Totally Rad Outfits to Wear to an 80s Party

We've got all the 80s party attire ideas for people who are wondering what to wear. So get ready to channel the 80s and win the night.

Updated November 22, 2023
80s fitness girls

A few years ago, my hubby and I threw an 80s dance party. Since we're both GenXers from the 80s (as are many of our friends), I was right on top of the 80s theme wear. And it was magnificent! We had guests show up as 80s-style Ozzy Osborne, Axl Rose, Tom Cruise in Risky Business, an aerobics instructor, and more. The big hair and shoulder pad flare were definitely on display.

So if you're invited to sip epic 80s-style jungle juice (ours had neon flashing ice cubes), eat rad 80s foods, and dance the night away to Journey and Duran Duran, make sure you show up in gnarly 80s party attire. As an experienced 80s party thrower and authentic 80s person, I'm here to help you be the best dressed at any 80s party.

What to Wear to an 80s Party

Whether you were a tiny baby in the 80s or a full-fledged adult dude or dudette (or maybe you missed it altogether, you youngster you), 80s parties are totally, like, wicked. In the 80s, the music was sick, the food was fab, and the look was bitchin'! So, any of these 80s party outfits will make you look like you just walked off the set of a John Hughes movie. 

Hair Band Rocker

Axl Rose

The hair band rocker look screams 80s. Acid-washed, bleached and ripped jeans or black leather pants work well for this look. A tight t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off or a spandex tank top finishes off the clothing portion of the costume. Add a long-haired wig, and you're ready to go whip your hair around as you play air guitar.


man in an 80s tracksuit

My mom and dad wore matching tracksuits all the time during the 80s, much to my eternal teenage embarrassment. So, if you want to channel some 80s parental unit vibes, a bright nylon tracksuit is... on track. Add a sweatband on your head and tousle your hair (or don a mullet wig), and you're good to go. On your feet — bright white trainers will work. 


polo shirts

You probably have everything you need to channel 80s preppy style in your closet right now. Think Jake from State Farm with a little extra pop. Put on a polo (bonus points if there's an alligator on it) and pop the collar. Add khakis and tie a sweater around your neck. Penny loafers complete this classic 80s look, although white sneaks will do in a pinch. 


punk woman

Punk was a whole vibe in the 80s, and anyone who identified as punk took it seriously. Think leather, fishnets, spikes (in hair and accessories), and deliberately ripped or torn clothing. Add noticeable (and colorful) makeup, a nose ring, bright streaks in spiky hair, and you're going to look like you're ready to head out to an 80s punk concert. 

80s Prom

girls at an 80s prom

Get out the Aqua Net girls, we're going to the prom. Puffy sleeves, bright colors, and lots of organza highlighted the average prom for 80s teen fashion. Pull out your own 80s prom dress in neon colors or raid the closets of friends and family who grew up in the 80s. A thrift store may also land you a vintage, puffy-sleeved dress. Any fashionable prom attendee in the 80s purchased a pair of shoes dyed to match the dress. And don't forget blue eye shadow, lots of lip gloss, and big hair. Round out the look with rhinestone jewelry and a wrist corsage.

For the dudes, white tuxes with cumberbund and bowtie to match your date's dress was exactly what the occasion called for. Get ready to dance the night away and maybe do a little smooching behind the bleachers. We won't tell. 

80s TV Stars

couple wearing Hawaiian shirts

You can't talk about 80s costume ideas without mentioning 80s TV. On Miami Vice, Crockett and Tubbs were super snazzy sporting t-shirts under suit jackets. And on Magnum PI, Tom Selleck wore Hawaiian shirts. If you're more of a movie fan, show up as Joel from Risky Business in its most iconic scene — wearing boxers, a dress shirt (pop the collar), and socks. Then air guitar your way through Old Time Rock n' Roll when it inevitably comes onto the party playlist (even tho it's technically a 70s song). 


flashdance on stage

Back in the 80s, I was all about cutting the collars out of all my sweatshirts and wearing a tank underneath. Why, you ask? Flashdance. Add some tights, leg warmers, and white Keds, and you'll be living your best 80s life in no time.

Don't Forget Your 80s Hair

80s hair

I bet my 80s hair was bigger than yours! All I had to do was crimp, flip my head upside down, and start spraying the Aqua Net, and it grew and grew and grew. 

Women's Hairstyles

If you look back at pictures from the 80s, it seems as if the women were in a competition to see who could have the biggest hair (me — it was me). Bangs were popular (had 'em) and often stretched several inches above the top of the head (yep, they did). This battle against gravity required patience and a lot of styling products. Specific hairstyles for women include:

  • Long, curly hair with lots of volume and big bangs
  • Crimped hair
  • Banana clips
  • Side ponytails

Men's Hairstyles

man with an 80s mullet

Big hair in the 80s was just as popular for men as it was for women. Men with short hair may have difficulty recreating the awe-inspiring hairstyles from the 80s. Wigs are one way to add some volume and styling options for the theme party. Some popular styles for men's hair included:

  • Mullets
  • Rat tails
  • Long, layered rocker hair, with or without waves
  • Feathered hair

Relive the Radical 80s

While 80s party outfits may look a little outlandish today, we thought we were totally radical. And you know what? I stand by that. At our 80s party, everyone not only embodied a decade, but we all looked totally tubular and had a great time doing it. So take inspo from my 80s pals and channel a decade when the colors were bright, and the hair was big. It's bound to be a great party. 

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Totally Rad Outfits to Wear to an 80s Party