There's no denying that many films of the 1980's made strong fashion statements. Here are our top 5 film picks focusing on the styles of the angst-ridden suburban teens and rebellious trendsetters of the 80's. You will certainly recognize the influence that this aesthetic has had on some recent runways. Enjoy!
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
dir: Susan Seidelman | starring: Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn
What better place to start than with Madonna, who inspired so many teens to show off their bra straps and don lace gloves with armloads of black rubber bracelets. Rosanna Arquette's polished character, decked out in pleated trousers and puritan collar blouse, is a nice-girl foil to Madonna's downtown grungy style. There are many 80's high notes here: mesh tops, belly shirts, leggings, knotted scarf headbands, single statement earring, and more.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
dir: John Hughs | starring: Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emelio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall
This film makes it onto every 80's list for a reason. Even though you don't get a scene shot in a mall, which seems obligatory for every movie at the time, the entire movie is set in the other default teen film location: high school. It's a good observation of the kids in their natural habitat, but in this case you get to see one member of each subspecies interacting with each other and also see the stark comparison of their personas as illustrated in their costuming. There is a virginal Princess, a preppy Jock, a brainiac Nerd, an outcast Weirdo, and of course a Delinquent. The film is a statement about the labels placed on youth and how those roles thrust upon them dictate social interactions. The costuming features many common outfits of the era: duster coat and plaid shirt, letter jackets and tank tops, high top sneakers with long dress.
dir: Daniel Waters | starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
The original "Mean Girls", this film has a decidedly darker edge than many teen movies of the 80's. The main characters are a group of popular girls completely decked out in shoulder padded colorful jackets, pegged pants with ballet flats and (of course) scrunchies. They are terrible to each other and even worse to everybody else in the school. The rebel boyfriend is dressed in darker jeans, long dark trench indicating his bad boy status. Winona Ryder's character, although part of the popular clique, stands slightly apart in her sensibilities which is indicated by her subtlely more goth spin on the popular girl uniform. The jocks and geeks and every subculture in between is well represented throughout the school and in the clothes they are wearing.
Valley Girl (1985)
dir: Martha Coolidge | starring: Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily
This movie is a great example of California style in the 80's. The first scene opens in the local mall and is trove of great fashion from that time. The contrast of the high-end Valley kids with the subversive edge of the downtown Hollywood kids is on full display. The girls in the Valley sport tight colorful clothes, armloads of plastic bangles, and teased hair, many of the styles are inspired by the aerobecise movement (buy, hey, who can laugh when we have normcore?). I even spotted more than one across the brow headband and some legwarmers. Their male counterparts wear standard jock and preppy issued gear: acid wash jeans and sherbet colored polos with turned up collars, tank tops and Reeboks. Nicholas Cage, playing the bad boy from downtown, wears dark colors, black pants, muscle shirts and spiked hair. The nighctlub scene shows a big contrast between the suburban party scene and the counterculture occupying the Hollywood downtown clubs.
The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
dir: Matthew Robbins | starring: Helen Slater, Christian Slater, Keith Gordon
This movie is a cult classic with some spot-on trends called out. Unfortunately, there are not any great trailers to post, so hopefully this clip will give you a glimpse of what this movie has in store. The lead character goes from sweet, full dresses and flirty looks to an 80's version of a fashion warrior complete with Billy Idol hair. Nearly every scene has a great fashion statement going on: the proper use of accessorizing with bandanas, the importance of paper bag waisted pants, the pork pie hat, the belly shirt - the list could go on and on. Some of this is looking remarkably current right now.
Can't get enough of the 80's? Here are some runner-ups that were tough to cut from the list:
Better off Dead (1985): Although the entire cast is spot on for 80's trends, it's the foreign exchange student, Monique, who has the most covetable wardrobe.
Weird Science (1985): While this movie is not going down in history as masterpiece of film, there are definitely some sublime fashion moments thanks to Kelly LeBrock and the scenes shot at the local mall
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986): This homage to playing hooky really set the bar high for what could be accomplished in one day of skipping school, all done in classic suburban style.
Sixteen Candles (1984): There are some fashion gems here, but you'll have to tolerate a story that has not aged very well (hello bad Asian jokes and casual date rape references). Let's just say the 80's were not really known for being politically correct.
I'd be curious to hear what your top picks are for films showcasing 80's style.
* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.