PRETTY IN PUNK
REVISITING FASHION'S FAIRY GODMOTHER OF THE EIGHTIES
In the mid 1980’s John Hughes had cemented his status as godfather to teens everywhere with his groundbreaking coming of age movies Sixteen Candles,The Breakfast Club and St.Elmo’s Fire. Each of these adolescent classics starred members of the notorious Brat Pack - a nickname coined first in a 1985 ‘New York’ article about the group of young actors and their notorious friendships. Although negative in its portrayal of their camaraderie and behaviours, the nickname spread like wildfire and sealed their fates as eighties icons.Those icons in particular were Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, Anthony Michael Hall, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson and of course Molly Ringwald.
With Ringwald leading the pack after her breakout role in Sixteen Candles she became a bonafide star and fashion darling - gracing the covers of Time, Seventeen, Elle and Interview. She became the voice of awkward teenage girls everywhere and inspired them to not only speak up but how to seriously accessorise. It made sense for Hughes to create another vehicle for Ringwald and in 1986 he wrote Pretty In Pink - a blueprint for modern Cinderella stories to come. In the movie Ringwald portrays Andie Walsh - a girl from the literal wrong side of the tracks with a low income single father and a penchant for making her own trademark fashion creations. Her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) not so subtly worships Andy while she in turn falls for Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) - a ‘Richie’ from the ‘right’ side of the tracks who (spoiler alert) ends up seeing Andy for the princess she really is. But not before she makes her own incredible pink creation to wear to the prom and declares, ’I just want them to know they didn’t break me’. Iconique.
But every Cinderella needs a fairy godmother and in Pretty In Pink, Annie Potts portrayal of Iona - a record store owning, man obsessing, dress collecting agony aunt - does just that and so much more. Potts who had previously brought her own brand of endearing eccentricities to Ghostbusters and would go on to star in the camp classic television series Designing Women and family favourites like Toy Story, Young Sheldon and the Ghostbusters series, brings an enchanting mix of fashion flair, nostalgic wonder and punk spirit to her character that makes her just as loveable and memorable as the movie’s lead - not an easy feat. While it’s easy to see why an adolescent girl would swoon for Ringwald’s pastel creations, clashing prints and over accessorised jackets - styled so beautifully by the legendary Marilyn Vance - it’s Iona’s scene stealing, imaginative and height of eighties punk creations that are real stand out’s and in turn inspired a legion of queens, punks and artists for decades to come.
We first meet Iona in her record store ‘Trax’ where Andy works after school and is about to have her first encounter with her Prince Charming Blaine. Iona, standing on top of the counter top while stapling dozens of vinyl records to the ceiling declares ‘’Applause,Applause,Applause’’ while marvelling at her own work. Dressed in quintessential eighties punk fashion, Iona’s first look is strong, bold and edgy - just like her first character impression. A white tee is covered in a black corseted rubber dress. A large belt holds strips of vinyl, keys, chains and keyring accessories while her arms are covered in rubber bracelets, a black leather glove and a silver arm bracelet. Her hair is a nod to Siouxsie and the Banshees’s iconic spikes with a long ponytail added in for playfulness. Costume designer Marilyn Vance once said that its not about designing costumes, its about creating characters and this is a perfect introduction to Iona’s character.
Iona’s second look is more romantic and a little softer than her previous outfit which fits perfectly with the emotional scenes ahead. Back at Trax, Andy is about to head on a first date with Blaine while her best friend Duckie is about to get his heart broken. Iona, ever the empath, feels for Duckie and takes care of him for the rest of the night. Dressed in a tailored black shirt that would make Mugler fans swoon, a tight pencil skirt with layers of clashing prints and a chic red crochet hair net, Iona looks like she has stepped right out of the New Romanics era. Standing next to a Dead Or Alive album poster feels like a perfect nod to her punk roots while the darker red lighting of the bar she and Duckie attend compliments both her softer dialogue and look.
A quick hair, makeup and costume change later, Iona is dancing with Andy and wishing that she could ,’Start older and get younger’. Her hair has been transformed into a retro fringed beehive, her makeup has been simplified to a blue shadow with a subtle wing and she is wearing an incredible pastel pink dress with with polka dots accessories with yellow fur slippers and a small pearl necklace. The dream. This dress falls into Andy’s hands later in the movie where it will be customised into the iconic Pretty In Pink prom dress we all know and love. As Iona tells Andy about a date that she has, she looks at her dress and asks ,’Too Much?’. Not in our eyes Iona.
Iona’s final look maybe be the most shocking of all. While by today’s standards her Miami Vice inspired look is camp and dramatic, it was looking back, mainstream for the time and this is Iona’s way of simplifying her fashion because she wants to make it work with her new guy. While we’re not sure we agree with that sentiment today, the look is actually quite playful, fun and still very much of the era. A white suit is paired with a daring red shirt, a pearl necklace is fashioned like a tie and her once tall beehive is now a blown out do - seriously how much talent and time does this woman have? In her final moments, Iona is once again in fairy godmother mode - drying Andy’s tears, taking her in her arms and not only giving her advice but passing on her beloved pink prom dress to her protégée. What a legend.