Like the fashion of all modern decades, 1980s fashion in popular culture incorporated distinct trends from different eras. This helped form a cultivating movement of style. The most conservative, more masculine fashion look that was most indicative of the 1980s was the wide use of shoulder pads.
While in the 1970s, the silhouette of fashion tended to be characterized by close fitting clothes on top with wider, looser clothes on the bottom, this trend completely reversed itself in the early 1980s as both men and women began to wear looser shirts and tight, close-fitting pants. Men wore power suits as a result of the greater tendency for people to display their wealth. Brand names became increasingly important in this decade, making Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein household names.
In the United States, Madonna was titled the “Material Girl” and many teenage girls looked to her for fashion statements. The rising pop star proved to be very influential to female fashions. She first emerged on the dance music scene with her “street urchin” look—short skirts over leggings, necklaces, rubber bracelets, fishnet gloves, hairbows, long layered strings of beads, bleached, untidy hair with dark roots, head bands, and lace ribbons. In her “Like a Virgin” phase, millions of teenage girls emulated her fashion example that included brassieres worn as outerwear, huge crucifix jewellery, lace gloves, tulle skirts, and boytoy belts. Gloves, sometimes lace and/or fingerless, were popularized by Madonna, as well as fishnet stockings and layers of beaded necklaces. Short, tight Lycra or leather mini-skirts and tubular dresses were also worn, as were cropped, bolero-style jackets. Black was the preferred colour. Another club fashion for women was lingerie as outerwear. Prior to the mid-1980s it had been taboo to show a slip or a bra strap in public. A visible undergarment had been a sign of social ineptness. In the new fad’s most extreme forms, young women would forego conventional outer-garments for vintage-style bustiers with lacy slips and several large crucifixes. This was both an assertion of sexual freedom and a conscious rejection of prevailing androgynous fashions.
The Thriller look was inspired by Michael Jackson’s record breaking album Thriller. Teenagers would attempt to replicate the look of Jackson, which included matching red/black leather pants and jackets, one glove, sunglasses, and jheri curl. Leather jackets popularized by Michael Jackson and films like The Lost Boys were often studded and left undone to create a messier look. Oversized, slouch shouldered faded leather jackets with puffy sleeves from Europe caught on. Gloves, sometimes fingerless, would also accompany the jacket. Late in the decade plain brown aviator jackets made a comeback, styled after World War II fighter pilot jackets. Already popular aviators were joined by other forms of sunglasses. It was not unusual for sunglasses or shades as they were known, to be worn at night (I Wear My Sunglasses At Night).