A totally 1980s jazzercise costume

Many of you may be frantically planning and plotting what costume to make for Halloween next weekend, but for me, the biggest costumed event of the year was last Friday, at my friend Gez’s 1980s-themed 40th birthday party. Gez has thrown fancy dress parties for years, so I already knew that people would make an effort, but by keeping a small and pared-down wardrobe for myself, I didn’t really have any suitable 80s vintage clothing already. So I knew I”d have to make something from scratch.

I didn’t want to go the full-on Dynasty “hair & shoulder pads” look, so I was a bit stuck until I realised that I could totally do the 1980s Jane Fonda jazzercise look instead! I sometimes have shiny 80s lycra on hand for making early test versions of patterns, but I’d run through all of that in developing the Lightspeed Leggings pattern (poor James!).

Goldhawk Road - bike

So I cycled up to Goldhawk Road on a grey Monday morning and discovered a treasure trove of shiny 80s lycra in A-One Textiles. I had already had the pink and turquoise lycra cut when I saw an incredible rainbow and leopard print lycra high up on the shelf that was just too fantastic to pass up.

three shiny 80s lycras

I mean, how Lisa Frank is this fabric??

lisa Frank lycra

I didn’t end up using the baby pink, so that will get used up for testing patterns at some point, but I decided to build a three-piece jazzercise costume consisting of stirrup leggings, a leotard, and hair scrunchie. I used the ever-trusty KwikSew 3636 for the leggings, but 1 metre wasn’t enough length to do proper stirrups, so I had to settle for just adding some elastic loops to the hems.

The leotard would become the set-piece of the costume, so I pulled out the Closet Case Files Nettie bodysuit pattern (which I’ve been meaning to sew for about 3 winters now!) and managed to squeeze a long sleeved bodysuit with low front neck and medium back neck out of the 1 metre of lycra. Score!

jazzercise - laid flat

Heather designed the Nettie pattern to have a modern feel, with lots of bum coverage. This is a wise choice if you’re wearing it under jeans and skirts, but for the truly 1980s look, I go out my scissors and chopped those leg openings til they were nearly up to the leggings waistband for that authentic “80s wedgie” look. I never said this was going to be a classy costume!!

jazzercise - neckband and scrunchie detail

I did a usual banded finish on the neckline using her prescribed lengths, but for the leg openings I wanted it to be more leotard-y, so I edged those with folded-under and stitched narrow elastic.

jazzercise - leg elastic detail

But the final piece of the costume was the ultimate 80s accessory, and one I still dismally remember sewing for myself in the early 90s when I was at school – the scrunchie.

sewing a scrunchie

Long may they remain in the “what were we thinking??” bin of history, and I was definitely reconsidering my life choices as I sewed this one together! But the scrunchie and the sequin belt (owned for years!) really pulled the look together! I’d wanted to buy a cheap charity shop jumper (sweater) to chop up for leg warmers, but the local shop didn’t have anything suitable in a price I wanted to spend, so I did without.

jazzercise - with James

So the night of the party, I pulled my hair up into a side ponytail, but on some steel grey eyeshadow (a magazine freebie), frosted pink lip gloss (ditto), and hit the town. And everyone at the party L-O-V-E-D it! I was expecting at least someone else to do the Jane Fonda thing, but no – I had the exercising dancefloor moves all sewn up!


My feeling on costumes is that you can’t do it by halves – the bigger and bolder, the better, and ultimately, the more fun you’re going to have! The birthday girl looked amazing in her cocktail dress and blonde wig, and so many people made such an effort – including one guy in full-on Labyrinth Bowie!! Plus James got to give out fake dollar bills all night as Gordon Gecko, and the era-appropriate playlist was the best I’d ever heard. We didn’t get home til 2am, at which point I decided to take a selfie:

jazzercise - post party selfie

Yes. That’s real talk, and one 1980s costume in the bag!


Add Yours
  1. 6
    Beth (SunnyGal Studio)

    OMG this is fantastic, you look so cute. (and are giving me nightmarish flashbacks of the era, ha ha) ps did you see that on the Burda blog they had a post on making scrunchies. as they say in the horror movies, “they’re back !!”

      • 11

        I know! But unfortunately my hubby doesn’t get as excited as me about the prospect of wearing lycra to a party!! I’ve still got time to persuade him and could make him look a right bobby dazzler with the right fabric from funki fabrics!
        On a different note, I’m looking at buying a coverstitch machine and was reading your article in Seamworks last week. I’m now writing a blog post with what I’ve found and what I might buy but can’t find which issue it was in and was going to add a link. Can you remember? 🙂

          • 13

            Thats a great idea, though your blogs just great and I’ve found posts on that easily by searching. Seamwork really do need a search function. I’m just getting into making work out gear and have made your VNA top. But am now in a major dilemma about which coverstitch machine to buy to make my life complete, lol 🙂

  2. 18
    Patricia O

    I double doggy dare you to go running in that costume! Joking aside, well done for coming up with a good “fun” costume. I never thought scrunchies were that bad – probably less damaging for the hair than a plain elastic band. I can remember there used to be gizmos for sale that were a cross between a scrunchie and a bun net. I crocheted myself a sort of open lattice snood with Irish crochet motifs once (my hair was still brown then) and put some shirring elastic round the opening. Trouble is my hair was too heavy for it and it tended to come off and when I wore it to work and the office comedienne said something about having a tea-cosy on my head I relegated it to the big fat fail corner (okay to wear at home but I don’t have it anymore).

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