80s Costumes

For those of you in your 20s and early 30s – you grew up in the 80s. For those of you in your 40s and 50s – you were just becoming an established adult in the 80s. If you are being invited to a costume party that is 80s-themed, or just want to dress up in some nostalgia, you know your era well.

In starting with a costume, you need to remember the aesthetic of the 80s. This era involved big, back-combed hair; tights and leggings, aerobics, polka dots, bright colors, gaudy patterns, track suits, and heavy eye makeup. And as you know, that is just a taste. So here are some tips for your 80s costumes, meant for those who lived it and those who just want to act it out.

Let’s start with some general costumes. Of course, there is the valley girl. This would involve minimal effort. All you’d need to obtain is a tutu. Then throw on some Chuck Taylor shoes, leggings, a wide-neck t-shirt, plus a bunch of accessories like watches, bracelets, earrings, and sunglasses. Put your hair up into a high ponytail and curl it, making it as big as possible. Don’t forget to talk like a valley girl!


For men’s 80s costumes, you can go as simple as a track suit. Or, you can be more elaborate with tight, distressed jeans, a cutoff t-shirt and a jean vest, and a sweat band. There is also the glam rock look – exchange the jeans for skin-tight pants, pull on a snug t-shirt, tease your hair up as big as it will go, tie a scarf or rag around your head, and carry around an electric guitar.


Take a page from the media and popular culture of the time. Be a Rubik’s Cube! Decorate a big cardboard box with all the colors of the cube and walk around with it on you. Bill Cosby was an icon of the 80s, and all you have to do is throw on a Cosby sweater. Maybe your parents have one! If not, the thrift store is a great place to look. Get some friends together and be the cast of “Saved by the Bell.” The characters all had iconic looks and attitudes.


You could also try being a popular figure for your 80s costume. The 80s was when John Lennon died, and this was a truly moving moment – try being him and continuing his legacy!  Lionel Richie was a popular artist at this time, but you’d have to be able to get the hair right! Same with Tina Turner. Her dance moves are bar-none – why don’t you try them on for size? Other figures are The Police, Queen, Whitney Houston, Billy Idol, the A-Team, Prince, and Nirvana. There is such a plethora of 80s costume material out there in the world, so go for it!