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Iconic Clothes from the 1980s: Who Wore What?

The 1980s were a fun time to be alive, and you could see that in the big colors and playful fashions of the time. Even so, plenty of folks dressed more conservatively — it *was* the decade of Ronald Reagan, after all! Loud or quiet, outlandish or traditional, these iconic clothes from the 1980s really made their marks.

Leisure Suit

The leisure suit is an icon of the 80s, and its popularity has been on the rise since then. These suits are made for comfort, not style (although they can be stylish on certain people!). They’re usually worn with no shirt underneath because you just don’t need all that fabric bunching up around your neck! You might see these suits paired with a dress shoe or sandal-type shoes like boat shoes or Birkenstocks for maximum comfort. This is the type of outfit that’s going to be great for concerts or hanging out at a festival.

Material: Polyester, wool, silk

Who wore it: The leisure suit is *almost* always worn by men because they’re designed with masculine lines and colors like burgundy reds, dark browns and navy blues in mind. However, women did wear leisure suits as well. The style was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but it’s popularity has been on the rise since then. These suits are made for comfort, not style (although they can be stylish on certain people!). They’re usually worn with no shirt underneath because you just don’t need all that much coverage when you’re trying to be suave.

80’s Sweatshirt

A sweatshirt with large stripes in a variety of colors that are usually pastel, but can be neon as well. Mostly worn with nothing underneath and over jeans or shorts.

Who wore it: A lot of people would wear this type of sweatshirt because they were so easy to find! It was also potentially the most inexpensively priced item on this list.

80’s Sweatpants

A tight fitting pair of pants made out of sweatshirt fabric. They’re usually worn with a t-shirt or tank top underneath but can be worn without anything too if you want to get that 1980s look! These are comfortable and easy for lounging around the house in, so they became a popular staple of the decade.

Who wore them: A lot of people would wear these type of pants because they were so inexpensive and comfortable! It was also an easy way to get that 1980s look without having to worry about finding any other clothes from the time period.

80’s Leggings (or Yoga Pants)

These type of pants, which we more commonly know them as today, are actually the same thing! Leggings were originally designed for women to wear under skirts or dresses in order to give their legs a smooth appearance. The 1980s saw leggings take on two other purposes: yoga and casual clothing. Instead of wearing these with skirts and dresses, people would also wear them for casual purposes – typically with tight or short shirts that revealed the waistband.

Who Wore Them: People who wanted to look like they were from the 1980s and couldn’t find any clothes from back then could wear these as a substitute. They became popular among women of all shapes and sizes because it was a fit that could be adjusted to the wearer’s preferences.

Some people wore them for exercise purposes, while others would wear these as casual clothes. Regardless of how they were worn or why someone chose to wear leggings in general, it was very common for women during this time period to own at least one pair!

The Cosby Sweater

The Cosby Sweater became the unofficial sweater of choice for many TV dads in the 80s. These sweaters were often made from wool and featured a ribbed collar that could be worn on or off one’s shoulders.

Who Wore Them: Many fathers wore these when they wanted to give their family an idea about what it was like for them to be on a business trip.

The Puffer Jacket

Puffer jackets were warm and functional coats that became very popular during the 80s. These would typically come with many pockets, as well as an adjustable waist band which meant they could easily accommodate different body shapes!

Who Wore Them: People who lived in colder climates tended to prefer these coats, and were often used by those who had just come in from the cold.

The Levi’s 501 Jean

Levi’s has been making jeans since 1873, but they really came into their own during the 80s. The original model is still sold today: a pair of denim pants with copper rivets at the stress points.

Who Wore Them: Levi’s 501 jeans are still popular today and were worn by a number of people during the 1980s including James Dean, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and more!

The Nike Air Max Running Shoe

This is one of the first running shoes to feature air cushioning technology which made it much more comfortable for long-distance running.

Who Wore Them: The Nike Air Max Running Shoes were popular with people who liked to run, such as runners and track athletes in the 1980s!

The Faux Fur Coat

In days before manmade materials became widely available, coats made from animal skins or furs were considered quite luxurious.

Who Wore Them: Women who wanted to look elegant and stylish wore fur coats in the 1980s, such as actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer from Scarface!


The little black dress is a wardrobe staple for many women today but back then was an important part of any well-dressed woman’s wardrobe.

Who Wore Them: Women in the 1980s were expected to wear a LBD at least once per week, so it was common for women from all walks of life to own one.

The Ripped Jeans

Jeans have been popular since their invention and by the 80’s had become an iconic staple of casual American fashion.

Who Wore Them: In the 1980s, ripped jeans were often worn by women who wanted to project a rocker or punk-rock chic look.

The Jumpsuit

A jumpsuit is like a one-piece dress with legs, which made them very practical in an era before we had things like stretchy fabric.

Who Wore Them: In the 1980s, jumpsuits were originally worn by women who wanted to appear like they were still in a professional setting. They later became associated with both secretaries and flight attendants.

The Shirt Dress

A shirt dress is one of those clothes from the 80’s that managed to transcend time as it remains trendy today.

Who Wore Them: In the 1980s, shirt dresses were often worn by women who wanted to project a professional or masculine look.

The Jogging Suit

A jogging suit is like an all-in-one outfit that was perfect for the 80’s because so many people exercised outdoors at home and in gyms across the country.

Who Wore Them: Jogging suits were most often worn by men who wanted to dress like a professional but maintain athletic functionality and women who were looking for an outfit that was easy to care for, like the shirtdress.

The Knee Length Skirt

A skirt is one of those clothes from the 80’s which still has relevance today.

Who Wore Them: Women who were looking for a feminine outfit to wear, like an office dress or school uniform often wore dresses that fell at the knee length.

The Pencil Skirt

A pencil skirt is one of those clothes from the 80s which was designed to show off a woman’s curves and was generally paired with a blouse or button-up shirt.

Who Wore Them: While it was common for women to wear pencil skirts, they were also worn by men who wanted to dress as dapper as possible.

The Miniskirt

A miniskirt is one of those clothes from the 80s that might be considered provocative.

Who Wore Them: Women with short skirts wore them for the style of it, but they were often worn by women who were looking to make a point.

Parachute Pants

Parachute pants were often those clothes from the 80s that we thought of as dad clothes. They’re not so flattering to a man’s frame, but they have an oversized and comfortable feel.

Who Wore Them: Men who wanted comfort over style would wear parachute pants when relaxing at home or on vacation.

Leg Warmers

tuxedo is one of those clothes from the 80s that was worn by men and women at formal events.

Who Wore Them: While a tux would be considered provocative for most people, celebrities wore them to red carpet events with little flair as it’s just what they’re used to wearing.

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