Cyndi Lauper’s ‘So Unusual’ Fashion Style: A Look Back

Cyndi Lauper roared onto the music scene in 1983 with her debut album She’s So Unusual—and has never pretended to be anything but that. Her eclectic style straddles the lines of New Romantics meets Blitz Kids, but it is still totally her own. Lauper’s fashion sense always matched the power and uniqueness of her voice, and both have proven to be lasting cultural touchstones of the American 1980s. Lauper wasn’t playing dress-up for the spotlight. She says she’s always had a flair for dressing boldly. The artist was bullied in school for her unique fashion choices, and to this day always makes sure her “true colors” shine through her clothing.

Now at 70, Lauper has announced she’s retiring from touring with one final string of dates, the Girls Just Want to Have Fun Farewell Tour, lined up for later this year. She’s celebrating a tremendous career that has earned her Grammys, an Emmy, a Tony, and a legion of devoted fans (not to mention a long track record as an LGBTQ+ ally).

Yet, we don’t think Lauper’s style is disappearing from mood boards anytime soon. Her unique sense of mixing and matching remains ever-relevant (take a look at labels like Chopova Lowena and Collina Strada—or the onstage outfits of Chappell Roan—for proof). Here, a look back at Lauper’s so unusual fashion history.

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Before breaking out on her own, Lauper was the lead singer of the band Blue Angel. But even back then, she had a taste for loud prints.

1981: Blue Angel Performance

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A mix of hot red cheetah print and a sequin skirt offered a peek at Lauper’s fashion future.

1983: She’s So Unusual Press

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By the time she struck out on her own, Lauper had defined her signature style: a wild mix of clashing patterns, a stack of chunky bracelets, technicolor eyeshadow, lots of belts and straps, and a few delightfully off extras. Here, she wears one rolled-down pair of nylons over spray-painted tights.

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At her first Grammys, Lauper stayed true to her personal sense of style. The beaded skirt displaying a tropical landscape would have been enough for some, but Lauper added a fruity necklace, green headscarf, gold top, and clashing red shoes and tights.

1984: Chicago Performance

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Lauper was never afraid to rewear. For her performance at the Park West Theater in Chicago, she paired that same skirt with a denim vest, a strip of plaid fabric, and lots of studded belts.

1984: American Music Awards

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On anyone else, this might read “prom dress.” But Lauper added her own embellishments and her signature streak of fiery ginger hair, transforming the look.

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Please note the single sock.

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Lauper picked up “Best New Artist” in 1985, and brought Hulk Hogan along as her bodyguard.

1985: American Music Awards

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At the American Music Awards, it was hard to tell where her necklaces stopped and her dress started.

1986: New York Performance

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On stage in 1986, Lauper channeled a punk princess with this voluminous bubble skirt dress.

1988: Police Athletic League Dinner

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When it doubt, just mix up some primary colors.

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By the early ’90s, Lauper had dialed back the stacks and stacks of jewelry, but still knew how to make a statement with accessories. Here she matched her hair to her feather boa.

1994: American Music Awards

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This look was conservative by Lauper’s standards, but the slightly askew fit is decidedly chic.

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Lauper won an Emmy for her guest spot on Mad About You. Her pants and matching corset were from Vivienne Westwood.

1997: Howard Kaplan Antiques on Halloween

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Yes, this was Halloween, but Lauper wasn’t going to let pregnancy stop her from dressing up.

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Long before every girl in New York was wearing that Saks Potts coat, Lauper knew the power of adding some tufts of lavender to her outerwear.

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2012: American Music Awards

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Lauper added a splash of tartan to her otherwise all-black ensemble.

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Lauper looked regal in Alexander McQueen at the 2014 Grammys.

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Long before Gen Z embraced wide-leg pants, Lauper was on the case.

2017: Out In New York City

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Lauper returns to leopard print time after time.

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At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Lauper matched her lilac highlights to the print on her suit.

2019: Bette Midler’s Hulaween

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Of course, you can’t disappoint on Halloween when you’re Lauper.

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At a 2020 Grammys party, Lauper went with an all-over floral print.

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