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Fashion in the 1980s - Introduction

Fashion in the 1980s was bold and glitzy. Teenagers no longer dictated fashion trends - the baby boom generation was getting older and richer and demanded more glamorous, upmarket fashion.

Fashion in the 1980s rejected the non-materialist `hippie' values that had inspired fashion in the 1970s. Earning big money and spending it conspicuously, was the focus of the decade for many Australians. Some people chose to wear fashion that promoted materialist values and flaunted their newly-acquired wealth and social status.

For people not overflowing with cash, credit cards became a popular way of acquiring goods. As a result, expensive designer labels became increasingly sought-after and brand name sporting goods were popular.

Other fashion styles, like punk, emerged as a reaction against both the hippie values of the past decades and the materialist values of the current decade.

Fashion and popular culture in the 1980s

Various music stars influenced fashion trends throughout the 1980s. Popular American singer Madonna introduced risqué trends like visible bra straps and wearing underwear as outerwear. After Michael Jackson wore a studded black leather jacket in his hugely successful video clip Thriller (1982), many young people were seen sporting a similarstyle.

Film and television had a similar impact. The movie Flashdance (1983) popularised leg warmers and ripped, off-the-shoulder t-shirts. The wide-shouldered suits from the American soap opera Dynasty soon filtered into mainstream fashion, while the over-the-top series Dallas promoted obviousdisplays of wealth like heavy, glitzy jewellery and sparkling, sequined clothing.

The 1980s power suit

Stiff, sharply-cut suits with wide shoulders were popular with businessmen and women in the 1980s. Power suits were designed to make the wearer look successful and authoritative.

Women had been awarded equal pay to men in 1972. By the 1980s, many women felt a greater sense of authority and control in the workplace and were keen to work their way into senior positions. For some, wearing a masculine, wide-shouldered suit was a way of expressing their new-found sense of power and asserting their equality with men. Suits were usually teamed with conservative blouses in plain colours.

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Accessories in the 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, the emphasis on flashy, expensive dressing extended to fashion accessories. Women expressed an image of wealth and success through shiny costume jewellery like large faux-gold earrings, pearl necklaces and clothing covered with sequins and diamantes. Buttons, belts, bags and shoes were also often metallic and showy.

Princess Diana - a 1980s fashion icon

In 1981, Prince Charles of Wales married Diana Spencer, a young English nanny. Throughout the 1980s, Diana was transformed from a shy princess into a fashion icon - closely followed by the press and frequently appearing on the covers of women's magazines. All over the world, women copied Diana's ever-changing clothing and hair styles. In the 1980s, Diana often wore lace collars, blazers, pearl necklaces and hats.

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The fitness craze in the 1980s

Exercise played an important part in the lives of many Australians throughout the 1980s. In a bid to increase their fitness and improve their looks, people began jogging, going to the gym, playing tennis and doing yoga, dance and aerobics classes.

A huge range of specially-designed sportswear soon emerged, in bright colours like royal blue, fuchsia and emerald green. These clothes were made from stretchy, synthetic fabrics, like lycra, that were easy to care for. Headbands and legwarmers completed the look.

The comfort and convenience of gym wear provided great inspiration to mainstream fashion and sporting clothes were soon transformed into everyday fashion. Australian singer Olivia Newton-John also helped popularise the style with her hit song Let's Get Physical.

Hairstyles in the 1980s

Hair in the 1980s was generally bouffant and heavily styled. This was in contrast to the long, straight, natural styles worn in the 1970s. Curly hair was all the rage - those who were not naturally endowed with curls could go to the hairdresser and get a permanent wave, or perm. Some people spent a great amount of time taming their hair into the latest style, with the help of styling products like mousse and hairspray.

Punk in the 1980s

Punk fashion was a non-conformist, rebellious style that emerged in the late 1970s and gained momentum throughout the 1980s. Punk was a reaction against the idealistic peace-loving hippie era, as well as a rejection of the consumerist, money-obsessed culture of the 1980s.

Inspired by rebellious English bands like the Sex Pistols, punk fashion was loud, angry, aggressive and designed to shock. Typical punk fashion included tight black jeans, a ripped, tattered T-shirt held together with safety pins and heavy Doc Martens boots. Punk hair was traditionally cut short for both men and women - a reaction against the long, sleek hairstyles of the hippie era. Punk hair was often dyed a vibrant colour, or styled into a spiky Mohawk.

Punk fashion also featured a range of silver metal jewellery like studded belts, spiked collars and studs worn in the ear or nose.

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