How To Throw A Bitchin' '80s Dance Party

Even if you’re too young to have participated, you can (and should!) revel in the neon, synth-y excess of the 1980s. And if you’re throwing a party, an ’80s Dance Party is a fun, easy way to make your party stand out. The music is great (or at least entertaining), and almost everyone has elements in their wardrobe that can combine to reflect the wonder and horror of the decade’s fashion. Here’s what you need to throw the most bitchin’ ’80s Dance Party your town has ever seen. Rule #1: if you’ve got it, flaunt it!


Luckily for you, this is a decade with a definite color scheme. Your party should be filled with bright colors like turquoise, magenta, lime green, yellow...and if it’s fluorescent (good ol’ Day-Glo!), glittery or metallic, all the better. If you can find something that’s fluorescent, glittery AND metallic, you win at the “Decorate Like The '80s” game. Accent those colors with neon splatter-paint, animal prints and blacklight, blacklight, blacklight!

Don’t forget to revel in the decade’s unique pop culture: put movie posters or old records on the walls, and have a breakdancing video playing in the background with the volume turned down. If you enjoy being a little quirky, put Cabbage Patch dolls in various corners around the house: this will allow your guests to drunkenly yell “NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!” throughout the night. (If you don’t get the joke, please bone up on your ‘80s pop culture references before you attempt to host this party.)


Think back to young times; what candy and food do you remember? Put out a candy bowl with ring-pops, Pez, Pixy Stix, rock candy, Swedish Fish, whistle pops, and of course, anything you can find made out of candy, like cigarettes, buttons, necklaces, bracelets, rings, or lipsticks. Make sure you put out some Bugles and label them “Mini Madonna Boob Cones.”

What about drinks? If Everclear is legal in your state, jungle juice (Everclear and Kool-Aid) is the way to go—use purple kool-aid and label it “Purple Rain.” If you live in one of those lame nanny states who think that 190-proof liquor can “be sorta dangerous” and “cause general stupidity,” use vodka instead and make yourself some yummy Jello shots. Make sure to choose ‘80s colors! Finally, make sure you have some wine coolers or box wine and 40s of horrible beer for that “hanging out at the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night" vibe. For non-alkies, make sure you’re equipped with Tang, Capri-Sun, Mountain Dew, Big Red, Welch’s Soda, etc.


One reason '80s parties are so great is that there’s just no excuse not to dress up, and you can go as crazy as you want. It’s incredibly easy to get this look with stuff that’s already in your wardrobe or can be purchased for a dollar or two at the thrift store.

For instance, ladies, you can cut a sweatshirt up so that it slides off one shoulder; splatter paint and/or add beads to a cut up tee, and of course, put your hair up in a side ponytail with a big, ugly scrunchie. Leg warmers and tights have been back in style within the past few years, so many girls will already have those at their disposal. If you own a tube top, all the better, and if you can find Jordache jeans at the thrift store, you’re set. Your jeans should be tight (or Lycra), your miniskirt should be short, and you should never fade into the background. The ‘80s was not a decade of restraint per se, and the accessories that were popular then reflect that. Never worry about being too bright or too gaudy: pile on that bright blue eyeshadow, that bright pink lipstick, that big jewelry and tease up that even bigger hair.

Male guests should focus on dressing in acid-washed jeans, neon shirts and, if you can get one, the ubiquitous Member’s Only Jacket. Anyone who shows up in MC Hammer pants and can dance to "Hammer Time" is pretty much assured of scoring some sweet lovin’.

Another costume option is dressing like a character from your favorite ’80s movie. (Aside: listen to the Bouncing Soul’s “These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite ‘80s Movies” while getting dressed to get your nostalgia juices flowing.) As the host of the party, you can do anything: go for a full Cindy Lauper or Madonna look if you want. Guests, especially guys, may prefer these character costumes: live out the dreams of yesteryear by dressing as your favorite stereotype from the Breakfast Club, show up as Lloyd Dobler with a boombox, or take on crime as Magnum PI, Indiana Jones, the Karate Kid...the list goes on and on.


It goes without saying that music is the most important aspect of an ‘80s dance party. The hardest part of your party prep is the music selection. Don’t think you can just take all your music that was released in the '80s and just throw it into a playlist: a lot of music was released that decade, some good and some bad, but much of it is not appropriate for an '80s dance party. (Even though they made a lot of good music, you want to make sure that your party is 239,000 miles from The Cure.) An ‘80s dance party is not the time to show off your indie chops and your obscure vinyl: you should be playing songs everybody knows, and the cheesier the better. You can sprinkle in your beloved obscurities, if they fit, but just remember that it’s a DANCE party.

A slammin’ ‘80s dance party is the best way to take your shindig to the max. So grab your boy toy and your leg warmers, crank up the Wham!, and hit the big time. (Word.)



Did the karate kid really tackle crime?

Maybe cut it off after "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out."

But if you're playing a ton of the Cure and the Smiths and such, you're just going to end up with an '80s Sad Party...

With all due respect, Janet, I think you might be surprised how many people "Just Like Heaven" can bring out to the dance floor.

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