80s dresses are totally awesome! Especially prom, party, and formal 80s dresses which are back in fashion now. Vintage 80s dresses can be found in thrift stores, vintage shops, and online marketplaces like Etsy and eBay. You can also buy new vintage inspired 80s dresses online which offers you more sizing and usually better prices too.
The trendiest 80s party dresses have puff sleeves, giant bows, bubble skirts, and a lot of bling – sequins, sparkles, metallic fabrics, and glitter. Don’t forget bright colors too – hot pink, teal, purple, and blue.
Let us explore some of the best 80s dress style with pictures, history, and styling ideas for your next 1980s themed event.
80s Casual Dresses
By the 1980s, most girls and teens weren’t wearing dresses on a daily basis anymore. Jeans became everyday fashion in the 1970s and that continued into the 1980s as well. Mature women, working women, moms, and grandmothers were the primary people who wore dresses daily. The dresses they chose ranged from house dress to casual dresses to office-appropriate business dresses (on in the case of my mom, a teacher’s dress).
Casual dresses in the 80s were the button-down shirtdress, the peasant dress, the sundress, the dolman sleeve pop over dress and the wrap dress. These dresses were usually a bit longer than knee-length, with long or medium puffy sleeves or thin straps in summer, and in fun prints or soft pastel solids. Polka dot dresses were very popular in the 1980s, and so were lace trim cotton dresses, eyelet dresses, and denim dresses.
Knit dresses also found popularity in the 1980s as both a one piece chemise dress and as skirt and blouse separates with big belt. Casual 80s dresses were soft, with a loose fit and oversized details. Big Pop Art inspired prints made them stand out. Tossing on a casual 80s dress on was as comfortable as a nightgown, but pretty enough for most occasions.
Your 80s Dress Outfit
- The dress – Casual knit, shirtwaist, or popover styles. Floral prints, polka dot, and tropical colors. Choose vintage 80s dress or a new 80s style dress.
- The hair – Big hair, curly frizz, swooping bangs, or short smooth shoulder length with simple bangs. Add a side pony with scrunchie hairband or a cloth headband.
- The shoes – Short heel pumps for day dresses, flats for casual knit dresses, tall boots for winter. Shop 80s shoes.
- The accessories – A wide belt! Plastic button earrings and bracelets. Sun hats that match.
- More outfit ideas.
80s Party Dresses
1980s party dresses were the first step in formalwear. They could be worn to any special occasion, like a family party, a school dance, or Church on Easter. 80s party dresses were often made of lace, a throwback to the Victorian and Edwardian eras, which inspired many 80s fashions. There was also the ruched party dress that appeared in the early to mid 1980s that featured a gathered waist and hip. Very figure flattering!
The drop waist party dress was a throwback to the 1920s while the strapless dress took inspiration from the 1950s. As if that wasn’t enough vintage inspiration, the peplum dress from the 1940s was tossed in to cover all the mid century decades.
Your 80s Party Dress outfit
- The dress – Real vintage 80s dress or new vintage inspired party dress in a style you love. Shop 1980s party dresses here.
- The hair – French twist for cocktail and evening attire, otherwise your nicest big hair style or sleek short hair.
- The shoes – Plain pumps for partywear.
- The accessories – Large gold or sparkling earrings. Nude or black nylons.
80s Prom Dresses
1980s prom dresses were the step above simple party dresses but not quite as formal as an evening dress. Prom dresses were heavily inspired by the 1860s Victorian ballgown, which also inspired many 1940s and 1950s prom dresses. The large skirts, layers of ruffles and lace, satin fabrics, and big puffy sleeves were just what an 80s princess dreamed of. The look only lasted a few years before girls wanted prom dresses that were less fussy and more fun. They turned to pop culture for bright colors and shorter skirts for 80s prom dresses in the second half of the decade.
These late 80s prom dresses featured a lot of velvet bodices with metallic fabric bubble skirts, puff sleeves, and giant bows. Big, bold, dramatic. These prom dresses are truly unique to the 1980s and early 19990s. Looking back they are kind of hideous, but at the time they were fun! If I could go to an 80s prom-themed party, I would have a blast recreating the look.
Your 80s Party Dress Outfit
- The dress- Go big, go bold! Shop 80s prom dresses.
- The hair- Big curls or up do curly style for each 80s. Long loose beachy-waves for late 80s styles. A big bow clip on the side.
- The shoes – Tall, plain pumps. Shop shoes.
- The accessories – Nude or black shiny sheer nylons. Pearl necklaces with ballgowns. Big sparkling earrings with short dresses.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.