Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s & 90s: This innovative clothing line was ahead of its time

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Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s and 90s

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

As an 80s kid, I was pretty geeked when we found these old ads and pages from vintage Esprit catalogs!

If you’re not familiar with the brand: Esprit was a popular sportswear brand and mall store in the 80s and 90s that offered fashion lines for men, women, and children — along with home goods

As you can see as you scroll, their designs often incorporated bright colors, geometric patterns, and even some funky accessories like suspenders.

So kick back! We hope you enjoy this spirited and colorful blast from the past as much as we did. – BB

Esprit founder Susie Tompkins

Co-founder Doug Tompkins (then Susie’s husband) is pictured on her pedestal

Esprit founder Susie Tompkins

Also see: Old-school cottagecore: The prairie dress had its first big comeback in the 80s


1982

Vintage 80s Esprit

Esprit fashion conveyed vitality, youthfulness and authenticity while giving off “I’m not trying too hard” casual vibes.

This is a vintage trend (unlike, say, the mom jeans revival) whose revitalization we fogies could like, totally, get behind.

The retro fashions shown below include:

  • Bulky knit sleeveless cardigan made of a color-flecked mohair wool blend
  • Cotton blouse with rounded neckline has a front placket edged with lacy openwork
  • Classic double-pleated cuffed walking shorts are made of a warm tweed wool blend

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (11)

Some of the old-school Esprit tote bags shown below:

  • Field bag in cotton canvas
  • Plumber’s bag in cotton canvas with doubled black leather handles
  • Fisherman’s bag in cotton canvas with black leather and buckle closures
  • Triple pocket canvas bag with zipper closures and black web shoulder strap
  • Esprit tote in durable cotton twill

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (18)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (17)

Polos! Still the most popular knitted shirt in the world

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (16)

Old Esprit 80s hats, gloves, scarves, belts & socks with personal style

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (14)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (15)

Classy variations of the essential white shirt

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (12)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (13)

Athletic grays/revitalized with bright accents

Fall ’82, an upbeat collection for the urban-outdoor girl. Pulled-together looks from city components making flexible and acceptable looks are the hallmarks of the season.

It’s not everyone who has wardrobes for both city and country, so we’ve put together a combination of both that strikes no compromise. the emphasis will be on imagination the individual’s personal style.

Fair Isles, tweeds, wools, sporty bright colors, rich mixtures and masculine/feminine feelings are the backbone of this fall’s “Metropolitan Outdoor” look.

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (2)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (3)

 

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (5)

The sporty denims – America’s (and all the world’s) favorite pant

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (1)

Also see: Look back at Caboodles, Sassaby & other retro beauty organizers from the ’80s & ’90s


Fresh approaches – Fashion sweatshirting

Vintage 80s Esprit products, left to right, starting with middle model:

3633 In bright new colors! Sporty cardigan of soft cotton sweat-shirting with deep side pouch pockets is flocked with our logo. Shown in cobalt. Also available in scarlet, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $33.00 ($2.00)

3623 Traditional cotton knit three-button polo shirt has Esprit embroidered on the front. Shown in winter white and all the colors shown on pages 20-21. Sizes S-M-L $20.00 ($1.50)

3634 More bright ideas — Athletic sweatpants of cotton sweat-shirting accented with a white stripe down the side. Shown in cobalt. Also available in scarlet, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $30.00 ($2.00)

3630 Raglan sleeved sweatshirt in bright cotton sweatshirting is flocked with our Esprit Sport logo. Sorry, scarf not available. Shown in scarlet. Also available in cobalt. turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $25.00 ($2.00)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (6)

3635 The sporty skirt in bright cotton sweatshirting accented with a white piped hem has an elastic waist and side pockets. Shown in scarlet. Also available in cobalt, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $26.00 ($2.00)

3632 One-piece raglan sleeved. V-neck, cotton sweatshirt has an attached white polo collar accented with our flocked Esprit Sport logo. As shown in turquoise. Size M Only. $30.00 ($2.00) 3635 The sporty skirt in turquoise. 

3631 Turtlette- neck cotton sweatshirt with dropped shoulders and 3/4 length sleeves. Bright colors accentuated with white piping and our Esprit Sport logo. Shown in purple. Also available in cobalt, scarlet, turquoise. Sizes S-M-L $26.00 ($2.00)

3634 Bright cotton sweatpants accented by white piping. Shown in purple. Also available in cobalt, scarlet and turquoise. Sizes S-M-L $20.00 ($1.50)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (7)

Shetland sweaters: Bright and sporty/you can’t have enough of them

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (8)


Country wools for the city slicker

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (9)

Vintage 80s Esprit clothes and fashion from 1982 (10)

Don’t miss! 24 stylish ’80s swimsuits: Shapely, slimming, sexy summer swimwear


1984

A 60s-founded clothing company with an 80s legacy

Founded in 1968 by Susie and Doug Tompkins (who, incidentally, were the founders of The North Face, as well), Esprit enjoyed its heyday internationally in the 1980s.

“Inspired by the revolutionary spirit of the 60s, the brand developed a clear philosophy – always celebrating real people and togetherness, in line with the brand’s promise: ‘We want to make you feel good to look good.'”

– Esprit

Esprit was one of the first brands to use everyday people in their catalogs, not even talking about how the brand fit into their lifestyle or anything like that — just a little snapshot into their own lives and interests. The company appealed to the masses with this relatability factor.

That makes it extra interesting to scroll through this next set, perhaps imagining where these vibrant people are now (um 40ish years later — eek!).

Anyway, with their forward thinking attitude and care for the environment way before it was cool, Esprit was ahead of its time in many ways!

Vintage Esprit fashion for summer (1984)

Retro Esprit knit logo sweater (1984)

Colorful retro Esprit ties (1984)


1985 & 1986

80s vintage Esprit

Because clothing is one of our most basic means of self expression, the fashion industry lends itself toward the communication of values, and offers us the challenge and opportunity to interpret the ongoing changes throughout the world.

“Our corporate mission statement is: ‘Be informed. Be involved. Make a difference.’

It may seem like an idealistic and unusual guiding philosophy for an international fashion company, but Esprit has never been ‘business as usual.'”

—Esprit

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (6)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (9)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (8)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (5)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (7)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (4)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (3)

80s Esprit clothing (1985)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (7)


Libby Edelman, Esprit’s Merchandising Manager

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (6)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (5)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (4)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (3)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (2)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (1)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (9)

Vintage Esprit fashion from the 80s - 1985 (8)

Vintage Esprit clothing from 1985 (1)

Vintage Esprit clothing from 1985 (2)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (2)

Vintage Esprit clothing from the 80s - 1985 1986 (1)


Esprit De Corp’s summer ’85 shoe collection: High-heel sandals

Retro Esprit de Corp sandals (1985)


Vintage Esprit jazz shoes in a rainbow of colors (1985)

Esprit de Corp winter 85 shoe collection - Colorful jazz shoes


Leather woven sandals for spring 1985

Vintage Esprit shoes from the 80s - 1985


Vintage Esprit Sport: 1986

Esprit Sport retro fashion ad 1986

Old-school Esprit clothing for him and her (1986)


1988 & 1989

Vintage 80s Esprit bedding in grey and white

Retro 80s Esprit bedding for the home from 1988-1989 (3)


Esprit kids – 80s Fashion for girls

Retro fashion - Esprit Kid (1988)


Retro 80s Esprit bedding for the home from 1988-1989

Retro 80s Esprit bedding for the home from 1988-1989 (1)

Retro 80s Esprit bedding for the home from 1988-1989 (2)


Retro winter Esprit fashion for men and women (1989)

Retro 80s Esprit fashion for men and women (1989)

Don’t miss! 50 most popular vintage perfumes from the ’80s


Colorful sweaters & jackets from the late 80s

1980s Esprit sweater and jacket (1989)

1980s Esprit clothes from 1989 (2)

1980s Esprit clothes from 1989 (3)

Late 1980s Esprit clothing for girls


1991

Vintage 90s Esprit clothing

The late 80s and early 90s were tumultuous times for the company. Leadership upheaval and pivots in the brand’s direction, as well as the emerging fast fashion trend all likely contributed to declining sales.

By 1992, both founders had largely severed ties with the company.

Under steady new leadership, the brand managed a turnaround, enjoying a resurgence of growth throughout the decade.

Retro 90s Esprit sunflower leggings (1991)

Also see: Do you remember these 32 shampoos & conditioners from the ’80s?


1993

Vintage Esprit

“The success story of Esprit is based on two pillars: Delivering joy every day through laid-back tailored, high quality essentials and carefully selected fashion-forward pieces while staying true to its core values of sustainability, equality and freedom of choice.

Example: In the early 90s, long before ‘Eco Fashion’ became fashionable, Esprit debuted its first ‘ecollection’ made of 100% organic cotton and featured its own team instead of models in in honor of their ‘Real People Campaign.’”

– Esprit

Retro Esprit fashions from 1993 (3)

Retro Esprit fashions from 1993 (2)

Retro Esprit fashions from 1993 (1)


1994

90s Esprit – The catalog is back! Branded tote bag & shoes

Retro Esprit fashions from 1994 (2)

Retro Esprit fashions from 1994 (1)

Also see: Vintage jelly shoes were THE footwear for summer in the ’80s & ’90s


1997

Esprit vintage sportswear

In the the 2000s, the brand started to fall out of favor with the American market — and in 2012 they closed all their retail stores in North America. 

Esprit continues to have a retail presence in Europe and Asia, and there does seem to be some promise of a U.S. e-commerce relaunch.

If so, we’re ready for it: Bring back old-school Esprit with all its verve and youthful aesthetic. We need that bright, colorful and creative casual style back in our lives!

Vintage 90s Esprit eyewear - Sunglasses (1997)

ALSO SEE
Swatch: The colorful watch craze of the 1980s and 1990s

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