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To understand the appeal of leggings during the 1980s, we have to go back to their capri pants predecessors. Capri pants were very popular throughout the 50s and 60s, however they fell out of favor with the creation of “Lycra”, which is basically a spandex product made by the Dupont company.

As a result of the late 1950s invention, the popularity of capri pants would eventually give way to spandex leggings. Unlike previous styles of pants for women, capri pants were designed to accent a woman’s curves. Some of the most well-known actresses of the late 1950s were known to sport them.

80s Fashion Trend: Leggings

After the invention of spandex, it wasn’t long after that the first set of leggings featuring this material were manufactured. By the 1960s, many popular designers throughout the world were manufacturing spandex leggings in a wide variety of styles and patterns, and the rest as they say is history.

So why were leggings such a popular fashion trend during the 1980s?

Leggings In The 1980s

Throughout the 1960s, and well into the 1970s, spandex leggings continued to grow in popularity. But the Lycra material would see the peak of its popularity during the 1980s. The fabric was available in a wide variety of bright and bold colors, which made them the perfect choice for rock ‘n’ roll musicians of the time.

Rock Stars Often Wore Spandex Leggings During The 1980s

Besides rock stars, eventually even some of the most popular professional wrestlers of the 80s such as Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were known to wear brightly colored spandex leggings in the ring.

Popular 80s Wrestlers Like Hulk Hogan Often Wore Spandex Leggings

Furthermore with the help of the exercise craze, women would wear leggings to the gym, and eventually, just as casual wear. In fact leggings were a big part of 80s workout fashion that most women couldn’t be without, and they were often paired with leg warmers to create that perfect hardcore 80s aerobics enthusiast look that we all loved!

Spandex Leggings Were A Big Part Of 80s Workout Fashion For Women

Popular Culture

By the end of the 1970s, with the help of popular culture, leggings started to explode in popularity. Many attribute the popularity of these spandex pants to celebrities like Olivia Newton-John and Debbie Harry. In the movie Grease, Olivia Newton-John wore a very formfitting pair of black spandex leggings that got audience’s attention.

Olivia Newton-John Infamously Wore A Pair Of Black Leggings In “Grease” (1978)

Debbie Harry, the lead singer of Blondie, was known to sport a pair of leggings whenever she performed. Throughout the late 70s and early 1980s, spandex leggings were just about everywhere.

Debbie Harry Often Performed On Stage In Leggings
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Jane Fonda

It was back in the early 1980s when Jane Fonda released her first workout video. Many attribute the aerobics craze of the early 1980s to her. And in most of her videos, she was known to wear a leotard over leggings.

Jane Fonda Helped Popularized Leggings And Leotards In The 1980s Fitness Craze

Soon after, many women could be seen walking to and from the gym in a similar get-up. Eventually, the popularity of leggings and leotards transcended the gap from athletic to casual wear.


Perhaps the biggest name when it comes to the adaptation of leggings was none other than Madonna. In the early 1980s, Madonna’s fashion style was considered to be very edgy, and everyone wanted to stand out just like her.

In the opening scene of the music video for “Like a Virgin”, Madonna can be seen stepping off of a boat wearing tight-fitting leggings under dolphin shorts. At other various points throughout the music video, she can be seen wearing leggings under her skirt.

Madonna Wore A Pair Of Leggings In Her “Like A Virgin” Music Video (1984)

Are Leggings Still Popular Today?

When it comes to leggings, this 80s fashion trend is still everywhere today. Though not necessarily as popular as they were in the 1980s, they are still a common piece of fashion for anyone looking for a sleek pair of bottoms.

Women still do workout in their leggings, however in the 80s typically those were paired with leotards, and these days that fashion trend is not as popular as it once was. However leggings today are often paired with a sports bra top or shirt for workouts, and they are still very commonly worn to the gym.

Jennifer Lopez Wearing Leggings To Her Workout

Though it’s been decades since the 1980s, we expect that leggings will be around for a while. It is both a comfortable and stylish garment, and those are trademarks of fashion trends that stand the test of time.

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