Royal Styles From The '80s We Wish Would Make A Comeback

Ah, the '80s. It was a time of excess and decadence, and the phrase "the bigger the better" applied to shoulder pads and hairstyles. Duran Duran ruled MTV, and Madonna inspired a generation of "wannabes." Bold patterns and eye-popping colors dominated one end of the fashion spectrum, while preppy polos and plaids held up the other. Glamour was a big part of the '80s scene, with sequined gowns and glittery jewels lighting up the nights, accented by dramatic makeup. It was a totally tubular time that was defined by people who, in the words of Cindy Lauper, "just wanna have fun."

Even the royals weren't immune to the allure of the decade. The late Princess Diana in particular seemed to have a special fondness for all things '80s. From the hot British bands to the cool British brands, she was often seen embracing the trends of the day. 

Like all fashion trends, what goes around comes around, and some '80s trends are making a big comeback in 2023. While we aren't ready to whip out the neon eyeshadow just yet, we wouldn't mind seeing an encore performance of a few royal styles from the era. 

Break out the bubbly

Bubble skirts and dresses were popular with '80s pop stars, prom-goers, and princesses. Princess Diana popped up in the bubble trend at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, pairing her striped dress with a white double-breasted blazer. Fun, flirty, and a great way to show off gorgeous gams, the bubble (or puffball skirt as it was sometimes called) skirt was thought to have been inspired by Judy Jetson, the daughter on the popular '60s cartoon "The Jetsons." According to the website 80sfashion, new episodes of the series began airing in the '80s, and a trend was born. Whether it was Miss Jetson or not, the bubble grew even bigger in popularity with the day's hottest designers, including Vivienne Westwood and Christian Lacroix, adding their versions to the mix. 

The bubble trend appeared to burst in the '90s with the introduction of grunge rock and the subsequent minimalist decades that followed. However, it did briefly rise to the surface again in the 2000s, and more recently in Louis Vuitton's 2020 cruise collection (per InStyle). The Zoe Report noted a more sophisticated version floating around in spring 2023 collections, but it hasn't been embraced with the same effervescence as it was in the '80s.

While it's not a look for everyone, it's a fun trend that we'd be happy to see bubble up again. 

Oversized overcoats

Princess Diana was no slouch, but we can't say the same about this blue coat she wore to the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. The oversized overcoat was in keeping with the times, from its bold hue to its contrasting buttons and loose fit. Like all '80s trends, this one had its pluses and minuses.

On the downside, a woman with a slender frame like the princess could easily look like she was swimming in fabric. Even with the traditional squared shoulders to add structure, a slight build looked more frail than fabulous in this fashion trend. On a positive note, the relaxed fit was comfortable and easy to wear. It felt like borrowing your husband or boyfriend's coat or like wrapping yourself in a big hug. Plus, it was pretty. Unlike the current puffer jacket trend, these roomy overcoats still had a nice silhouette that left plenty of room for layering underneath without looking like a stuffed tick.

Iterations of the classic tailored double-breasted style have come back over the years, and in 2020 things took a decidedly '80s turn. According to Editorialist, designers like Balmain and Proenza Schouler sent big, boxy coats down the runways in 2020. We'd like to see the overcoat loosen up again in keeping with the cozy, relaxed vibe of many of today's current styles. 

Queen Elizabeth reigns and shines in '80s glam

It was a decade of glitz and glamour, and no one does glam better than a royal. Queen Elizabeth II, known for her lavish outfits, jumped on board the '80s train wearing a beaded golden gown and chunky, statement jewels to a reception in Papua New Guinea in 1982. The ensemble was a perfect example of the metallic colors, brilliant sparkles, and bold accessories that made up a large part of '80s evening looks. 

The queen, who was known for wearing bright colors so she could be easily spotted by the throngs of people who always turned out to see her, had a knack for staying current yet conservative. However, the '80s did mark a slight departure for the queen in terms of embracing trends.

And while you would never see her on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in a bubble skirt and leather jacket, the queen did embrace some of the decade's details from puffy sleeves to pastel colors. Harper's Bazaar noted, "It was a time in which there was a softer and more overtly feminine aesthetic for Her Majesty." 

Duchess of dots

The Duchess of York was the duchess of dots in the '80s, sporting the whimsical look on multiple occasions. Sarah Ferguson wasn't the only one spotted in the eye-popping trend. Her partner in crime, Princess Diana, also had a passion for polka dots, as did countless other '80s celebrities. The lighthearted vibe of the pattern was in keeping with the spirit of fun that defined the decade. 

Polka dots really popped in the '80s, according to Cosmopolitan, but they've been around since the invention of the sewing machine in the 1700s. And while they may fade in and out of fashion, they are a perennial favorite of many A-listers, including the current Princess of Wales. Why the staying power? Wes Gordon, creative director at Carolina Herrera, told The New York Times that "polka dots are basically a neutral. I like to think of them as the comedians of prints because they're so versatile and whimsical."

However, it's not all fun and games. The article also points out that polka dots seem to reemerge every time there is a dark or tumultuous time in history. That would explain the spike in the trend post-COVID isolation. Best described by Prada in a news release on its 2021 polka dot collection, the look represents "an opulent optimism — of event and occasion, of people convening in joy, dancing again."

Queen Camilla shouldering the power suit trend

Shouldering the responsibilities that come with being married to the King of England isn't easy. But Camilla, queen consort, appeared to be dressing for the powerful role at this 1992 polo match, wearing one of the most recognizable and iconic styles of the day — the '80s power suit. Inspired by films like "Working Girl" and television shows like "Dynasty," women were dressing for success in the '80s, wearing suits that took their cues from the men's section.

Arming themselves in double-breasted jackets with snatched waists and shoulder pads that could've been stolen from the NFL, they kept their heads and heels high as they marched into the workforce ready to make some noise. It was a look that screamed confidence in a world where women were just beginning to find their voices. 

Once called the "pioneer of power dressing" by Vogue Australia, Georgio Armani is credited for moving the look forward, but other designers over the years have added their touches to the trend. Today, the power suit is still in play, but the shoulder pads have been shrugged off for a less aggressive style. You can find the younger generations of royals embracing a form of the trend today. A two-piece pantsuit is a clothing item Princess Catherine can't live without, especially when it's from Alexander McQueen. Catherine owns several of the designer's suits and always looks powerful and put together when she wears them to engagements. 

Princess pussy bow

The name may sound a bit wimpy, but the pussy bow was originally designed to make a strong statement as an alternative to a necktie for women, especially when coupled with a power suit in the '80s. People described it as combining "masculine structure ... with feminine flair." Princess Diana was a fan of the look and was photographed wearing the floppy tie in her official engagement portrait, as well as when she left the hospital after the birth of both Prince William and Prince Harry. 

According to Vogue, the look derived its unusual name from children's books featuring kittens with ribbons around their necks. It was first introduced into high fashion by Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, both of whom were inspired by Gibson girls, per Paste. It was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the queen of power suits, who is credited for using it to soften her "Iron Lady" image before it became a mainstay in the late Princess of Wales' wardrobe.

After the '80s, the pussy bow took a back seat to the minimalist looks that followed, until former first lady Melania Trump ironically resurrected it during her husband's campaign. The look is currently experiencing another resurgence, with Princess Catherine keeping it in regular royal rotation. Here's hoping it trickles down to the masses. 

Blocking the colors

Trooping the Colour is a long-standing tradition that the royals (and the general public) enjoy on the sovereign's birthday. And blocking the colors is a long-standing fashion tradition that the royals (and the general public) enjoyed during the '80s. Color blocking was all the rage in the decade of decadence. Bright red, bold blue, neon pink, and of course black and white were presented in bold, geometric designs that often pitted contrasting colors against each other for maximum impact. 

Princess Anne alluded to the trend, albeit subtly, in 1985 at the Epsom Derby, wearing a cream coat accented with navy shoulder panels, and diamond-shaped navy buttons. Apparently, she loved the look so much that she took a page from Princess Catherine's book and wore it again, only this time several decades later at 2018 Commonwealth Day.

Color blocking is a trend we love and still see happening, but in more sophisticated ways. Think a bright red coat over a pink jumpsuit, a green shirt paired with yellow pants, or a dress with two or three distinct color panels from top to bottom.

Big blazers, big statement

Just like the oversized overcoat, a slouchy blazer with the sleeves rolled up was the epitome of '80s cool. From Don Johnson in "Miami Vice" to John Taylor in Duran Duran to Winona Ryder in "Heathers," the look could go from professional to pop star to prep school dropout, depending on how it was styled.

Princess Diana kept it simple with jeans, a graphic tee, and boots while on an outing with  Prince William at the Guards Polo Club in 1988, elevating what would have been a weekend casual look into a royal hit. 

Over the years, the trend (often referred to now as the boyfriend blazer) has shown it has staying power, thanks in no small part to its versatility. It's at home with heels or flats, it plays well with jeans and joggers, and it looks super chic tossed casually over a dress. It's a trend that's easy to pull off all year round. 

Golden girl

We can't help but note the similarity between Princess Catherine's iconic golden gown that she wore to the premiere of the James Bond film, "No Time to Die," and the golden gown worn by Princess Diana several decades earlier at the 1985 premiere of the Bond film "A View to a Kill." Proof that the '80s weren't that far off the mark when it came to styles that stand the test of time.

Diana's version was everything we love about '80s glam, all wrapped up in one shiny package. She is serving nighttime soap star drama in this gold lamé get-up with its strong shoulders, plunging neckline, cutout back, and pleated skirt, but the look isn't the only drama being served. It seems the designer, Bruce Oldfield, has some English tea to spill, too.

According to The Daily Mail, Oldfield was one of the late princess' favorite designers in the '80s. However, after her divorce, Diana pulled back from many engagements and no longer wore the designer's gowns. He claims that her decision almost cost him his livelihood. Fast forward a few years, and Oldfield has become the golden boy of Camilla, queen consort, designing several of her gowns, including the one she wore to the "No Time to Die" premiere and her coronation gown, per Vogue.

Princess Diana sizzles in sequins

Michael Jackson wore a sequined glove. David Lee Roth rocked sequined outfits. Prom girls everywhere wore sequined dresses. In fact, those little shiny discs were everywhere during the '80s, including Buckingham Palace. Princess Diana sparkled everywhere she went, but thanks to the sequins trend, she was able to turn up the wattage in dresses like the iconic, body-conscious Catherine Walker gown she wore during a state visit to Austria in 1986. 

Sequins are still shining bright today, with both Princess Catherine and Meghan Markle embracing the trend in styles similar to those worn by Diana in her heyday. The trick to wearing sequins without looking like you raided your grandmother's closet is all in how you style them. Avoid the '80s head-to-toe look and start small. Try a sequined top paired with jeans, or wear a plain white T-shirt with a sequined skirt. We don't want to dim anyone's sparkle, but unlike the fashions of the '80s, less is more. 

The bold and the beautiful

Animal prints, polka dots, geometric shapes, big florals, and paint splashes were all part of the patterns that defined '80s fashion. It was not a look for the wallflower or shrinking violet. It was loud and in your face, begging to be noticed.

Queen Elizabeth II wasn't one to walk on the wild side in, say, a pink cheetah print ensemble, but she did interpret the trend in her own way with prints like this navy and white dress, coat, and matching hat she wore while visiting San Diego in 1983. Bold without being too busy, it was befitting of both the occasion and the queen's royal style. 

After her death, CNN reported that the queen's fashion choices were always deliberate and designed to convey stability, saying, "Such is the power of a garment or an outfit that this monarch learned quickly to avoid the novelty of fashion, exchanging the gimmickry of short-lived trends and loud statement silhouettes for a deliberate announcement at each appearance. Thus, Elizabeth never missed an opportunity to deliver a message of reliability, stability, and steadfastness to her audience."