I would love to include more ’80s fashion in my wardrobe. However, I’m not a huge fan of neon colors, frosted lipstick, and aerobics gear, so how can I dress more ’80s without looking like I’m on my way to a Halloween party? —Iman, 16, Sweden
The raddest thing about ’80s fashion is that there wasn’t just one definitive style of the decade. There was a SERIOUS buffet of style icons from that era who rocked totally different looks, yet they were equally filled with glamorous badassery all the same. You can choose to be inspired by Madonna, or the divas of Dynasty, or Pat Benatar, or Jennifer Beals in Flashdance! It all depends on what sort of vibe you like. To avoid falling into the costume trap, just don’t go full-on, head-to-toe ’80s. Check out these badass ’80s ladies and incorporate whichever elements of their iconic LEWKS that speak to you.
First up, you got “Like a Virgin,” Desperately Seeking Susan–era Madonna. She danced around in a lot of black lace and fishnet tops back then, most frequently with either matching solid slacks or cropped lace tights and a tulle skirt. HOWEVA, I feel like her accessories were the real star of the show: fingerless gloves, rosaries tangled up with other long necklaces, studded booties, a single cross earring, and stacks on stacks of those signature black jelly bracelets. If you like those, you can stock up via eBay for pretty cheap!
Dressing like Grace Jones will instantly up your confidence level by at least 100 percent. No one wears a bitchface and black leather like Ms. J. Of course, you can always go faux, including with this tuxedo blazer from Target. Wear it with some disco pants, and it won’t look overtly ’80s. If you like a challenge, try a hooded bodysuit like this one or this one underneath. You can also top it off with some bold eye shadow or a pair of futuristic sunglasses.
I LOVE how Debbie Harry, the lead singer of Blondie, made different T-shirts a classic part of her onstage look. Sometimes she wore them with miniskirts…or even went PANTSLESS! But I really love when she paired T-shirts with high-waisted jeans. What’s rad is that you can get a reproduction of her Camp Funtime shirt (as seen in the center of the above picture) here. Then find some high-waisted pants like these beauties and sparkly wooden platform heels, just like her.
Cyndi Lauper’s style is definitely not for the faint of heart. Similar to Madonna, she’d wear boatloads of accessories and jewelry. The difference is that she wore significantly brighter colors. Even her hair had rainbow status! I know you’re not looking to play dress-up here, but if you’re feeling adventurous, wear some technicolor tights with a strapless dress that has a fun print. Add massive amounts of costume jewelry (like this amazing dinosaur bracelet! SCREAMS!) OR throw a denim jacket over it to “lessen” the funkiness, but my question is…are you sure you really want to do that??
Hope this helps! Now, let’s have a dance party to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun!” —Marie
What’s the deal with leggings? Are they pants? Are they tights? Who gets to wear them without a top that covers their butt? Is bare-bum leggings-wearing only for the booty elite? —Rori
Oh, hi—I didn’t see you there. I was too busy SHOPPING FOR LEGGINGS ON THE INTERNET. I’m not even kidding; I seriously have a browser window open right now, and my shopping cart has three pairs of leggings in it. Needless to say, I am obsessed with leggings and think about them all the time. Why? They are the most comfortable type of bottoms for me. Leggings are a footless pant made out of a stretchy material—usually something like cotton with a bit of spandex like these American Apparel acid-wash guys or even stretch velvet (!!!).
For me, it’s all about this all-important stretch. They fit me whether I have put on a bit of weight or lost some. I also like leggings because of their sleek shape, which gives me a streamlined look. As for other pants: I just don’t enjoy sitting in, for example, jeans, because the material doesn’t have enough give, and I find the top cutting into my waist (or hips). Even worse, sometimes the seams press into my cooch, which is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE if you have to wear said pants all day. Who has time for that? And, please. I know I don’t have to tell any of you how frustrating shopping for pants can be. The cut and shape varies from brand to brand (and even within brand), which is exciting and great for pants-lovers, but NOT ME. I hate spending hours in a changing room being like, “Whyyyyyy don’t these pants fit me.” I have better stuff to do, like nap.
Leggings are super versatile. I wear them with anything: under tunic-length tops, or with tops that hit my waist or hips. You could wear them under skirts or dresses, too, or even under another pair of pants in very cold weather. They can also be worn as athletic gear or pajamas. Man, we should be giving leggings an award. Great job, leggings!
Now, I definitely hear your puzzlement about whether leggings should be considered pants. Popular opinion says that they can’t. (So unfair.) If you can believe it, even this leggings-addict used to be one of those awful people who said, “LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS” (I blame the fact that I used to religiously read Go Fug Yourself, where they occasionally leggings-shame famous peeps). Legging-shamers are legion; there used to even be a “leggings are not pants” Tumblr. It seems like a kind of silly objection to make, though. Skirts aren’t pants, and we wear those on the bottom. Why can’t leggings just be another category? I asked my good friend the Oxford dictionary the definition of pants (FYI, the UK definition is “underpants,” so I’m working from the US definition). WELL, WELL, WELL, LOOKY HERE. “Pants” means “trousers,” which means “an outer garment covering the body from the waist to the ankles, with a separate part for each leg.” Outer garment…covering the body…from the waist to the ankles…separate part for each leg…YO, the definitive answer: Leggings ARE pants, y’all.
So, if leggings technically ARE pants, why the constant leggings hate? When I turned to my other good friend Google to answer this question, it seemed like a lot of leggings-detractors objected to the fact that people’s booties are on show in them. Let’s all take a moment of silence for those people who are so distressed by butts. *silence* To those people, I say: BUTTS ARE GREAT! Butts are fun. Butts are nature’s portable cushions. People who disapprove of leggings either hate butts or hate the fact that people can see them. You know what this sounds like to me? Just some old-fashioned body-shaming. I won’t subject you to the ugly criticism that exists on the interwebzzz, but there are leggings-haters who think that people who wear above, like, a size 4 shouldn’t wear leggings. THIS IS WRONG. EVERYONE can wear leggings. Other leggings-haters think that nobody should wear leggings, no matter what size they wear. Guess what? THIS IS WRONG. Everyone can wear WHAT THEY WANT. True story. You mentioned the booty elite—you know who’s it in? EVERYONE WHO HAS A BUTT. LEGGINGS FOR EVERYONE YAYYYYYYYY!
The one thing I will say to watch out for re: leggos is whether the material gives you less coverage when stretched out. You may not care that much about whether people can see your underwear through your leggingses, in which case, skip to the next paragraph! But if you do, just ask a friend to check whether your smalls are visible when you are trying on a new pair, or wearing an old fave: Even very dark, more expensive pairs can be prone to this, especially if they’ve been around for a while.
Whoa, it looks like I had a lot to say about leggings! But come on. Who wouldn’t love bottoms that you can wear at a buffet? Stretch away, sister. —Estelle