Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
According to Lyst and Pinterest, “a character from Stranger Things” is the second-most searched Halloween costume on the internet (second only to Pennywise from It). Every single Halloween costume retailer — including Yandy, by the way — has a Stranger Things costume or two among its offerings. Beyond that, I also just don’t want to show up to a party in the same costume as everyone else.
But because I love Winona Ryder, Jordache jeans, and a buzz cut on a girl as much as anyone, I’ve brainstormed a few other ’80s-inspired options for you. May they help you stand out in a sea of Stranger Things cosplay.
If you’ve never seen this proto-Mean Girls, darkly comic, quintessential high-school movie, go watch it on Netflix right now. There are so many costume options: Find a trio of shoulder-padded blazers, pleated skirts, and croquet mallets for the ultimate group costume; wear a silky pink bathrobe with a red bow and carry a white mug to be a dead Heather Chandler; or dig up a blue T-shirt, gray sweatshirt, navy tights, and gray skirt to play Winona as Veronica in the final scene — just make sure you tease your hair until it stands up, cover yourself with soot, and carry around a cigarette.
Since everyone wants to dress like Sade anyways, Halloween is a good excuse to straight-up steal her style and not get called a copycat. You’ve got plenty of iconic looks to choose from, from denim-on-denim with big gold hoops to her white dress from the “Smooth Operator” video . Don’t forget red lipstick and the ponytail braid!
Twin Peaks may have originally aired in the ’90s, but it’s set in the late ’80s. I’d argue that all of the female characters in the original two seasons (aside from Log Lady) sport legitimately good looks that you could try to wear again in regular life.
Thanks to the memorable set and costume design, plenty of David Lynch characters would make great Halloween costumes. In addition to anyone from Twin Peaks, Dorothy Vallens from the extremely creepy Blue Velvet holds up, too. All you need is a long-sleeved blue velvet robe or dress and a short-ish, curly brown wig. Add blue eyeshadow, red lipstick and nails, and a (fake) kitchen knife, and you’re in business.
If you’re anti-sexy (or scary) costumes, this one is for you. Find some frumpy ’80s clothes at the thrift store, then add the appropriate wig and a sassy or sweet attitude (depending on which Golden Girl you’ve chosen to be). While you can do this as a solo costume, it definitely would work best for a group. Check out Amazon for the perfect hair.
Want to have some fun with brightly colored makeup? Model, singer-songwriter, and actress Grace Jones, known for her OTT style, is your girl. You could track down something similar to this purple bodysuit if you feel like being half-naked, or opt for a black blazer with super, super, super sharp shoulders. Add intensely painted eyebrows, eyeshadow, lipstick, blush, and maybe a cigarette (sorry! It was the ’80s). If you’ve got time to plan, you could go for one of her architectural hats to really drive it home.
Striped turtleneck, black corduroy jumper, pigtails with bows made of yarn, and two snap hair clips is all you really need (though you might want to add an ET doll for context). I know she’s a six-year-old, but I would definitely wear this outfit in real life, minus the pigtails. Gertie would also makes an excellent couples costume — your partner can dress as Elliot or as ET himself.
You know those Patrick Nagel illustrations and knockoffs from the ’80s that are still in almost every hair and nail salon? IMO, it would make a pretty great costume, and oh look at that, there’s even a wig for it. Just add some intense blush and blue eyeshadow, killer nails, and an ’80s outfit of your choice.
Ms. Jackson had hundreds of good looks over the years, but this is one of the most remembered — and easiest to pull together for Halloween. All it requires is a black turtleneck, black oversized blazer (with shoulder pads!), black trousers or jeans, and black booties, plus silver hoops, a silver chain (worn over the turtleneck!), and big hair up in a half-ponytail. You probably already have most of this stuff in your closet, and if you need the blazer, I’m betting you can score one at your local thrift store or on eBay. Major bonus points if you can copy her moves.
Here’s a much deeper-cut music video costume for you: You’ll need high-waisted jeans or blue pants to which you can tape or sew big yellow buttons, a white tank top, black suspenders, white high tops, and some cat ears, a tail, and whiskers. The best part of this one will be when people say, “So you’re a cat?” and you get to say, “No, I’m MC Skat Cat, the cartoon cat from the music video for Paula Abdul’s 1988 hit, ‘Opposites Attract.’”
If Heathers isn’t your speed but you still love Winona, Lydia Deetz might be the move. She’s a goth icon, not to mention a really easy costume to pull off: Get yourself a wide-brim black hat, wear all black, twist your bangs into points with hair wax, and carry a camera. You can add extra-light or white foundation or powder and some eyeshadow under your eyes to play up her ghostly complexion, too. If you want to make it a group costume, it’s pretty easy to find Beetlejuice outfits, including Adam and Barbara masks, online.