1980s Fashion


Aberdeen Art Gallery is delighted to be hosting the 'Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous' exhibition.

Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes launched The Renaissance/Gold collection in 1981 featuring pieces which were inspired by historic Elizabethan costume, the royal wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles and panniers in the V&A museum collection.

I would like to share with you some highlights from our 1980s costume collection.


1980s wedding dress

Wedding dress, 1986

During the 1980s, bridal fashion drew on a variety of historical styles to reimagine the white wedding dress. The most popular styles were romantic and feminine. This textured silk dress features typical large puffed sleeves, ribbons and lace. The shades of ivory and cream are reminiscent of the Victorian wedding fashions of the previous century, although the strapless bodice and off-the-shoulder sleeves are contemporary additions.


1980s corset and skirt

Corset and skirt, 1980s

The design of this outfit comprising a leather snakeskin print skirt and corset with black lace reflects both the punk and romantic influences prevalent in the 1980s. Heavily influenced by music and popular culture the clothes found on the high street were often diluted versions of those celebrities wore and this outfit is similar in style to those worn by Madonna in the 1980s.


1980s ankle boots

Ankle boots, 1980s

Spandau Ballet released their hit single Gold in 1983 and metallic clothing and accessories were popular in that decade. These gold leather ankle boots have square toes and a low block heel covered in gold leather. There are black elastic gussets on either side of ankle to make it easier to pull on the boots.  


1980s jacket

Jacket, 1986-1987

Large shoulder pads were a key element in 1980s power dressing for women. This wool houndstooth check jacket with exaggerated shoulder detail was purchased from Suits on Rosemount Street in Aberdeen.


1980s handbag

Handbag, 1980s

Perhaps one of the best known 1980s power dressers was Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister. She was famous for ‘handbagging’ her opponents by treating them or their ideas ruthlessly or insensitively. She favoured large plain navy handbags made of stiff leather unlike this fun plastic 1980s handbag in our collection decorated with a multicoloured floral embroidered design. 


“Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous” is now on at Aberdeen Art Gallery (entry: £9; Concessions £7; Friends of AAGM £4.50; under 12s free). This must-see exhibition is the largest ever show dedicated to British design legend Dame Zandra Rhodes, and explores 50 years of a fascinatingly varied career, presenting influential looks, original textiles and archive material. At 81, she continues to be a revolutionary force in fashion.