What I know now about fashion. Man, the 80's were an interesting time in fashion. And since during that decade my parents had a clothing store and I ended up attending a fashion college, I feel like I can speak on this subject.
First, the trends:
The 80's were an exercise in excess and inconsistencies. Super short miniskirts worn with leggings or leg warmers. Religious jewelry draped over corsets and lingerie. Members Only jackets worn by everyone. Fingerless gloves. Giant shoulder pads, massive earrings, oversized tops and big belts. Parachute pants, either skin tight ala Miami Vice or actual parachute-sized ala MC Hammer. There was too much hair, too much make-up, too much jewelry...and that went for both sexes.
Then there were Units. Anyone remember this stellar attempt at fashion? I believe the line consisted of about 6 - 8 main pieces which could supposedly be combined in 100's of ways to make different outfits. Great idea, I guess, but not everyone can wear the same stretchy circle of fabric as a belt, miniskirt, tube top. In fact, we really don't want everyone to.
Having lived through that decade, I'd like to offer you some fashion advice that will carry you through the years:
1. If you don't love it, don't buy it. I don't care if it's on sale for $6.99 down from $75, if a piece of clothing doesn't look good on you, it's not a bargain. All you're doing by purchasing that crap is clogging up your closet with stuff you won't wear and wasting money that could go toward something really nice.
2. Spend big on classics, little on trends. Everyone likes to have the latest thing, and that's fine, just don't blow your budget there or next year, you're going to look last year. Instead, put your money into the stuff that lasts. Classic, tailored pieces like trousers and skirts in neutral colors, good jeans, a crisp white shirt, a little black dress, good black heels. Spend the most you can afford on those things because they will be around forever. Accessorize with the trends and you won't feel so bad ditching them five minutes later when they're no longer hot.
3. Less is more. Buy two $50 shirts instead of 10 for $10. The $50 shirts will be with you long after the $10 shirts have fallen apart in the wash, faded, pilled and started to unravel.
4. Neutrals are anything but. Pick a neutral you love (navy, black, brown, gray) and build from there. One of my favorite outfits is a little black dress with a leopard jacket. A neutral with a pop of color or pattern works every time.
5. Rule of Three. Stick to the rule of three when dressing and accessorizing and you'll never look over done. Take the little black dress and leopard jacket. That jacket is 1, then I add a pair of leopard mules - that's 2, then a leopard ring, that's 3. More leopard than that would be overkill. Apply that rule to evening wear: cocktail dress with (1) sparkly shoes, (2) shoulder-duster earrings and (3) a gold evening bag. You're done! Adding anything else would detract from the pieces you're already wearing.
Now, go forth and shop!