Pretty In Pink: How John Hughes' films captured the style of a generation

Maria Henry explores the influence of the legendary director John Hughes and how his films captured the spirit of the 80s.

As we move into this new decade, we may find ourselves looking to the past for inspiration. The 1980s was an interesting, diverse and quickly changing time for fashion. In 1982, Jane Fonda paved the way out of the ‘70s in bright purple Lycra leggings and puffy leg warmers as dance aerobics became a national sensation in the US. This sporting craze saw an influx in ‘fitness fashion’, including wide belts, sweatbands, bodysuits over bright-coloured tights, chunky sneakers, and velour tracksuits.

In ‘84 Madonna made her grand debut with her ‘scandalous’ performance of Like a Virgin at the MTV music awards, shocking viewers and solidifying herself as a teenage pop sensation and fashion icon. Her short skirts paired with leggings, fishnet gloves, strings of costume pearls and big, bleached blonde hair tied with an oversized bow became staples of fashion for girls everywhere.

On the underground scene, the punk movement had begun to rise, bringing in new opportunities for self-expression through rebelling against the norms of conservative fashion rules — big oversized jackets with badges pinned to them, ripped tights and jeans, shaved heads or gelled, spiky hair, all became a way to showcase punkrock spirit.

The 1980s also brought in significant social change, with more women being able to work than ever before. This led to the introduction of new trends in workwear, including the iconic shoulder-padded blazers that seem so synonymous with the decade now.

Overall the ‘80s saw the rise of diverse selection of contrasting styles, making it an interesting period of transformation for fashion and fashion ‘norms’.

If there is one man who managed to capture the essence of the 1980s, it was John Hughes. John Hughes was in the prime of his career in the 1980s, directing classics such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink andSixteen Candles.

Hailed as the king of the teenage film, Hughes captured the feeling of what it meant to be a teen in the ‘80s almost so well you would think he was one. This is reflected in the costume design of his films, with each character displaying their individuality through a perfectly curated ‘80s wardrobe.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1987)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off gave us a range of brilliant ‘80s staples. Between Ferris’ mum’s heavily shoulder-padded work blazer, Sloane’s iconic white fringe jacket and high waisted shorts, Cameron’s oversized sports jersey and Ferris’ own patterned waist-coat cardigans and white leather jacket — it’s not difficult to guess which era the film belongs to. Costume Designer Marilyn Vance curated a wardrobe which perfectly reflected the colourful range of characters and their fun-loving personalities.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

In 1985 Hughes released the now cult classic The Breakfast Club. Perhaps one of the most recognisable interpretations of teen angst, The Breakfast Club introduced us to a range of misfits thrown together into weekend detention and forced to realise they aren’t so different after all. All of the characters are given their own individual look. One of the most iconic being Molly Ringwald’s ‘princess’ pink attire, featuring a soft V-neck pink satin blouse paired with contrasting dark brown high-waisted skirt and knee-high boots — a classic ‘80s combination of soft and harsh.
Then, of course, we have Judd Nelson’s classic‘80s ‘rebel’ costume — inclusive of an oversized denim jacket, fingerless gloves, white Tshirt and oversized plaid shirt. A now iconic look associated with the spirit of ‘80s rebellion, misunderstood teens and effortless style.

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Pretty in Pink brought us some of the most out-there ‘80s fashion on screen. It’s safe to say that Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie, has an individual sense of style, and that’s one of the reasons that this film is so great.

Not having a lot of money, Andie often creates her own clothes — layering different patterns and fabrics to create outfits that in theory shouldn’t work, but somehow, they do.

Always very pink, Andie showed an audience of ‘80s teens how having your own sense of style is an asset and how you don’t need to be rich to achieve this, just crafty. A perfect example of this is her home-made prom dress, the off-the shoulder, high neck, lace and satin gown is the perfect example of ‘80s elegance and individuality.

Andie’s best friend Duckie is also a perfect example of individual style. Much like Andie, Duckie is often seen wearing numerous layers of different patterned clothing. He wears blazers, waistcoats, shirts with up-turned collars and always accessorises to the highest extent with badges, watches, small pieces of jewellery and bolo-ties. Duckie is an early example of blurring the lines in gendered dressing, creating masculine looks whilst incorporating more ‘feminine’ aspects associated with womenswear. ‘80s fashion was all about individuality and breaking the strict rules of what men and women could wear set by the previous decades and the fashion in Pretty in Pink perfectly encapsulates this defiant style.

Featuring a soft V-neck pink satin blouse paired with contrasting dark brown high-waisted skirt and kneehigh boots — a classic ‘80s combination of soft and harsh. Then, of course, we have Judd Nelson’s classic‘80s ‘rebel’ costume — inclusive of an oversized denim jacket, fingerless gloves, white Tshirt and oversized plaid shirt. A now iconic look associated with the spirit of ‘80s rebellion, misunderstood teens and effortless style.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Last, but certainly not least we have the film Sixteen Candles. Once again starring Molly Ringwald (who at this point was quickly becoming an icon for ‘80steen girls everywhere), Sixteen Candles tells the story of 16-year-old Samantha.

Samantha’s style is classically feminine: she is seen wearing floral dresses overTshirts, knee-length flowing plaid skirts and off-the-shoulder tops, and often ties her pink cardigan around her shoulders, creating the perfect picture of a preppy teenage girl. However, the most wellknown look from the film would have to be the gigantic, puffy, pink bridesmaid gown Sam wears at the end of the film, complete with jewelled earrings and an assortment of pink and blue flowers in her hair — the ultimate ‘80s wedding look.

Overall, the ‘80s was a period of self-expression. Especially for the younger generations, the changing culture allowed them to have greater freedom with what they wore and how they used it to show who they were. John Hughes’ films perfectly captured the feeling of teenage-hood during this period, the desires to be a modern person, in a world that was only just beginning to let go of oldfashioned values. This, I’m sure, is still a relatable issue for many people out there who struggle to express themselves in the ways they would like to, out of fear of judgement from those less accepting. However, if the films can teach you anything, it’s that in the end — you are always better off when you’re being exactly who you are.

If you liked this article you can find more of Maria’s work over on Twitter @Mariawriteshere

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