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How American Horror Story is Bringing Back 1980’s Fashion

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By: Kenzel Williams

The FX-series “American Horror Story” recently surpassed 100 episodes. An achievement symbolizing the success they’ve had the past nine years.

One particularly striking element of the anthology series is the variety of eras they’ve covered, ranging from the 1600s to the present day. With this season, they’re taking on the ’80s.

“American Horror Story: 1984” focuses on a group of teens recently hired as counselors at Camp Redwood, run by Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman). During their stay, a serial killer breaks out and pays a visit to the camp, putting the workers into a frenzy to stay alive for the night.

But just because there’s a killer on the loose doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten fashion.

For this season, director Ryan Murphy and costume designer Paula Bradley had to take a different approach than the past seasons’ wardrobes. This is the first time the anthology series tackles the decade of leg warmers and neon windbreakers, and they definitely did not disappoint.

Warning: Slight Spoilers Ahead

One important thing to point out is the heavy use of bright colors. The majority of the first half of the season was shot at night, so the outfits had to stand out in the dark. This made for a perfect use of neon and pastel color palettes, which were huge trends in the 1980s.

The best example of this use of colors is shown through the main character, Brooke Thompson. Played by Emma Roberts, her girl-next-door look is presented with pastels.

This palette juxtaposes from the stereotypical neons that the other teen characters rock, and symbolizes her innocence compared to the others. Since she is the token good Christian girl, Brooke is the only character without a “sinful” past. Her hookup with Montana’s brother was never confirmed, so it’s safe to say she’s still innocent.

On the other hand, Montana, portrayed by Billie Lourd, is more like the classic 1980’s pop-rock girl. She dons leopard prints, neon jackets, heavy makeup and frizzy hair.

Her look is a stark contrast to Brooke’s. Unlike Brooke, Montana has a desire to kill someone in particular and is willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, even if that means hooking up with a Satan worshipper. The clashing patterns and heavy eyeliner represent the anti-hero that is Montana.

That ’80s representation jumps onto Xavier (Cody Fern), Ray (DeRon Horton), and Chet (Gus Kenworthy), too. Compared to Brooke, their outfits are what people typically think of when they think of 80’s fashion: short shorts, neon patterns and workout clothing. They, too, have participated in taboo activities in the past, and their fashion, like Montana, represents that.

Nevertheless, American Horror Story is using this season as a reminder of these iconic trends.

How is American Horror Story influencing today’s fashion? Today’s trends are seeing the comeback of some 80’s elements, including neon colors and nylon jackets. The series uses this to their full advantage. “1984” regularly uses these revisited trends and this has helped normalize their use in everyday life.

American Horror Story, whether you believe it or not, is bringing back historical fashion. Their ninth season is another reminder that fashion is important, even if you’re running away from a serial killer.


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