Should I just go as Metallica? Ideas needed for 1981-themed fancy dress!
July 13, 2011 11:35 PM   Subscribe

Fancy dress party with a 1981 theme and I need help thinking of an idea! Bonus points for extremely cheap, clever or fun costumes.

Friend is turning 30 and is celebrating. I'm female and would rather not go as Slutty [insert noun], but I'm having problems thinking of a plan that's within my meagre budget.

Key criteria:

It has to be 1981-themed (Metallic forms, Britteney Spears born, etc).

I'm in the UK and female

I love nerdy stuff

I will happily wear a wig/prostheses/giant accessories and generally make a bit of a spectacle of myself. :)
posted by NoiselessPenguin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ALSO: I have a sewing machine and I'm not afraid to use it.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:38 PM on July 13, 2011

i'm not quite sure how you would dress as "daylight savings time introduced in the soviet union," but wikipedia has a whole page of stuff that happened in vote is DEFINITELY for "shot Ronald Reagan"...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:43 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ms Pac Man
posted by empath at 11:43 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Eurythmics' first album was released in 1981; maybe you could go as Annie Lennox?
posted by neushoorn at 11:45 PM on July 13, 2011

How about going as Adam Ant? Pluses are that the costume can be reused for Halloween and many of the elements are easily findable in second hand shops: you can either buy a ruffled white shirt and add extra ruffles to the wrists, of just buy a plain one and add all the ruffles you want. Tight trousers cropped at the calf + white trouser socks for the bottom, get the most ridiculous buttoned waistcoat possible or get a plain black one or plain black cropped jacked and add braid. Add the eye make up and see if you can get a fake pistol and a leather belt and you're done...

That sounds like a fair bit of work but the constituent elements can all reused for other costumes.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:46 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

1981? One word: spandex.
posted by ouke at 12:01 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Royal Wedding between Princess Di and Charles occurred in 1981. So perhaps others will do something along these lines.

So you could go as Camilla Parker Bowles
posted by sien at 12:04 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of movies to chose from - Raiders of the Lost Ark, Clash of the Titans, Cannonball Run, Chariots of Fire, Escape from New York and Time Bandits are just a few that spring to mind. MTV debuted on Cable - what about making a nice 3D cardboard MTV logo and wearing that with some spandex tights and a bopper headband (which were a craze in the early 80's as I recall).
posted by ninazer0 at 12:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ouke n I are on the same page. You have to rock the spandex.

Have you got roller-skates, leg warmers, a white belt, some spandex, aviator glasses and a walkman? If so, Wired For Sound, Cliff Richards' cheesy album came out in 1981. The title track is just so 1981.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:00 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest you use the UK version of that Wikipedia list, because you probably don't want to spend your evening answering questions about the US judiciary while dressed as Sandra Day O'Connor.

If you're a ginger (or a blonde who can fake it), with some hairspray and an unflattering dress suit, you could go as Maggie T.
posted by gingerest at 1:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suppose a rubik's cube costume would be a little difficult ? 1981 was also the year François Mitterand was elected in France.

Of course Maggy Thatcher was in power. Falkland war was about to happen...
posted by Baud at 1:03 AM on July 14, 2011

The first episode of Only Fools and Horses aired in 1981. I would totally go as Del Boy. Most accessoires probably available from second-hand shops.

Hmmm... or would I rather be one of the dudes in Bucks Fizz, who won Eurovision that year?

Tempting, but I'd probably stick with Del.
posted by guessthis at 1:57 AM on July 14, 2011

Toyah was charting in 1981 - probably a cheap and easy costume there although she was more the end of the 70s punk thing and not typically 80s style wise. Kim Wilde would be easy to recreate since she was essentially styled as a teenage girl, google Kids in America, song was no 1 for two weeks in 1981.

I like the Bucks Fizz idea because they really are iconic 80s to any Brit of a certain age although the post-chorus skirt length is really, really short!

My first thought was also a Rubiks cube, paint a cardboard box and wear it as a hat?

Other 80's style icons charting in 1981 - Human League and Soft Cell.
posted by Ness at 2:57 AM on July 14, 2011

1981 was Let's Get Physical!!! Super cheap cosutume: pastel leotard with contrasting color tights, leg warmers (just get a chunky sweater at a thrift store and cut off the sleeves - voila!), and a headband (this is, unfortunately, key).

I was really hoping 1981 was Xanadu (ribbon barrettes! roller disco! Gene Kelly! - wait, what?!) - but alas, that was a year earlier)
posted by Mchelly at 4:31 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You, my dear, need a ZX81 t shirt - and also one for your dog.
posted by rongorongo at 5:07 AM on July 14, 2011

I was going to also say Olivia Newton John and Physical, but Mchelly beat me to it.
posted by Andrhia at 5:20 AM on July 14, 2011

1981 was Visage's year : or

also you could look up this tv show where the protagonist goes back in time to the early 80's or... you could go as Bowie's clown character in the Ashes to Ashes music video...
posted by Baud at 5:59 AM on July 14, 2011

When faced with an eighties party, I usually go as a Cold War figure of some sort - Young Pioneers are always in fashion and it' easy to find shirt, scarf and pants or skirt that flatter you. Honestly, you could probably just dress in retro-preppie clothes - that was coming in at the time. The Preppy Handbook came out in 1980, so the trend was probably peaking in '81. Or a yuppie? What about a yuppie? It should be plenty possible to thrift an average eighties-looking suit with shoulder pads, add a blouse with decollete, some fake pearls, sprayed-yet-professional hair....
posted by Frowner at 6:07 AM on July 14, 2011

these ideas are entirely fantastic. I'm most tempted by Adam Ant just for the outrageously gaudy piratical gold braid look and eyeliner but I've got an old brown fedora, leather jacket and khaki shirt-dress just crying out for a whip - instant Indiana Jones.

It's possible to go as Maggie, but given the lefty Politics of the guests, I might be set upon :)

If all else fails I shall go as a Dole Youth - thanks for the Wikipedia pointer. ideas, ideas!
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2011

Prince had quite the look in 1981. I know it makes no sense for you but the thought of a male companion in the getup is irresistible.
posted by Dragonness at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2011

Oh - and thanks for all the briefing on 1981 cultural highlights. It should save some awkward "Err, what are you?" moments!
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 7:03 AM on July 14, 2011

I was, ahem, about your age in 1981 and I got a lot of mileage out of a simple Ronald Reagan mask and western garb. I would think something similar could be done with Margaret Thatcher (and probably easier to find in the UK).
posted by tommasz at 11:26 AM on July 14, 2011

Adrian Mole! His diary starts on January 1st, 1981.
posted by penguin pie at 2:12 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Moley accessories would have to include red socks, a ruler for measuring your thing, a copy of Big and Bouncy, and some interesting facts at your disposal about the Norwegian leather industry. And a diary, of course.
posted by penguin pie at 2:19 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the nerdy sphere, Lalla Ward was playing Romana in 1981 — companion to Tom Baker's Doctor. She had a surprisingly multi-faceted wardrobe, but perhaps more often than not appeared in a straw boater hat, school uniform jacket and red tie. Or a sort of Edwardian bathing costume. Here's a few examples.
posted by mumkin at 10:07 PM on July 14, 2011

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