Beauty ideals over the decades: 1980’s

Model Brooke Shields was an icon of the time, and the late 80’s marked the beginning of the age of the supermodel. There were more women of mixed, or non-European ethnic and racial backgrounds portrayed in the media, than ever before (Although still not nearly in proportion to the population). Women step into the spotlight as the career-woman was “born”, and power-dressing became exceedingly popular. This was an “age of excess”, which was easily translated into fashion. In general, the bigger and bolder, the better. It was the decade of big hair, big shoulders, and over-the-top makeup. 

The 1980’s woman was a fresh faced “all american girl” with a wholesome figure. The aerobics obsession of the 80’s continued to emphasize fitness for women, and the female body was expected to maintain a certain weight, but still appear toned, all without being too muscular. Although the ideal size was fuller than the 90’s and the early 2000’s, all these body restrictions still caused eating disorders to skyrocket throughout the decade. Between cropped football player shirts and shiny spandex leggings (that was just a few of the typical trends that was considered sexy), the body was very much on display. At this point in history, being sexy was an acceptable and expected thing for most young people. 

The silhouette was oversized, high-waisted, cropped and cut off. Floral patterns, neon and pastel colors, puffy sleeves and skirts, shoulder pads, ripped sweatshirts, fanny packs, stone-washed straight legged jeans, big earrings, lace and pearls, were hot commodities. Oversized gold jewelry were used by both men and women, and tracksuits worn even when not exercising. 
The beauty ideal was somewhere between overdone and unkempt, and natural makeup was uncommon. 
The ideal woman had bold “virgin” eyebrows, wore blue eyeshadow or eyeliner matched with shiny pink lips. Nose jobs was on the rise and the beauty spot’s was the “it” thing to have.  

Many styles from the late 70’s remained fashionable in the early 80s, but soon both men and women began wearing looser shirts and tight, close-fitting trousers. 
In the mid 80’s, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper became fashion icons for young women with their “street urchin” look, which popularized the heavy makeup with vibrant neon colors and intentionally messed-up and off-colored hair, short skirts worn over leggings, brassieres worn as outer clothing, crucifix jewelry, and fishnet gloves. Michael Jackson sported the “jheri curl” (a sparkling wet-looking, heavily processed version of the Afro), and some middle-class teen-agers adapted the punk-influenced spiked hairstyle. 
Androgyny was also an important look of the 80’s, from Boy George, to Sinead O’Connor’s shaved head, to the Glam rock, Goth fashion and Heavy Metal bands, with their makeup and wild, long and dyed hair. There are only two words to describe 80’s hair: big and bigger, with multiple cans of aerosol hairspray in it. The choices were wild, crimped, permed, dyed or sun bleached. It was the beginning of hip hop, the golden age of “the mullet” and “the rat tail”.
In opposition to these trends, a new romantic or neoconservative “preppy” look was also in, popularizing traditional short hairstyles for men and women, and not to forget the “New Romantic”, “Yuppie” or “The Miami Vice style”.

Many of the iconic beauty ideals of the 80’s might have been unconventional and extreme, but it was due to the fact that the true ideal was to make an impact and create attention. It certainly made it’s impact on fashion history as the infamous 80’s look has paved the way for any fashion related extreme form of self-expression ever since.

Brooke Shields, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Madonna, Demi Moore, Princess Diana, Meg Ryan, Joan Collins, Lea Thompson, Daryl Hannah, Lisa Whelchel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tawny Kitaen, Jennifer Grey, Kathleen Turner, Carrie Fisher, Ally Sheedy, Claudia Schiffer, Paula Abdul, Kim Basinger, Grace Jones, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, Helena Christensen, Iman, Linda Evangelista, Linda Evans, Whitney Houston and Cyndi Lauper.

1 Comment

  • These are the makeup looks that dominated the decade are memorable even now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *