7 Fashion Accessories That Defined My '80s Girlhood

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
80s fashion
Phaedra / Flickr / Creative Commons

I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I love looking at old photographs and listening to classic music. A certain scent can make me travel back in time and instantly remember everything.

When I reminisce about my ’80s childhood, I think of the photos of my mom with her frizzy perm and her paisley dress with those ridiculous shoulder pads. I see my dad’s thick, black-rimmed glasses and gaudy sweater vests. I smell my mother’s Jean Nate perfume and my father’s Old Spice shaving cream.

When I think of myself, I see my pixie cut and gold hoop earrings. I see my gap-toothed smile and skinned knees. For some reason, I don’t remember what particular clothes I wore when I was a kid, but I do remember what I used to spice up my outfits.

Oh, those ’80s accessories! From jelly bracelets to charm necklaces, these accessories were quintessential components of my ’80s girl wardrobe. Just thinking of them brings me right back.

1. Jelly Shoes

I’m not positive jelly shoes were the most comfortable footwear for young girls. I remember how sweaty they made my feet in the summertime—I’m pretty sure they absorbed heat more than other shoes. But boy, were they fun. I had a pair with glitter embedded in the plastic, and they were magical.

2. Charm Necklaces

I remember hiding in my room to count my charms. I would take them off and arrange and rearrange them for hours. My friends and I would compare which charms we had and trade them endlessly. My prized possessions were my refrigerator charm and my calculator charm. I’ve always been very practical.

3. Lace Gloves

I was the biggest Madonna fan in the world. My best friend and I would lock ourselves in her room, turn on the “Like a Virgin” cassette, and become Madonna. We’d use her big sister’s eyeliner pencil to draw on Madonna moles, and then we’d each slip on a lace glove and dance like the Material Girl. Our gloves were white lace and frayed from excessive use—just perfect.

4. Jelly Bracelets

Party City

There was a vending machine for these at the mall. I had a small stack of them, and I can still smell their fresh rubber scent. I will admit that I spent a fair amount of time chewing on mine (eww) and twisting them into knots. But there was a group of “big girls” on the bus who had enough black jelly bracelets to cover their entire arms. I thought these girls were amazing, stylish, and very intimidating.

5. Streamer Barrettes

This was another accessory that I admired more than anything. Girls who wore streamer barrettes were super lucky or super creative, since, for a while, it was hard to get ahold of these hair accessories unless you were willing to make them yourself, but I remember snagging a few at some point. Mine were blue and white, and only got a little bit tangled in my hair (sorry, Mom!).

6. Scrunchies

You didn’t just use these to tie back your hair; you wore them on your wrists like bracelets. And not just one—some girls walked around with three or four scrunchies taking up residence on their wrists and arms. Some were bright neon. Some glowed in the dark. Most contained some hideous ’80s geometric pattern. All were super cool.

7. Roll-On Lip Gloss

Remember how I said that nothing can take me back in time like a scent? I still remember the bubble gum scented roll-on lip gloss I bought at Woolworths when I was 10. I’ll never forget the way it smelled. I remember having to shake the bottle a little each time I used it so the lip gloss would rise to the top. Then I’d glide the spongy tip across my lips. Sublime.

Not everything about my childhood was as lovely or charmed as the accessories I decked myself out with. But really, who has a perfect childhood? That’s part of the reason it feels so enjoyable to go down memory lane and remember the silly, inconsequential parts. Most of the items on this list weren’t as sparkly and precious as I remember them—in fact, I chuckle to myself when I think how cheaply made and fake-looking some were.

Still, looking back, I see my ’80s accessories as pure perfection. And the memories they elicit flood me with the happiest, giddiest feelings of my girlhood.

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