So you’re ready to pop a Jane Fonda video into the VCR and work out 1980s aerobics style … but what should you wear?

I mean, sure, you could just wear your everyday Gymshark or Lululemon but why do things by halves?

A big reason I think we’re all fascinated with 1980s workouts is, admittedly, the fashion!

Wasn’t it just … *chef’s kiss*?

I started doing 1980s workouts a few months back, but just recently I began dressing the part and it’s a complete game changer.

Not only does it make the workouts EVEN MORE fun, but oh my God, you have to try this type of dress for a 1980s workout.  You have so much more freedom of movement, everything’s held in and it’s a million times more comfortable.

But here’s the thing: you can’t just walk into Lorna Jane and kit yourself out like Jane Fonda or Kathy Smith.

So if you’re ready to try an 80s aerobics class, headed to a Halloween party, or rediscovering 1980s workout magic on YouTube, and you want to look the part, here’s what to wear for a 1980s aerobics workout.

We’re covering just ALL the bases in this post:

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Dressing for a 1980s Aerobics Workout: The Main Components

The EASIEST way to put a 1980s workout outfit together is to layer two critical components:

  1.   Leggings or bottoms
  2.   Leotard

You can then build on these two staples in a variety of ways.  Here’s what I mean.


What to Wear for a 1980s Aerobics Workout Step 1: Bottoms

 Your bottoms go on the … err … bottom of your outfit.  Literally.

In the 1980s they didn’t wear their bodysuits (or two piece brief and crop top) underneath their leggings – oh no.  They wore them over top.

Superman style.

Booty shorts weren’t really a thing then – think ¾ or full length leggings, or even long bike shorts.  The colour you choose is completely up to you.

Colours and patterns didn’t have to match then.  The louder the better.

(But black is just fine too.)

Now when I’m choosing leggings for my 1980s workouts, I choose something without a visible waistband because I find this disrupts the look. 

Also, now is not the time for low rider or mid rise cut – choose something high waisted.

It’s honestly just more comfy under your leotard.  But more about that later.

Now if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take it to the next level with a pair of dancer’s shimmer tights.  I haven’t made it there yet, but watch this space!


Looking for ideas/inspiration?  Try these!


What to Wear for a 1980s Aerobics Workout Step 2: Tops

Next, you’ll want to get yourself a leotard, or bodysuit.

A traditional leotard can be hard to find, though not impossible (but dance leotards can be expensive).

I’ve also got a bit of a prediction that we’ll see bodysuits re-emerge as an activewear trend, and in fact I’ve already seen it promoted a few times in catalogues, so watch this space.

I’m totally here for it, but until that time, I’ve got a hack that works a trick!

Use swimsuits!

Yup, go down to your local thrift store or chain store and find yourself a one piece swimsuit.

For comfort and style I just find one with a higher square back so my various sports bras don’t show through (though it’s no biggie if they do).

Slide these on over your leggings and you’re almost good to go!


Looking for more inspiration?  Here are my favourite picks



If it’s cold out, or you want some additional cover, you can take your top look further.

Layering with crop tops was a huge trend in the 1980s – long sleeve, short sleeve, it totally doesn’t matter!

And crop tops are virtually everywhere nowadays – the sky really is the limit.


Here are some of my favourite picks


What to Wear for a 1980s Aerobics Workout Step 3: Footwear

 In 2012 I made a solemn vow: I was bringing leg warmers.  The hell.  BACK!

Because what’s not to love about leg warmers?  They look so cute and they really do keep your legs warm.

Who wants cold legs, especially when working out?

Just say no to exercising with cold muscles, babes!

Anyway it took me almost 10 years but I’m determined to make good on my promise.  It’s 2021 and leg warmers are happening.

Leg warmers are the cherry on top that will pull the whole 1980s workout outfit together.  And the good news is: they aren’t expensive.

You can buy them on Amazon quite cheaply and they come in almost every colour you can imagine, so you can have different pairs to match all your outfits!

The next step to 1980s workout footwear is, of course, the shoes.

White Reebok Freestyles are the way to go!  They’re what all the 1980s aerobics icons wore (Janes Fonda and Austin most notably) and they’re synonymous with 1980s workout fashion.

However, if that’s out of your price range, any pair of white kicks will do fine – as long as they’re designed to support your feet and ankles with good shock absorption and proper support throughout high impact movement and lateral bounding.


Shop my top picks


What to Wear for a 1980s Aerobics Workout Step 4: Accessories

 Here’s where you get to be really creative.

In the 1980s it was all about accessories!

Think belts, scrunchies, headbands and wristbands to complete the look.

Headbands and wristbands are especially great because they serve a practical purpose: they keep you from getting sweat everywhere and staying cute throughout your workout.

Especially if you’re a Sweaty Betty like me. 

Let your imagination run totally wild!

I just have one condition: save the chunky jewellery for a costume party and don’t wear it to workout. It’s safer that way.


Shop my top picks



If you want to dress the part for your 1980s aerobics workout I highly recommend it. You really do get the most out of it this way!

And it doesn’t have to involve shopping at costume stores – with a little creativity you can build a 1980s activewear collection Jane Fonda would be proud of!


 Now I would love to hear from you!  What brought you here today?  Are you looking for a Halloween costume, going to a 1980s party, or best yet – TOTALLY going to rock this look for your next workout?  Share with me in the comments!

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what to wear for a 1980s aerobics workout

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