Easy Decades Day Ideas Inspired by Vintage Trends

Stand out from the Bobby Soxers and Hippies on Decades Day with these exciting period-accurate costume ideas. Spirit week has never looked better.

Published January 26, 2024
Woman laying on floor and talking on telephone

If you aren't a historian with a childhood obsession with the movie Grease like me, then you probably don't have a faux leather biker outfit ready to break out for Decades Day at a moment's notice. If spirit week is around the corner and you don't even know where to start, don't worry! From the wallflowers to the attention hogs, we've got Decades Day outfit ideas for every kind of kid.

1950s Decade Day Ideas to Take You Back to Coolsville

Poodle skirts are a thing of the past. Stand out from the Bobby Soxers and Greasers in the crowd with your period-accurate 50s outfit.

1950s Four Teen Couples Girls And Boys Having Record Music Dance Party

Beatnik

If you want something subtle and moody, take a page from the Beatnik’s style bible with these clothing ideas:

  • Muted color palette
  • Boatneck tops
  • Cigarette pants
  • Black jeans
  • Tucked in button-downs with rolled sleeves
  • Dark turtlenecks
  • Berets
  • Black tights

Cupcake Formal Wear

If you get one day to dress up in an outlandish outfit, why not go for broke? Poodle skirts have nothing on these cupcake prom dresses. Look for these details:

  • Strapless, sweetheart neckline
  • Nipped in waist
  • Layers of petticoats to create the “cupcake” shape
  • Tulle overlayers in pastels
  • Satin bows and silk flowers as accessories

Casual Teen Fashions

Roll out of bed and into something your grandparents would wear with this everyday teen fashion. Put together your outfit with pieces like these: 

  • Dungarees (with a rolled hem)
  • Saddle shoes with socks showing
  • Knitted sweaters
  • Gelled or pin-curled hair
  • Varsity jackets

Related: Vintage Dresses That Have a 1950s Retro Style

1960s Decade Day Ideas That Are Far Out 

From dayglo psychedelic outfits to refined tweed suits, the 1960s was chock full of colorful outfits for every kind of personality.

Fashion designer Ted Lapidus surrounded by models in front of his Paris boutique, circa 1960

Day Suits

Dressing sharp was all the rage in the early 60s, thanks to people like Jackie O and the Beatles. Since they're made in a variety of colors, cuts, and styles, you're sure to find a suit you like. Try: 

  • Skirt suits in pastel or neutral colors
  • Suits made out of textured fabrics
  • Skinny ties
  • Chino trousers
  • Short-sleeved button-downs 

Mod Styles

Bring Swingin' London to suburbia with a beautiful Mod-inspired outfit. To get the style, look for: 

  • Bright colors
  • Tights under mini-skirt sheath dresses
  • Peter Pan collars
  • Loafers
  • Shirts, skirts, and dresses in colorful pints (stripes, plaid, polka dots, swirls, etc)
  • Go-go boots
  • Knee-high socks

Psychedelic Fashion

If you love color, the mid-60s was the place to be. Heavily inspired by Eastern fashion, 60s psychedelic outfits could stop traffic — and that's why we love them. Look for these apparel and accessory ideas to get started: 

  • Shawls
  • Halter tops
  • Shearling and Penny Lane coats
  • Clashing colors
  • Suede fringe coats, skirts, and vests
  • Tapestry vests
  • Busy, colorful prints
  • Bell sleeves

1970s Decade Day Ideas That Are So Hip 

It didn’t take long for fashion to boomerang back to a more muted color palette. The 1970s is a great choice for Decades Day if you want to pull something out of your closet and still make an impression.

 70'S STYLE and PUNKS

Denim on Denim

One of the easiest ways to imbue the 70s is by wearing denim on denim. Tossing on a pair of wide-legged jeans with a denim button-up or denim jacket and letting your hair down should only take five minutes.

Quick Tip

Don't forget statement boots, sandals, or platforms if you have them. 

Prairie Dress & Gunne Sax Styles

Gunne Sax still has a cult following today, and while original dresses from this famous 70s line sell for hundreds of dollars, you can mimic their prairie styles for a fraction of the cost. Look for dresses with:

  • Feedsack prints and calico fabrics
  • Juliet sleeves or bishop sleeves
  • High waists
  • White lace or crochet trim
  • Natural, warm-toned colors
  • Floor-length styles 

Punk

Let loose and stretch the limits of your school's dress code by paying homage to early punk style. We're talking safety pins, grommets, and leather galore. Try these looks:

  • Safety pins randomly pinned into your clothes
  • Hand-painted tee-shirts
  • Worn jeans
  • Jeans and shirts with holes in them 
  • Leather jackets
  • Mohawks
  • Fishnets
  • Biker boots
  • Spiked and gelled, color-treated hair

Related: 70s Nail Ideas to Add to Your Decades Day Look

1980s Decade Day Ideas That Are Totally Rad

Of course, the 1980s is most people's go-to for decades day. What other decade do you get to tease your hair within an inch of its life and put on every one of your mom's statement necklaces from the 2010s? Go for a more casual 80s look or really sell the fantasy with these ideas.

Four teenagers playing a computer game in a games store. Photo from 1986

Sweaters Reigned Supreme

One way to rep the 80s without paying a dime is leaning into the cult of the sweater. Put on an oversized sweater, basically any bottoms you want, and some outlandish jewelry to complete the look. These ideas will really sell it: 

  • Oversized knit and jersey sweaters
  • Layered over polos or collared shirts
  • Worn over leggings and leg warmers
  • Worn over chinos and loafers
  • Also paired with acid-washed jeans and Keds

More Is More

The 80s was a decade of excess. The rise of mall rats with spending money meant that consumerism was at an all-time high. Cue the "more-is-more" look with these pieces: 

  • As many layered tops as you can stand
  • Multiple colorful petticoats stacked on top of one another
  • Bangles and string beads worn halfway up the forearm or stacked on your neck

Related: 1980s Trends People Totally Regret

1990s Decade Day Ideas That Are All That (& a Bag of Chips)

The 1990s had its fair share of iconic fashion moments, and these are just a few of the ones you might be able to put together from your own wardrobe.

Three friends in the style of the nineties are about orange old car

Tracksuits

Tracksuits in the 1990s weren't made out of delightful sweat-wicking material or in stylish, body-hugging cuts. Instead, they were sewn out of strips of saturated colors (that never went together) in a material that felt like a shopping bag.

If you really want to annoy your teachers, break out one of these windbreaker bad boys because they'll be able to hear your swish-swish from several classrooms away.

Slip Dresses

Slinky satin slip dresses were all the rage for 90s kids. Typically cut on the bias, these dresses had square necklines, high waists, and teeny spaghetti straps. Pair them with a Steve Madden-esque platform sandal and you're ready to go.

Overalls

When in doubt, grab a pair of overalls. They were the unofficial sponsor of kids born in the 90s, as every 90s kid had a pair. Go for a grungier look with a large flannel over the top or a sweeter vibe with a mini tee and a floral bucket hat.

Cobble Together a Budget Costume With Thrift Store Finds

While you’ll have a blast getting into character for Decade Day, there's no reason to pile on a few extra shifts to buy a cheap polyester atrocity from a party store. Instead, run to your local thrift store to score genuine vintage finds at a much cheaper price.

  • Look for newer decades "does" older ones. Genuine pieces from the 1920s and 1930s are probably beyond most teenagers' budgets. But 80s does 50s or 70s does 30s outfits shouldn't break the bank. Look for newer versions of older silhouettes so you don't have to skip out on your car payment.
  • Know your silhouettes. Look at as many pictures of the decade styles you want to emulate so you can spot clothes with the right silhouette from the jump. For example, floral dropped-waist dresses work for late-20s and early 30s while satin dropped waist dresses in bold colors are perfect for an 80s prom style.
  • Check out the accessories before you leave. Accessories can pull together clothes from your closet. Got a nice fit and flare day dress? Look for a fascinator, gold chunky stud earrings, and 2"-3" pumps and you can transform it into a 50s look.

Time Travel Isn't as Hard as It Looks

While you'll see your fair share of Party City costumes on Decades Day, you can really get into the spirit by whipping out a period-accurate outfit. Whether you're gunning for a spot in the yearbook or you have a burgeoning passion for vintage fashion, these retro ideas should help you get started.

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Easy Decades Day Ideas Inspired by Vintage Trends