Unusual and Unique Costume Ideas From the 80s

Updated July 19, 2017

Between glam rock, big hair, yuppies and arcade fever, the 1980s is a fun decade to celebrate through costumes and music at theme parties. But aside from shoulder pads and hairspray, cheap plastic jewellery and Miami Vice suit jackets, true 1980s enthusiasts can dig into the decade's culture for unusual and unique costumes that will outshine other '80s revellers.

Rock Stars

Out-glam other '80s party revellers posing as rock stars by dressing up as a group and arriving en masse to a theme party. Gather six or seven girlfriends to appear as Robert Palmer's backup dancers from the "Simply Irresistible" music video. Smear on the shiny red lipstick, slick back the dark hair and show some leg in a sleeveless black minidress with an orange sash belt. Arrive at the party with the song blasting out of an old-school boom box, led by another friend dressed as Robert Palmer.


Remind other partygoers just how far technology has advanced by dressing up as an outdated electronic that was popular in the 1980s. Wear a big square box with a drawn-on screen to represent the first wave of Apple desktop computers. Invest more time decorating a big box to wear and go as the orange electronic game "Speak and Spell," complete with the letters and numbers written out on the box. Encourage other revellers to press the buttons and speak back in that old-school electronic voice of the game.


Press a black suit and climb into the role of President Ronald Reagan, complemented with a rubber Reagan mask, or a relaxed pompadour hairstyle. Don the suit, likewise, and wear a half-bald white wig and draw on a wine stain birthmark to appear as Mikhail Gorbachev. Dress to represent the '80s political conflicts of the two countries by dressing in all white, to resemble ice, and carrying a water gun, à la the Cold War.

Video Games

Skip the more obvious video game costumes, such as Donkey Kong, Mario or PacMan and his mistress, and dress as a skeet ball winner. Drape long lengths of perforated raffle tickets over a T-shirt and jeans. Pin gaudy plastic prizes and candies to the T-shirt. Integrate other revellers into the fun by asking arcade trivia questions and rewarding correct answers with a prize off the costume.

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About the Author

Katharine Mitchell began writing in 1994. She has has written for "Fodor's," "The Insider's Guide to Beijing," "Time Out", "City Weekend" and Matador. She attended the Summer Literary Seminar in St. Petersburg, Russia. Mitchell has a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Montana and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi.