Fashion

The Best Dressed Women of the '80s Were Actually Our Moms—See the Proof

When I caught wind of the triumphant return of certain ’80s fashion trends, I was initially hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Instead of turning solely to the runway and new arrivals sections of my trusted e-commerce sites (normal first steps for me as I investigate a new trend), I texted my mom. I asked her which ’80s fashion trends she wore the most frequently back in the day, and she excitedly looped me into a group text with her and four of her closest friends. Here, I got to witness them reminisce over photos from college, make fun of each other’s embarrassing outfits, and laugh at how ridiculous some of the items they loved then look now. They were laughing, but I wasn’t. I instantly scolded my mother for not saving any of her favorite pieces from the ’80s for me, and realized her style was much cooler than I’d ever given her credit for. (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t let that go to your head.)

This got my wheels turning. If my mom and her closest friends had incredible style, I was sure the other editors on the Who What Wear team had mothers who were just as stylish. To honor the ladies who raised us and loved us at times when we definitely weren’t very lovable, we asked them to send us photos of them rocking the hottest ’80s fashion trends better than anyone we’ve seen before. From acid-wash denim to ruched hot-pink frocks, Laura Ashley dresses to geometric earrings, get ready for the best fashion moments of the ’80s, brought to you by our mothers. We tossed in their personal commentary on the looks, too, for good measure. 

“I just wanted to dress like Princess Diana then, but sometimes I also managed to look like an upholstered chair in an English country house!”
“So many ‘statements’ were being made in the ’80s, and sometimes all in one outfit. I loved this dress with the statement houndstooth print at the top (including shoulder pads) and the more flattering simple black at the bottom (with the statement flower). Additional statements: BIG hair and earrings.”
“Jumpsuits were my favorites in the ’80s. They made getting dressed so easy, and I always felt so fashionable wearing them. I loved how tall they made me look too. The ones with big shoulder pads were even more flattering.”
“How many perms can you seat at one table? This was at my bachelorette party. We were a hip group, including the moms. (Not well pictured: the several jumpsuits at that table too.)”
“We all wore pleated, high-waisted, acid-wash jeans in the ’80s. This trend still baffles me. It was not flattering, but I guess it proves we were slaves to the trends. The big pockets were a perk though.”
“I wore a geo-print shirt, which was echoed in my earrings. The scarf in my hair made me look like Madonna—I think. It was 1986. I felt hip and chic.”
“This is the dress I wore to my engagement party. Drop waists were in back then, and it gave a loose, flowy feel to the look. I also fell in the love with the color, which was this baby pink shade and how delicate the silk fabric was. It made me feel so elegant.”
“This was my signature look—a patterned silk blouse under a sweater and finished off with a string of pearls. I remember that wearing the colorful collar sticking out from underneath a simple sweater was a big preppy look in the ’80s.”
“Bermuda shorts were really in back then, too. Here I am wearing a plaid linen pair with an oversize sweater for a Sunday picnic.”
“The ‘original’ high-waisted jeans and gold hoop earrings. Circa 1986.”
“Super-soft and well-worn oversize jean jackets were so classic and iconic in the ’80s that I wore my favorite ones well into the ’90s.”
“In the ’80s, bigger was always better—which meant puffy-sleeve sweaters were one of my staples.”
“Guess jeans, an oversize button-down shirt, and Keds were covetable and comfortable fashion go-to staples for this mom to a baby and toddler in the late ’80s.”
“As a working woman in the ’80s, I was drawn to upscale American tailored fashion and casual wear by Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne. Their designs appealed to my New England upbringing and newfound Western roots.”
“This was 1988, and I was going to my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. You [Gina] were the baby in the carriage. I had spent most of the ’80s being pregnant or holding a child or wearing practical ‘mommy’ clothing. I wanted something that was sexy and flashy and made me feel that I was still desirable. This dress was red, of course, and completely unpractical—still had to push that baby carriage.”
“I was 7or 8 months pregnant with you [Gina]. I was with Daddy at a conference in Montréal, when he was working for Unity Life. I needed something that was polished and still looked good at 8 months’ pregnant. This was springtime 1987, and it was cool in Montréal. Once again, red!”

Next up, shop the jewelry trend this editor just fell in love with

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