'80s dress-up day ideas

Updated February 21, 2017

High schools across the country often employ a themed dress-up day in their schools during spirit or Homecoming week to build school spirit before an important football or basketball game. Let the iconic fads and fashion statements of the 1980s inspire the next fun and creative dress-up day at your school.

Women's Fashion

Teenage girls can travel back to the 1980s by wearing shoulder pads in their blazers and blouses. Girls can find clothes with shoulder pads at thrift stores or perhaps in the back of their mothers' closets. Women in the '80s loved their denim, knit and leather miniskirts. However, if you choose to wear a miniskirt to school, make sure it conforms to your school's dress code.

Instead of a skirt, don a pair of stretch stirrup trousers, tight stonewashed jeans or tights. Top the outfit with an oversized sweater, sweatshirt or T-shirt. Choose a top in a primary colour or in a neon shade. Or go for the preppy '80s look of button-down shirts, a sweater draped over your shoulders and walking shorts.

Men's Fashion

Boys in the period dressed in tight leather or stonewashed jeans and bright, colourful parachute trousers that you may be able to find in thrift stores. For easier-to-find '80s fads, wear corduroy trousers or spandex. Choose rock band shirts, Ocean Pacific T-shirts and sleeveless T-shirts under leather jackets, jean jackets or Member Only jackets. If you want to go for the preppy look, dress in polo shirts, rugby shirts, turtlenecks, button-down shirts, sweaters draped over the shoulders and dress slacks.


To capture the '80s look, you must capture the hair. Women feathered and teased their hair to make it big and bold. This was not the era for sleek and straight. Women used a curling iron to curl half their fringe up and away from their face and the other half down over their foreheads. They crimped their hair, dyed it platinum blond or wore multiple colours, and used glittered hair products.

Men donned big hair too, especially fans of hair bands such as Poison, Motley Crue or Bon Jovi. If you prefer punk music to metal, go with a rainbow Mohawk or spikes. For a more tamed look, sport long and layered hair, curly or frizzy hair with fringe. Wigs make easy choices for dressing up.


Don't forget the accessories. Girls should wear huge and gaudy earrings, fingerless gloves and colourful leg warmers. You can wear leg warmers with miniskirts, stretch trousers and even over jeans. Remember to belt your oversized tops with a thick belt at your hips. When doing make-up, apply blue eye shadow, light pink lipstick, and a pencilled-on beauty mark. Men can also wear fingerless gloves. Wear earrings in just one year and buy Ran-Ban sunglasses.

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About the Author

Kristen Marquette has been a professional writer since 2009 when FireLight Books published her debut novel, "The Vampiric Housewife." Since 2000 she has helped students hone their written and verbal skills in English as a tutor. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University.