How to Dress for an '80s Prom

By Marie Sporich

Electronic music, big clothes and even bigger hair were some of the best parts of the 1980s, and few places brought them together quite as vividly as an '80s high school prom. Guys donned pastel tuxedos with frilly ruffled shirts, while girls spent hours unloading a whole can of hairspray onto teased locks. Go for the prom king and queen, rock out as a rebel or be a wallflower with the new wave crew. Whatever your preference, dressing up is all about finding -- and embracing -- your inner '80s kid.

'80s prom photo
credit: '80s Prom
The quintessential '80s prom crew, complete with big hair and plenty of pastels.

The Prom King and Queen

To be the king and queen of an '80s prom, you've got to have the biggest hair, fanciest footwear and coordinating pastel ensembles, of course. Look like the king with a perfectly feathered mullet and powder blue or white tuxedo. An oversized bow tie and ruffled tuxedo shirt are the statement pieces of this ensemble -- complete the look with a matching cummerbund and white dress shoes. You can find these pieces at a costume store or by hitting a thrift shop. As the prom queen, your hair should be teased to perfection and almost as big as the bow-embellished puff sleeves on your baby-pink dress. Dresses should feature a slim bodice and princess skirt that hits just at the mid-calf or floor-length if you prefer. Bright berry-pink lipstick, frosted blue eye shadow and white pumps finish this quintessential outfit. Look through Mom's old clothes and shoes for ideas, or hit a vintage store to find a Pretty in Pink ensemble.

The Rebels

Whether you're a rocker, a daredevil or just a rebel, edgy 1980s style is your prom look. Arrive at the prom with head-banging long hair and a more cutting-edge tux style, like a waist-length spencer jacket. This statement tux is black or white with a bow tie and matching vest. Trendy '80s basketball sneakers or cowboy boots add to the bad-boy persona. Shop thrift stores to find this kind of tux, or try resale sites like eBay for more selection. Use style icon Madonna as the inspiration for bad-girl prom looks. Anchor your ensemble with black fishnet tights, a racy bustier and short, ruffled skirt. Lots of layered chain necklaces, heavy makeup and black ankle boots will keep you on par with your rocker prom date.

The New Wave Kids

The new wave look is inspired by the futuristic style of the '80s. A more minimalist approach, black is the color of choice for hair, make-up and apparel. Accessorize your all black tuxedo with matching wayfarer sunglasses and a swipe of black eyeliner. Cut hair short on the sides but leave it big on top with styling á la Flock of Seagulls. You could always get a wig to style, but nothing makes a statement quite like arranging your own hair into an authentic '80s coif. Girls should also stick to the minimalist style and amp up a black dress with touches of neon or a black-and-white checkered print. Slip on some classic black pumps or lace-up ankle booties, and accent the look with short hair or a slicked-back style. Apply some bold eye shadow and extend it past the eyelid in a bright fuchsia streak across the temples. Finish with neon pink or true red lipstick.