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Image / Fashion

Why eighties rom-coms are my ultimate style inspiration

by Erin Lindsay
03rd Apr 2019

We talk a lot about personal style at IMAGE – how to find what suits you, what moves you, and crucially, where to find inspiration. My own personal style has sort of exploded over the past few years, in the best way possible. Experimenting with trends, dipping in and out of mismatched looks and following where my eye wanders on the shop floor has meant that my ‘personal style’ isn’t very defined anymore. It’s only now beginning to settle into a groove of marked likes and dislikes, what suits me and what doesn’t. I haven’t had an explicit idea of what I want my style to be for years, or specific style icons for that matter. Not since I first discovered eighties rom-coms that is.

My early teenage years were spent almost exclusively on Tumblr (remember that?), a micro-blogging site that was basically a 13-year-old’s dream world – it had everything from pop music to teenage-angst quotes to pointless-but-aesthetically-pleasing pictures of glitter. And crucially, it had a lot of nostalgia – especially 1980s-based. It was here that I discovered the beautifully kitschy world of The Breakfast Club and Dirty Dancing, and more importantly, the outfits in them. Eighties rom-coms are, hands-down, the best style inspiration you could ever get – the patterns, the silhouettes, the perms (which are back, as you well know). I wanted to be those girls, not because of their storylines, but because of how unbelievably cool their outfits were. And as I’ve gotten older, my undying love of shoulder pads has only grown. This line-up of women were, and still are, my ultimate style icons:

Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

Image: Columbia Pictures, 1989

Apart from the fact that this is one of the best movies of all time, Sally Albright’s outfits are absolutely one of the best things about When Harry Met Sally. High-waisted blue jeans, autumnal knits, bowler hats, blazers, tonal dressing – I could go on and on here but the gist is that Sally’s got style.

Image: Columbia Pictures, 1989

And we’re not even getting into the hair situations that crop up in this movie. Sally’s perm throughout the second half is great, but her whole look when she meets Harry on the plane is my personal favourite. That sleek blowout with the heritage blazer and red bow neckline – office-wear inspiration every day of the week.

Image: Columbia Pictures, 1989

Even Sally’s party outfits are noteworthy – a forest-green taffeta bridesmaid dress may be one trend that didn’t make it out of the eighties but it still works for her. And that blue crush party dress with the separate sleeves in the last scene is almost as iconic as Harry’s speech (I said almost).

Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

Image: Buena Vista Pictures, 1990

“Big mistake. Big. Huge.” The only rational response to someone saying that they aren’t endlessly inspired by Vivian’s looks in Pretty Woman. I might be cheating a little with this one, as it was released in 1990, but that means it was made in the late 1980s, which lands it a very worthy spot on the list. While Julia Robert’s transformation into a refined, classic beauty is a sight to behold, her wild perm and short hemlines at the start of the movie are just as cool.

Image: Buena Vista Pictures, 1990

Vivian’s classic dresses are the stars of the film, and it seems that I’m not the only one that thinks so. Her brown polka dot dress for a day of polo, and her ivory button-up frock for the shopping spree scene were the inspiration behind two of Zara’s biggest summer sellers last year.

Image: Buena Vista Pictures, 1990

But it’s this look – right here – that is the absolute pinnacle. A rust coloured suit co-ord, with an oversized blazer and Bermuda shorts, and a statement belt. Perm (just less wild) included. Get out of 1990 and into my 2018 wardrobe now.


Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink

Image: Paramount Pictures, 1986

Molly Ringwald, queen of the eighties is one of my biggest nostalgia favourites. Every one of her movies lent plenty of inspiration to my teenage sartorial brain, but it was her turn as thrifter-extraordinaire Andie in Pretty in Pink that really blew my mind.

Image: Paramount Pictures, 1986

This girl taught me everything I know about accessorising – essentially, more is always more. Brooches, earrings, hats, silk scarves, swapping out buttons and belt buckles at every turn – the cheapest changes can make the biggest impact. Andie was a broke teenager but never let that hold her back from being a style icon, and her thriftiness paired with her eye for alterations made her outfits some of my favourites. Except, of course, the dress.

Image: Paramount Pictures, 1986

I am still not over this. A vintage 1960s sugary pink prom dress – cut up into a shapeless curtain. YOU RUINED A PERFECTLY GOOD DRESS ANDIE! Of all the terrible choices she made in this film (who on earth would get with Blane over Duckie? Look at his suit for crying out loud), this was the worst. Never forget.

And the honourable mentions…

Mia Sara in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Image: Paramount Pictures, 1986

Hands-down the most attractive love interest of any eighties teen movie. Her hair. I’ve spent the last ten years of my life trying to get my hair to do what hers did. No luck. I’ll just have to settle for a fringed white leather jacket and Bermuda shorts instead.

The whole cast of Heathers

Image: New World Pictures, 1989

Blazers, brooches and big hair. Are you sensing a pattern yet?