It’s, like, totally fashionable.

My daughter just turned 15. I know. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

But I don’t want to talk about teen angst, the dangers of social media, or why I’m accused of being “totally cringe” when I drive her and her friends around. I want to talk about fashion.

I don’t know about where you live, but in my little corner of Oregon, the ’80s are alive and well in teenage attire.

My prom date and I, circa 1987

Feel like donning a pair of jeans? Grab that acid-washed pair, preferably with the calf area so tightly pegged, it will take the jaws of life to extricate yourself.

Want to throw on a dress? Grab something short and preppy that looks like it’s right out of Heathers.

Going out for a jog? Pull on a pair of bike shorts. No, seriously. They’re in. As are shoulder pads, scrunchies, and Converse sneakers.

So far, hairstyles have stayed safely in the scrunchie and curtain bang zone. (The latter being a tad more ’70s than ’80s.) But I’m anticipating the return of antenna bangs and home perms. And I’m here for it. (As you can see, I was a big fan.)

Big hair energy

All of this retro-wear is a bit mind-bending because my daughter goes to my old high school, essentially wearing what I wore when I was there. Sure, there’s more sophistication and less flammable polyester than when I sashayed about in my blue satin baseball jacket. But still. It’s like looking into a mirror through a portal of time in a book that Stephen King probably wrote.

I loved a good shoulder pad.

In my books, fashion doesn’t play much of a role. Yes, there are a few mentions of Maggie’s workwear. An emerald green sweater here. A cute LBD there. Then there’s Aunt Fiona’s Jean Nate, which I would argue counts as an outfit of fragrance. But for the most part, physical descriptions are about actions and expressions.

Part of me thinks I’m missing the boat. What characters wear tell us about more than their occupation (scrubs? three-piece suit? overalls?), age, or daily life. It can also offer insight into how they see the world, themselves and their place in it. Do they follow trends or go their own way? Do they have enjoy the ritual of getting gussied up or can’t afford the time to do so? Are clothes purely functional or a form of self-expression?

Maybe clothes do make the (wo)man. At least partly. And sometimes.  

So as I watch my daughter contemplate what to pair with her neon t-shirt, I think back to the real ’80s, a time of Alex P. Keaton, E.T., and wall-mounted phones with a cord that could stretch from kitchen to bedroom. And I wonder what happened to my stirrup pants.

What’s your favorite fashion trend from your high school days? What’s one you wished you’d skipped?

62 thoughts on “It’s, like, totally fashionable.

  1. Since we graduated the same year, we speak the same language. I had to pass on stirrup pants. I was too tall and if I wore them, my under-butts would show. A huge favorite for me was acid washed jordache and my Coca-Cola shirt. Collars up, yo! I also have always been into tie-dyed shirts. Ok, that came from the 60s, but we wore them here. And don’t forget the parachute pants!

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  2. Kathy, the 80s fashion trend has not come back to my part of Ontario.

    I was a teenager in the 80s. I liked the preppy look (think of Alex Keaton on Family Ties) and needed the huge shoulder pads in the blazer jackets I wore to work in the late 1980s.

    Looking back, I wish we did NOT have all that POLYESTER in the 1970s! My mom sewed most of my clothes, and the childhood photos of me in polyester suits in orange or green made me shudder!

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  3. With the exception of the line about Ontario, I could have literally put my name on Grace’s post!! I went to Catholic school so detested tartan plaid but rediscovered a passion for in in college in the mid-80’s. Who knew? I still love acid wash because, like tie dye no two were exactly alike.

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    1. Ah, 80s fashion. In the latyer part of the decade, I became a fan of the skinny tie. I had a manual labor job, so it was a welcome change to wear something nicer when I went out. I had what I thought was a great punk hair style and a drawer full of t-shirts of my favorite bands, too. Long live college radio!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I hear stirrup pants are coming back. And my junior prom dress looked a lot like yours.

    I never had the hair texture for Big Hair, but I did have the Flock of Seagulls bangs. The clouds of Aqua Net in the bathroom! And I wore a lot of vests in the 80s and I don’t know why. But I still love a nice vest.

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      1. At one time I had tan stirrup pants I wore with everything! I was a newspaper reporter so I could get away with wearing them to work — and even jeans if they weren’t tattered!

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      1. Brace yourselves: my hairdresser says mullets are making a comeback here in the Yoop! The kids have been asking for them. A few years ago, lots of little boys were sporting fauxhawks here.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Those high waist jeans were killer on my no waist body, but I could rock some stirrup pants. When leggings first re-emerged as a thing some 20 years later, I kept waiting for my foot to hit the elastic band at the bottom. It was a weird sense memory. I have a vague recollection of a neon green boat-neck sweater. I still have a pair of Guess jeans with the zippers up the back of the calf. I’ve been waiting to lose the baby weight to get back into them. The baby turned 35 this year.

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  6. Antenna bangs made me LAUGH! And I do think about what my characters wear … way more than I think about what I wear! My character template has a “how does s/he dress” question. It’s like having my very own set of personalized paperdolls! And you’re right … it can be very good shorthand for a character. Flats or stilettos to work? BOOM … I know exactly who you are. And it’s fascinating to hear of the parallels between you and your daughter. Def not a thing between me and my mom, or me and my daughter! Hm … maybe that’s because I dressed more like my sons ….

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  7. I grew up in the 80’s (graduated high school in the early 90s). Not much of a fan of 80’s fashion. Then again, I don’t follow fashion that much. Give me a good pair of comfortable jeans and a T-shirt, and I’m all set.

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    1. As far as fashion in books, you want to walk that fine line with giving us info on character and dating your books even worse than talking about the latest and greatest technology does.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. I’m not (or ever was) super fashionable. I had a tie-dyed shirt which I didn’t love back then…but it made it easy for our group of friends to find one another in a crowd. Scrunchies were fun but tended to slide off my hair. I did so want a perm in the past (curly hair envy!). What I like are fun/comfortable shoes, so it’d be nice for jelly shoes or Birkenstocks to trend again…

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  9. What can I say: I was a New Waver in the early ’80s, with pegged black slacks, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello T-shirts, spiked hair, and yes, red Converse high-tops. (But then again, I’m more than a decade older than you.) And by 1987 I was interviewing for jobs in law firms, so out with the high-tops, in with the black flats.

    These days in Santa Cruz, it seems as if all eras of clothing are in, from ’40s fedoras to ’60s tie-die (which actually never went out of fashion in Santa Cruz), to ’90s hip-hop, to whatever they style is now (IS there in fact a 2020s style?). But I rarely see parachute pants…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. So interesting to hear what’s “in” in Santa Cruz! Sounds like a few decades are represented, which is nice. Gotta love options!

      Your New Wave style sounds fab! I would love to see a photo.

      I so loved my black flats. In fact, I still love them!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Kathy, I love this!! My favorite trend was platform shoes in the 70s. Comfortable and gave me the extra height I needed. They’ve come in and out of style since and I’m always glad when they’re back. I also miss short-shorts, not because I’d ever wear them again but because there was a time when I COULD.

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  11. Perms never lasted more than 3 days on me, so I went with the straight Belinda Carlisle bob. I lived in NYC at the time, so I did black leather jackets with neon skirts, vintage, and a lot of crazy earrings and rubber bracelets. Oh, and long pearls and the occasional tuxedo shirt with the tapestry-pattern blazer. Desperately Seeking…Something? Since I worked in publishing I got away with a lot at work–my corporate friends wore little bows with their suits and I wore white tights with black patent leather flats. The trade-off is that now they’re comfortably retired to their beautiful beach homes with huge walk-in closets and I’m lucky if I make it out of sweats for the day.

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    1. Lisa, I had a tuxedo shirt I liked to rock with my skinny ties. I thought it was a super cool look. It wasn’t much of a help with the ladies, which, as one in my early 20’s, meant a lot back then. It was probably about me totally lacking in game than the wardrobe. lol

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    2. Haha, Lisa! I literally laughed out loud with nostalgia at the rubber bracelets and bow-decked workwear. I wonder if the bow-wearers’ walk-in closets are stocked with oversized blazers with shoulder pads?

      I so wish we could upload photos here. I’d love to see those outfits!

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  12. Favorite was bell bottom pants, but that was college, so, I guess my corduroy jumpers with a pretty blouse underneath. We always wore dresses or skirts and blouses in HS. One I wish that I had skipped was bubble dresses, but that was junior high, so I guess the matching-colored blouses and skirts–I had them in lavender and blue and so on.

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  13. Great post, Kathy! I have a theory: your daughter isn’t following a local trend. She’s been raiding the back of her mom’s closet and SHE’S the trendsetter! (And she looks so much like you!)

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    1. We definitely get the mini-me thing a lot, which only adds to the funhouse feeling I get when I see her wearing what I wore (cough cough) years ago.

      And mullets are back here, too!! Several boys in Cecilia’s class are sporting them at this writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh my gosh, this is such a flashback!! Love your amazing post with the amazing pictures PLUS the amazing comments.

    I miss my color-block blazer (4 panels: red, green, blue, yellow) and all of my sweatshirts with collars cut off a la Flashdance. I don’t miss the hair bows. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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