Women's Aerobic Outfit Styles in the 80s

By Jane Williams

Everything was big in the 1980s, even exercise. Between Jane Fonda's famous workout videos and Olivia Newton-John's invitation to "get physical," women were taking steps to get into shape. Of course, being a decade that gave us big hair, big pants and blindingly bright neon colors, aerobic gear was not to be left out of the fashion revolution, and a woman's need for a perfect body would not take a backseat to having the perfect '80s outfit.

Spandex Tights, Leotards and Unitards

The foundation for any aerobic outfit of the 1980s was Spandex. This skin-clinging material was available in the form of tights, leotards and unitards, and left very little to the imagination. Like other clothing choices, these clingy clothes were available in bright, neon colors, and pinks, purples and yellows emerged as favorite choices.

Leg Warmers

Fashion doesn't have to be useful and leg warmers are an excellent example of this fact. A staple for workout ensembles, leg warmers were worn on bare legs or over Spandex tights. They were also a bright color, sometimes matching the rest of the outfit, sometimes a contrasting color, but were always present. Like other aspects of aerobic outfits, these slouchy sock wannabes could be seen inside and outside exercise clubs alike.

Oversized Sweatshirts

Although not a must-have part of an aerobic outfit, an oversized sweatshirt — usually slightly falling off one shoulder — was sometimes worn over a leotard. These were a carry-over from everyday clothing fashion, in which oversized sweaters were worn with belts to create a dress/blouse/sweater type of look.

Stirrup Pants

Stirrup pants were similar to tights, but had holes that left your heel and the front part of your foot exposed. These were sometimes worn beneath leotards during workouts, usually with a pair of leg warmers on top.


The 1980s were all about accessories and exercise outfits were no different. Sweatbands were worn — mostly for the fashion and not the function — across the forehead and on the wrists to perfectly accessorize your aerobic outfit. Like leg warmers, bright colors were the preferred palette and sometimes made an appearance outside the gym.