Sunday, December 5, 2010

1980's Teen Films & the 1990's




Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) is a teen classic that showcased California teens in school and at their after school jobs. The jobs required odd uniforms, from fast food above and below, to movie theater tuxes to pirate hats. The uniform is an important element to teen life in school athletics as well.

Spicoli is the only main character who is not seen in uniform. He plays a surfer who's casual t-shirt and jean aesthetic is still common today.


Costume designer Marilyn Vance is responsible for Fast Times and a number of other iconic 80's teen films.

In Sixteen Candles (1984) Molly Ringwald plays the lead who is consistently in solid pastels, the same colors worn by those in her circle. The man she desires however wears plaids, and classic prep colors and patterns.

Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall appear again a year later in The Breakfast Club and have similar looks in solid earth tones, Ringwald in pink.


The Breakfast Club brought together teens that each represented a different circle, evident in clothing.

The clothing is also representative of American style, mainly denim, khaki, sportswear and cottons. The teens oppose one character in the film, which is common to teen films - the principle or teacher figure who is always a man in a suit.


Judd Nelson plays the delinquent who arrives mysteriously in the film in sunglasses and trench coat and is slowly unveiled. The film is only 1 day so the clothing is limited but the characters unveil themselves by removing layers as the grow intimate with each other.


The greatest character transformation is with Ally Sheedy who begins covered and a bulky jacket and then it beautified by Molly Ringwald's character.

Emilio Estevez plays a jock in sportswear and while the look is limited, he transforms through removing layers, playing with clothes and in the end wearing the all American sports jacket.

In Pretty in Pink (1986) Vance was influenced by the Miami Vice look of the moment and emphasizes suits for the more established male leads while Molly Ringwald's world this time is a more eclectic thrift store aesthetic.



The record store is important to the look of the film. Below 2 key looks in the film are the dress worn when Ringwald attends a party. Her effort to look well dressed and conservative finds her looking over dressed for the party. In the last scene she adapts her mother's pink dress into her prom look.



Above Heathers (1989) dressed the high school girls in sophisticated, mature suits, replayed in Clueless (1995) below.

The promotional images for Clueless below emphasized the film as a shopper's movie. The main character is a fashion victim who's identity is at first contingent on purchase but is slowly transformed. The film also includes character transformation as the main girls help an outcast improve her appearance.


The 1990's teen scene was dominated by grunge. Kurt Cobain helped popularized the look of striped and plaid shirts, torn jeans and converse. The look was re-created for Last Days right, 2005.



Below Dazed & Confused (1993) showed the slacker teen aesthetic of the 70's revived by grunge and emerging hipster style


Some of the most significant stylistic films of the 1990's were created by Quentin Tarantino. He referenced styles from previous films, especially in his creation of Uma Thurman's character for Pulp Fiction which was based on Anna Karina.



Later on Tarantino used the iconic Bruce Lee uniform for Uma in the Kill Bill series.

Fight Club (1999) was another influential style film. The two main characters wear suits, though Brad Pitt has a more colorful, thrift store look and emphasized tanks as well in the film.


The fighter tanks were influential to Versace in 2000 and Gaultier in 2010.


Pretty Woman (1990) also by Marilyn Vance uses costume for transformation as Julia Roberts' character goes from a sports bra wearing call girl to a more well dressed lawn party guest.

Edward Sizzorhands, costumes by Colleen Atwood in 1990, shows an extreme costume in combination with prop designers. The hands were combined with dramatic looks such as the lab coat left and biker look right.


The comic Austin Powers series was based on research by designer Deena Appel who used photos of London's Carnaby Street to create look.



Titanic featured Oscar winning costumes by Deborah Scott. She deeply researched the history and the looks of the wealthy at the time period.



The end of 1990's also saw the intersection of costume and gender identity. Below Boys Don't Cry (1999) and Shakespeare in Love (1998).

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