Bring It Back: The Return of ’80s and ’90s Australian Fashion

The popular phrase “What goes around, comes around”, can not only be applied to one’s action. This is is especially true in the world of fashion, with recurring trends popping up every now and then.

Right now, thrifting in search of a more sustainable style is all the rage, and Australia is bringing back the 1980s and the 1990s in full force.

A Brief Look At Australia’s Fashion History

Australia during the ’80s and ’90s had some of my personal favourite fashion trends. From printed button downs my dad still wears, oversized t-shirts with slogans like ‘FRANKIE SAY RELAX’ and ‘WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO-GO’, Doc Martens, muted earth tones, big hair, to scrunchies. Australia has seen it all, and is starting to see it again.

I’m particularly fond of print shirts from Queensland designer Olive Ashworth. While News South Wales and Victoria have always been known to be the more populated, more up-with-the-times locations of the great southern land, Queensland’s tropical climate and Great Barrier Reef was a source of inspiration to the designer throughout her career.

As she was crafting the visually iconic landscape; Ashworth also became more stylised in the 1980s, fitting with Australia’s kitsch approach to fashion.

Olive Ashworth / Reef rhythm / 1971 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

I personally love the similarly bright designs, now known as dad shirts, returning in the everyday sense of fashion.

Trends We Are Seeing Again: The Hair Edition


Two men wearing mullets.
Double mullets / 2019 / Fred Hooper / ABC News

Now, no one can write a post about recurring fashion trends in Australia and not mention mullets. The ‘business in the front, party in the back’ hairstyle was popular among men in the ’80s is now looked upon as a “protest of conventional beauty” by some, and as a timeless statement by others.

If mullets aren’t your thing, the looser version of the spiral perm has also been making a comeback – though it is slightly more difficult to come by due to the specificity of the process.


Dinner Scrunchie /

Speaking of hair, I think it’s important to give scrunchies a shout out. Though scrunchies are not exclusives to Australia; this fairly innocuous accessory was an easy way to compliment an outfit and could be made out of a variety of materials. Luckily for us, it seems to be back in a big way all over the world.

Of course, modern fashion trends are much easier to track with the help of social media, with fashion becoming far less localised to specific countries.

We can now see what people are wearing all over the world almost instantly, and copy our favourite styles. As the boundaries of gender, culture, and style blend, it was inevitable that we would start recreating looks from years passed.

So what trends do want to return? And what are some trends you’d rather forget? Leave a comment below!

This post is part of a series, check out my other posts tagged ‘australiasfashionhistory’ to read more.

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