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Remembering The 1980s Fashions In Valley Girl

By , 19 November, 2009, No Comment

I had spotted this fashion shopping spread in that Elle‘s Women In Hollywood Issue, and the minute I saw it I was confused.


“Break out the jelly platforms, biker shorts, neon bouclé and juicy bangles for a totally rad ensemble,” it says — for Valley Girl?! That’s not the way I remembered the fashions in the film. So, jumping the que in our NetFlix account, I got Valley Girl (1983) to refresh my memory.

Valley Girl stars Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in the ultimate 80’s Romeo and Juliet story — with a much better ending, as no one dies. *wink* It has sat in my memory all these years as a great film in terms of capturing and expressing the look and feel of the times presented — not just the decade, but those teen years — projecting it all onto a screen then, and preserving it for us now. (I’m not the only one who feels this way either.)

To be honest, Kleph has an excellent review of the film; I found it while Googling for photos and insist that you read it because I probably couldn’t say it better or add anything, really. Plus, this post is about other things about the film: the fashions in the film. So let’s get to it.

Like I said, I could have been wrong recalling the fashions in the film, so I watched it again to be sure… But I wasn’t wrong. Valley Girl is not full of jelly & neon.

Valley Girls Mall Shopping

Valley Girls Mall Shopping

This was a period of bright colors, but not neon; think hot pink, turquoise, and yellow, not day-glo colors. The 80’s also had a strong punk influence — black, red, and more black.

Teen House Party In Valley Girl

Teen House Party In Valley Girl

Overall, bright solids, stripes and blocks of color were predominant. Collars were ‘up’. Patterns and stripes were bold, clear & crisp, not the colorful cluttered-on-black zippered things Elle shows.


Julie and Randy in the Mall Food Court

And Julie also wore quite a bit of the that romantic lacy look that I can best describe as Gunne Sax — not just in her prom dress (or the prom dresses of others), but lacy tops with long sleeves with plenty of buttons.

Lace Blouse In Valley Girl

Lace Blouse In Valley Girl

Julie doesn’t just wear these clothes for the cinematic conveyance of her difference, her ties to her hippie parents, her romantic side, or her nervousness dressing for a party (when her friend has to help her button those buttons on her sleeves); these fashions were strong in the 80’s. I owned and wore several of these sorts of blouses — and my prom dresses were all Gunne Sax.

Posing For Prom Pictures In Valley Girl

Posing For Prom Pictures In Valley Girl

I didn’t live in Southern California, but my friends and I dressed a lot like this (the ‘trickle to the heartland’ theory of fashion); one of the reasons that this movie spoke to us all then — and is fondly remembered now.

That Elle might get the fashions wrong is sad… It’s not just that I want the staff to be old enough to remember Valley Girl (though that would be nice!), fashion was a huge part of the film. As Kleph wrote:

That’s partly because Coolidge understood the distinction was a fallacy to begin with. The valley kids define themselves through what they buy while the Hollywood kids do it by what they don’t – but they still show their allegiances via what they wear. And it’s important that, in Valley Girl, when Julie and Randy first see each other – first become interested in each other – it’s at the beach when they are not in the usual garb of their tribes. It’s also no accident the film starts inside a mall but ends outside it.

Valley Girl is an iconic film which preserves fashions of the time as much as it uses them for a point, yet in pushing the return of such retro 80s fashions, Elle gets it all wrong. For the fashion mag to get the fashions so wrong isn’t ironic; it’s a tragedy.

Josie Cotton Performing In Valley Girl

Josie Cotton Performing In Valley Girl

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  • Jennifer

    The clothes displayed in that Elle layout are closer to the late 80s/early 90s, if anything; but, as with all nostalgia, it will be filtered by those reclaiming it. *smiles*

  • Jaynie Van Roe

    Jelly shoes and neon were not only late 80’s but primarily worn by teens — at least in my area.

    Everything is filtered, Jennifer; but is it too much to ask that they know the movie itself if they’re going to reference it for shopping? I don’t think so 😉

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