Fashion Flashback:

For this week’s Fashion Flashback, we look back at women’s beauty in the ’80s, a decade of decadence in which women rocked big, teased hair, an intense smokey eye, and unapologetically bold looks.

           —By Luisa Tarantino

The 80s were an interesting time in terms of beauty and fashion. Some women look back on their teased hair in shame, wondering what sorts of secrets they possibly could have been keeping in their hair, and others look back at colourful and vibrant eyeshadow looks, just wishing they could pull that off again. Whether you love or hate ’80s beauty, it was an era of some pretty iconic experimentation and trends.

One thing is for sure, a lot of 80s makeup and hair was super glam and bold, as headed by some of the biggest names in makeup and hair then and even now: brands like L’Oréal, Revlon, Max Factor, Yardley, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden,
Maybelline and Cover Girl and makeup artists like, Joey Mills, Kevyn Aucoin, Francois Nars, and hairdressers like Garren, Oribe, and more, all of who contributed greatly at the time to the trends in Hollywood especially. Another thing is for sure: makeup ads were a direct reflection of the trends of the time, and serve as a great reference for women’s beauty at that time.

Francois Nars, Early 90s

Kevyn Aucoin

Kevyn Aucoin, Early 90s

Oribe with Naomi Campbell in the late 80s

A few trends were huge at the time, and while they make use of different colour palettes, they contain the same spirit. One trend was colourful eyeshadow, which may not seem that bold considering the range of makeup we see today, but at the time, bright pinks and bright purples on the eyelid all the way up to the browbone or the temples was a pretty striking novelty. Even neon made the cut (I mean, it matched with the neon spandex trend of the 80s!), and could be complemented by colourful mascara or even a metallic lip. On the opposite, yet not so opposite, end of the spectrum, a super dark smokey eye (especially the kind that extends eyeshadow along the lash line) was often paired with thick eyeliner and a sultry red lip, making for the birth of the ‘raccoon eye’ as we know it. Oh, and don’t forget sculpted cheeks packed with blush!

When it comes to hair, well, the 80s speaks for itself. We’ve all seen pictures of women in the 80s with super voluminous, sky-high hairdos, but curly, crimped, and permed hair were also a huge trend, replacing the straight and sleek style of the previous decade. Spiky hair made a breakthrough, and so did colourful and messy hair. Just like for makeup, hair was also something of a free-for-all, and women began playing around with an array of styles.

Christie Turlington by Francois Nars, Harper’s Bazaar. Early 90s

The 80s was also an era of extremes, and in reality, there were far many more trends than those listed above. An array of subcultures began to exist and thrive in the 80s, resulting in many different looks and styles across the board both in the mainstream and the underground. And while some looks required a certain level of technique and skill, oftentimes, it was okay if your makeup or your hair was a little messy rather than incredibly precise. If it was glam, it was glam and if it was cool, it was cool. It was a time to be experimental and fun with your beauty looks!

Check out some classic ’80s beauty as seen in ads, on celebrities, and on magazine covers below to get a taste.

80s beauty

Cindy Crawford, styled by Oribe

Linda Evangelista by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia late 80s. Hair by Oribe


80s beauty

80s beauty

Harper’s Bazaar cover by Kevyn Aucoin, Early 90s

Vogue Cover makeup by Joey Mills. Early 80s



For previous segments of Fashion Flashback, click here.

Written on: July 11, 2020