What is 80s Indian fashion but an expression of the self? It is an unwritten language that is understood globally. People express themselves at different places and times through different kinds of clothes, accessories, footwear, and makeup. Understandably, 1980s Indian fashion changed over a period of time as new trends take over and some of the old ones make a reappearance. What is visually appealing definitely cannot turn an eyesore but may be replaced by something refreshingly peculiar. Let’s look at what fashion in the 80’s used to feel like.
In India, 80s Indian fashion is almost tantamount to what the movie stars wear on screen and sometimes off it too. Such is the obsession of the junta with their beloved actors that even the most subtle styles and statements are pursued with adulation. This started early in the 60’s when people who could not afford the fashion in clothes attempted to adopt the hairstyles at least. Remember Sadhna’s bangs or Mala Sinha’s puffed up hairstyle or Shammi Kapoor’s Elvis like hair or Dev Anand’s sideburns?
It was only in the 1980s that people went all out and copied Bollywood fashion to the tee. This was the time when Cinema became a little more experimental and there were varied characters which were portrayed in a lively manner. Designer couture and prêt collections had not yet taken off so people found their inspiration in actors. Sale of readymade garments was limited to a few departmental stores and the local needlework store became the go-to place for women and men alike.
Who Were the Fashion Icons of the 1980s? – 1980s Fashion Trends
It was in the ’80s when the male actors were emerging and captivating the audience as dancers. Their onscreen presence was marked by garish costumes which were much appreciated by the youth back then. All sorts of pants in brown and beige and baggy shirts in multiple colors, prints and fabrics were all the rage in men.
Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Mithun Chakraborty, and Sunny Deol were the most adored on-screen personas. These were men with noticeable chest hair and they wore oversized shirts and jackets (sometimes without shirts) which displayed this machismo and the style-crazy followers copied them blindly.
Rishi Kapoor will always be remembered for his colorful cardigans and pullovers which he had made his style definition.
Jitendra with his white tight-fitting trousers and white shoes was a dancing star par excellence.
Jackie Shroff carried his street style in denims and sleeveless jackets in denim and other synthetic material. He did look suave in a stylized suit as well and was the brand ambassador of a suiting brand by the name Binny.
When we talk about the leading ladies who were fashion icons in the 80’s there are a couple of names which were and still are legends and have not lost their diva status even in current times. Their taste and presentation in that decade were a bit divergent from earlier norms. They made a mark for themselves and set standards which became very difficult to match.
Madhuri Dixit was the picture of feminine charm and elegance. Her flowy lehengas and A-line dresses clinched at the waist were her style statement and girls were obsessed with the little accessories she used to pair her dresses with.
Sri Devi favored her trousers fitted a tad bit too tight and paired them with feminine tops and tees which had sleeves of various kinds. She carried her plain chiffon sarees and sequined chaniya cholis equally well.
Amrita Singh can still be visualized in wavy shoulder-length hair held back with bandanas in diverse designs. Her Punjabi salwar suits in glistening fabric and denim jackets paired with skirts were all the rage back in the day.
Dimple Kapadia was also praised for her voluminous wavy hair which she often left open. Her go-to styles were flared and layered dresses in earthy colors and polka dots were preferred over other prints.
Zeenat Aman was an established actor who had already been a 80s indian fashion icon in the previous decade but her charisma was nowhere near to be forgotten. Scarves, shades, and bell-bottom trousers are what we can picture her in during the ’80s.
Meenakshi Sheshadri and Jaya Prada were also adored by millions for their simple Indian attires which they carried with élan. Women were known to pester shop owners for the exact sarees that were worn by these divas. While Juhi Chawla was just making her presence felt in the movie industry but her Miss India status was enough to make young girls crazy about following her fashion style statements of which off-shoulder tops and dresses were the most picked upon.
Considering that all of India Was taking inspiration only from actors in Hindi movies would be a misstatement as there were actors from the Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu film industries such as Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Khushboo, Shobana and Revathy were carrying their own style legacies. That surely is a matter for a whole separate blog post.
Men’s Fashion in the 80’s
Long Hair for men was the hot trend. Anil Kapoor and Sunjay Dutt put forward the image of ‘He-Man’ which was well received by most men, maybe only to break free of the prim and proper haircuts.
Mesh vests made frequent appearances. They looked airy and only the wearer may comment if they were as comfortable.
Big collars and Lapels were most loved for everyday wear.
High waist trousers and trousers with bell bottoms were the usual norms.
Biker jackets, especially in leather, were a favorite among youngsters.
Dungarees in rugged denim had been accepted as modish day wear.
High top sneakers and big boots were the footwear in vogue.
Women’s Fashion in the 80’s – 1980’s Fashion Trends
Wavy mid-length hair pulled back with hair accessories such as headbands or bandanas were prominent amongst young ladies.
Glossy lip colors in shades of red, pink and orange were hot.
Chunky metallic jewelry and even substantial gold or imitation gold jewelry were also very popular in the 1980s.
Feminine tops, unlike button-down shirts and t-shirts, were considered happening. Off-shoulder tops, knotted crop tops and tops with puffy sleeves were most popular.
Midi dresses and skirts with belts or some accessory clinging at the waist were the faddy.
Jumpsuits and rompers with pencil heels had started making appearances.
The saree was an all-time favorite albeit in flowy fabrics as compared to previous years’ heavy brocades and kanchivarams. Plain chiffons and printed georgettes were fashionable.
This trip down memory lane to refresh the fashion trends of the ’80s remind us that fashion trends in repetitive cycles every two decades or so. Most of these styles are already reappearing on our runways and stores. They just have a fresh twist of fabric, color and innovative digital prints. Tell us what your favorite fashion comeback is and what you wish to never return. Would it be too much to ask to post your favorite 80’s fashion pic here?