Screenshot from A Chorus Line

80s Dancewear Was An Absolute Delight

And I miss it desperately

Sarah Lofgren
Feb 16, 2018 · 4 min read

Instead of embracing the sterilized, sweat-free version of dance portrayed in musicals from eras past, the 80s flew whole-heartedly into a world where dancers sweated, groaned, let their hair fly around, had big dreams, and even bigger breakdowns. The effort involved in dancing was evident in a way it hadn’t been before and this gave the dancewear an edge that was simultaneously real, ridiculous and romantic.

Staying Alive (1983)

Once there was a movie called Staying Alive. A sequel to Saturday Night Fever, it received 0% on the Tomatometer, but 100% in my heart. The emotional depths of the original were replaced by barrels of sweat and dancewear achieving unsurpassed levels of epicness.

The tile on this studio wall makes it look like they’re dancing in a bathroom.

Why doesn’t anyone dance in headbands anymore? So practical! So stylish! Soooooo 80s. You go, girl in pink with enormous bangs. You’re standing behind the star, but I see you.

Don’t you want to join their gang?

Chick is wearing trunks over a unitard. Why? Dude on the right is wearing a killer combo of leg warmers, wrap sweater AND headband. That should automatically make him the leader. Dude on the left looks like he got lost on the way to a meeting with his lawyer where they talk on enormous phones and scheme about ways to close the theater down.

Sometimes I miss the 80s so much.

The cutouts on these costumes are AMAZEBALLS. They should be in a museum somewhere.

Fame (1980)

Fame takes place in the sort of high school I wanted to go to. Who doesn’t want Debbie Allen yelling at them about the price of stardom? No one, that’s who!

Chick on the left needs to turn out that hip, stat.

Did you get kicked out of class if you forgot to bring your leg warmers?

Why didn’t my modern dance classes look like this?

Shorts on top of sweatpants. Bold.

Flashdance (1983)

Even though Fame did it first, Flashdance is the movie that inspired a million women across the nation to take scissors to their wardrobes.

Girl is seriously committed to those scissors

Oh honey. You don’t have much money and you’re going to have to buy all new clothes when this trend passes. Though, you probably have another 9 years before that happens.

The look that launched a thousand dance costumes

This is the restrained version of 80s dancewear. Still involves full hair, high-cut trunks and leg warmers past the knees.

A Chorus Line (1985)

Hardcore theater junkies are going to complain that the movie version of A Chorus Line doesn’t even come close to the brilliance of the stage version, but that should not prevent you from enjoying the brilliance of the costuming.

It’s hard to look away from the guy with the triangle on his chest, isn’t it? I bet that was his strategy.

We’ve got aerobics 80s. We’ve got loungy 80s. We’ve got serious dancer 80s. And we’ve got whatever the heck is going on with that triangle shirt.

That’s razzle dazzle, my friends.

All those other dancers are worried, because they didn’t wear their matching turquoise, cut-up-to-there trunks and long-sleeved crop tops. You’re going to need to up your game at this audition, folks.

It’s time to consider what we might be missing. Open the drawers we closed ages ago and pull out our headbands and trunks. Even when we made fun of them, pretended we were too stylish, they waited in the darkness. They knew one day we’d return.

It’s time.

Thanks for reading! I’m a freelance writer, designer and dancer. You can follow me on twitter for more goofballery.

Sarah Lofgren

Written by

A silly person.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade