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Article: 80s Outfit Spotlight: How to Dress Like the New Romantics

80s New Romantics Style Fashion

80s Outfit Spotlight: How to Dress Like the New Romantics

If you're looking for inspiration for an 80s outfit, especially for something like an 80s party, you've probably checked out the usual options: The neon workout look with leotards and legwarmers, or the preppy high-waisted jeans, tucked-in sweater with high tops, and a scrunchie. 

But there's some 80s fashion out there that's maybe not as well known, and when it comes to planning an outfit for an 80s party, it really deserves to be remembered.

The New Romantics.


Who were the New Romantics?

Not just a Taylor Swift song, the New Romantics were part of a fashion subculture that began in London nightclubs.

They were fashionable young people part of an exclusive club scene where only the best dressed could enter. They listened to synth-pop and post-punk and experimented with any kind of style that would stand out.

With acts like David Bowie and Roxy Music already pushing boundaries between fashion, art, and music, the New Romantics took the fashion from the scene to the next level.


When was the New Romantic style popular?

The New Romantic movement kicked off in the late 1970s as a reaction to the punk scene's grittier vibe. Seventies punk was all about DIY, rebelling, and anti-fashion. But the New Romantics weren't anti-fashion, they wanted to be avant-garde fashion: Unashamed, extroverted expression.

By 1982, the concept of the New Romantics had died out. Many New Wave bands didn't like being branded as New Romantic as it felt too "try hard".  But the music and expressive fashion from the New Romantics continued to influence 80s synth-pop, without the label.


What was New Romantic music like?

The New Romantics sound combined electronic beats, glam rock, and synth-pop. It was the turn from 70s rock to 80s synth.

The pioneers of this movement were bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and Culture Club.

This music was the center of the Blitz Club in London, where the New Romantic fashion movement was born. Here, there were themed music nights, and guests were outfit-checked at the door before being let in (to make sure they met the standard of Avant-Garde fashion).


What was New Romantic fashion like?

Androgenous and flamboyant, the New Romantics movement of the 80s was a mix of historical costumes and avant-garde makeup.

Based on 18th-century Romanticism, a movement about expressing emotions through creativity, it was a hark back to times when people would dress in elaborate and expressive outfits for daily wear.

Think Georgian and Victorian levels of fancy coats and layers. Then add a bit of 80s synth-pop on top. As if Napoleon had picked up a synthesizer and bright blue eyeshadow.

Both men and women wore similar clothes styles; the movement was gender-fluid and didn't care for modern restrictions on who could wear what.

 1800s Romanticism Fashion

 Photo by the British Library on Unsplash


This painting from the 1800s shows the styles of pants, collars, and coats that were popular in the original Romanticism movement. These are the styles that inspired the 80s New Romantics fashion choices.



How did the 80s New Romantics dress?

There were no rules to the New Romantic style, but there was an iconic look worn by the musicians that followed a formula:

Pussy bow blouses paired with Napoleonic military jackets and silk pants with a bold stripe of eyeshadow draw from ear to ear.

Let's look at each key component of the New Romantics style.


1. New Romantics Blouses

Both men and women often wore frilly, ruffled shirts or blouses, often in bold colors like deep reds, purples, or black.


80s New Romantics white blouses

 These were often women's blouses from the late 70s picked up in vintage, secondhand, and eclectic fashion stores.

80s New Romantics blouses

New Romantics blouses from our collection of vintage 80s clothes




2. Cropped Jackets

New Romantics jackets had exaggerated shoulders and cropped or fitted waists. 

80s New Romantics jackets



Imagine it's the 1800s, and you're Napoleon or a French foot soldier. You're looking for anything with buttons or fancy collars and shoulders. In fabrics like velvet and silk.


80s New Romantics velvet blouses

New Romantics jackets from our collection of vintage 80s clothes



3. High-Waisted Pants

And not just any! New Romantics pants had to be extra, like everything else. Think silk, satin, or leather in a variety of bold colors and embellishments. The waist had to be high and cinched with a taper to the ankles.

The waist could be cinched in even more with a scarf or belt to exaggerate the silhouette.

80s New Romantics pants


New Romantics pants from our collection of vintage 80s clothes




How to wear a New Romantics outfit

Take the formula for a New Romantics outfit we've gone through today: A ruffled blouse + high high-waisted tapered pants, and a cropped jacket. Then it's all down to how you accessorize it.

80s New Romantics Outfits



  • Makeup: A crucial aspect of the New Romantic look! Both men and women wore the same bold makeup looks. Colorful and bold eyeliner, eyeshadow in a stripe across your eyes from ear to ear, dramatic contouring, and dark or bright lipstick.
  • Hairstyles: Teased and voluminous, of course. Mullets and perms were key to getting the big look. Some parts had to be longer than others so they could be combed and teased forward, creating side-swept hairdos and curly bangs. And hairspray, a lot of hairspray.
  • Accessories: Hair was decorated with ribbons, feathers, and beads. You also needed scarves to tie around your head or waist, gloves, and big costume jewelry. Gold, pearls, chains, and studs were always added.


Inspiration for the perfect 80s party outfit

The New Romantics style makes an incredible 80s party outfit. It combines all the extravagance and theatrics of other costumes with the glamour of the 80s whilst standing out from the normal 80s outfits you usually see.


Where can you buy 80s New Romantics clothes?

Check out our collection of authentic 80s clothes, where you can find vintage styles from the real decade that the New Romantics would have actually worn.