shoulder T-shirts which reveal the navel, are best worn at the beach or with a vest underneath to look proper.

The jumpsuits

The jumpsuits are the must-have item for summer. They are effortless, flattering, cute and comfortable. Fit is everything! Check key fit points: waist, rear end and bust. Bagging in one area, while sagging in the other, will kill the look. This is one look that may require the finishing touches of a tailor. A jumpsuit makes a statement. No need to pile on the jewels or layer on the makeup with this look.

Even though the 80s are back, there are certain things that will not be joining the party. These are the things that you should stay away from:

The mullet

The return of the hairstyle would just break our achy-breaky hearts.  The ridiculous business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back look that was made famous by Billy-Ray Cyrus has thankfully not made a comeback this season. This vintage look is shabby and unflattering. The large and teased hair for women is also a style we hope will not return in this century.

The Boom Box

The “ghetto blaster”, as it was known in certain ghettos of America, was a portable radio, with two speakers as a minimum – the heavier and the bigger, the better. The loud obnoxious boom box was an accessory that was placed on the shoulder and carried everywhere. Thank goodness for iPods and mp3 players.


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