What Did Teenage Girls Wear in the '80s?

Written by marion hays
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What Did Teenage Girls Wear in the '80s?
In the early to mid-'80s, glasses with large, plastic frames were in fashion. (Fashion image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com)

The 1980s heralded teenage fashion that was loud, gaudy and bright. Accessories were large and worn in layers, and fashion itself was taken to extremes. Girls wanted the look of the pop stars seen on MTV and wanted to create an individualistic look. Music and culture played a large part in fashion and design, and teenage girls were more than ready to explore it.

Early '80s

The headband became a fashion staple in 1981, along with leg warmers and leotards. Fashion followed the popularity of movies such as "Flashdance." Aerobics was the exercise of choice, and its dance attire became a teenage trend. Another associated trend was the rah-rah skirt, copied from the short skirts worn by cheerleaders. Colourful tracksuits became very popular as leisure wear and were worn by both teenage girls and boys.


Music played a significant part of teenage culture in the mid-1980s, with the popularity of Michael Jackson and Madonna. Unisex leather jackets, loose and oversized, were matched with fingerless gloves, as teenagers tried to replicate the looks of their idols. The street-urchin style evolved, with short skirts over leggings, lots of necklaces, rubber bracelets, large hair bows and fishnet gloves. Underwear was worn as outerwear, and denim got a new look, which was streaked and stonewashed.

Late '80s

Casual wear became a trend continuing through to the mid-1990s. Teenage girls wore leggings with plaid skirts, slouch socks and sneakers or flat shoes. Sometimes bike shorts appeared under short dresses with sneakers and no socks. Soccer shorts were popular with teenagers, as were opaque tights worn with a short dress or shorts, paired with slouch socks and sneakers.


Volume was the key to hairstyles in the '80s; hair was large and teased with plenty of hairspray and mousse. Alternatively, the introduction of the "scrunchie" tied the hair into a side ponytail, which became very popular. Permanent and temporary hair dyes were introduced, which came in a variety of colours, including metallic and neon tones to add streaks or stripes. "Mall bangs" became a phenomenon among teenage girls, who lifted and sculpted their fringe to heighten and set them with lots of hairspray. Make-up appeared bold and bright with dark shades of lipstick matched with glitter eye shadow and neon nail polish.

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