1980s fashion is back: Here’s how to wear it in real life

From polka dots to fluoro, here’s how to echo the decade of excess – yet not seem out of date

Minimalists look away now. After seasons of neutral tones and pared back fashion, 1980s bling is back. The decade of excess is strutting into spring.

At the spring/summer 2020 shows, audacious trends from that decade were heavily featured. Boardroom-level shoulder pads were everywhere, from Proenza Schouler to JW Anderson. Wild highlighter hues were seen at Helmut Lang and Anna Sui while taffeta ruffled dresses featured heavily at Christian Siriano and Oscar De La Renta.

But before you delve into your wardrobe and dig out your day-glo, leg warmers and puffball skirts, bear in mind that the key to reworking the 1980s resurrection is channelling a refined reboot.

Seeking inspiration? Princess Diana remains a poster girl for 2020 and has featured on more than one designer’s mood boards. Tory Burch took her as a muse for spring while Shrimps’ autumn/winter show at London fashion week alluded to the late princess’s signature look.


Her fashion choices feel more admissible than ever. In fact, one of the mainstays of her 1980s wardrobe – the Sloaney-chic pie-crust collar blouse – is a key piece for the season. Wear one with a pair of straight leg denims and sleek ankle boots for a more contemporary take.

On the subject of jeans, the acid-wash denim has also crawled back into fashion. Select clean-line, structured pieces and team them with a pared back palette to bring the trend in to 2020.

Puff-sleeve dresses and blouses were an unmissable silhouette on the runways of Khaite, Ganni and Cecilie Bahnsen. Let the voluminous leg-of-mutton sleeve detail be the star of the show, keeping the rest of your outfit simple.

A sleek trench coat in neutral patent tones pays homage to the over-the-top decade without veering into costume. The vinyl coat merges fashion and function, waterproofing your ensembles on rainy spring days.

Power shoulders dominated tailoring at Chloé and Michael Kors, but are easily adopted into your wardrobe in a modern Working Girl way by selecting a blazer in an oversized silhouette with a slight sculptural shoulder. Team it with a slouchy trouser, or for the ultimate in 1980s nostalgia, pair it with long, Bermuda shorts as seen at Max Mara.

Blinding doses of fluoro flashes were seen at Staud, Tom Ford and Valentino and can be made more 2020 rather than 1982 by adopting a dark palette shot though with bright shots of neon.

Playful polka dots have moved from daytime to after dark; the dotted print is coming for your evening wardrobe. The throwback pattern is extra fun so amp up the kitsch side of dots by teaming them with the very 1980s combination of diamante waterfall earrings.