In the “greed is good” ’80s, bigger was better, we wore our wealth on our broad-shouldered sleeves, and even TV’s undercover cops wore Armani suits and Italian loafers. From big Stetsons and big hair on “Dallas” to Madonna’s “Material Girl” looks, the era’s television left a lasting imprint on fashion.
Miami Vice: Pastels and Armani Suits
As Miami cops Crockett and Tubbs cleaned up crime, their pastel unconstructed Italian suits — worn with T-shirts, sockless loafers and two-day stubble — were helping transform American men into metrosexuals, “The New York Times” argues. In the article, a staffer for “GQ” says “Miami Vice” was the first time in fashion history that television influenced style, rather than reflecting it. Designers Giorgio Armani and Donatella Versace continue to reference “Miami Vice” style: In 2007, when a movie version of the TV series came out, Versace said her collection was returning to her colorful, excessive Miami roots for inspiration.
Dallas and Dynasty: Big Hair and Bold Fashion
With more women in the workplace, “power dressing” and office suits were a reality; the fantasy, though, was night-time soaps “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” The series’ luxe leading ladies flaunted their wealth in embellished jackets with big shoulder pads, accessorized with costume jewelry and big earrings, and moussed or sprayed their hair into big, fluffy coiffures that later instantly identified the era. Silk dresses were in jewel tones of sapphire, ruby red or purple. Designer labels were status symbols. While the ’80s excess faded when reality set in, the workplace power suits and shoulder pads legacy endured.
Pop to Punk: "I Want My MTV"
When MTV, originally called Music Television, launched in August 1981, its music videos brought a kaleidoscope of rock, pop and punk fashion to teens and young adults, adding rap to the mix a few years later. Hair bands, punk rockers, Madonna’s costumes, Cyndi Lauper’s shaved-and-dyed hair, and Michael Jackson’s red leather jacket and single glove were fashion fads that defined the MTV generation.
Family Time: The Cosby Show and Punky Brewster
While MTV teens tried to push the envelope, family shows went for cute and cozy. “Punky Brewster,” a kid with ponytails, wore quirky ripped jeans. On “The Cosby Show,” all of the upscale Huxtable family members were so fashionable there still are blogs detailing each of their signature styles. Most famous, of course, were Bill Cosby’s “dad” sweaters, in a dizzying array of stripes, zigzags, patterns and colors.
References and ResourcesThe New York Times: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Indulge in a Miami Vice
A.V. Club: How Miami Vice Launched the '80s on TV, Then Died With the Decade
Fashion Era: Influence of Television Soap Series "Dynasty" and "Dallas"
CNN: 30 Years Later, the Cosby Sweater Still Rules
Daily Nation: How TV Shows Influence Fashion
Chicago Tribune: MTV Has Made Fashion Statements
The Village Voice: From the Vault: The Top 5 Most Fashionable Shows From the '80s
The Cosby Sweater Project