Pretty in Pink (or: Please, please, please let me get what I want this time. Iona’s sense of style)
From its opening frames — a series of hyper-close-ups of Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) getting dressed in her eclectic handmade outfit — it is clear that Pretty in Pink is a film about fashion, about style, and about what the things we wear say about us, along with what they don’t say.
Andie is a “mutant,” a new wave girl from the wrong side of the tracks who makes up for her lack of shopping funds with serious creativity and skill with a needle and thread. She wears a lot of pink. She also wears these round glasses, which I’d like to point out are almost exactly like the glasses I had for the latter half of elementary school.
Andie likes Blane (Andrew McCarthy), a “richie” who likes her back. But the two inhabit decidedly different social circles. Blane very clearly does not fit into Andie’s social circle.
Ditto for Andie in Blane’s world (also known as the rest of the school). Also, I totally forgot how big pastel was in the 80s. Dear fashion world, pastels and I don’t really get along, this kind of California cool style is not something I’d like to be wearing anytime soon.
But forget about Andie and Blane. Andie’s wardrobe = pink +florals +lace +neutral +hat. Blane’s is shirt +another shirt +pants. Boring.
Enter Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Iona (Annie Potts).
These two are really the heart of the film, both as delightful, interesting characters and as wearers of great clothing. Duckie is Andie’s constant companion, an adorably fawning c0-mutant who is completely and unabashedly in love with her. For her part, Andie is completely not interested. I do not understand this. I love Duckie. Duckie is probably my all-time top movie crush. This scene, where he lip syncs to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness?
Pure jubilance enters my heart when I see that. Oh, Duckie. Apparently [spoiler alert] the first version of the film ended with Andie and Duckie together. At first this idea made me happy. Then I thought about it. No way. Duckie deserves someone way cooler than Andie.
Instead of lying in bed, listening to the Smiths, pining for Andie —
— while andie lies in bed pining for Blane —
(this robe/ballet slipper outfit is one of the only things Andie wears that I absolutely love)
— what I really want is for Duckie to end up with Iona.
If Duckie is my all-time top movie crush, Iona is for sure one of my biggest “women with great style” film icons. The 30-something record store manager and sort-of mother figure to Andie is just amazing. Warm, quirky, graphic, fun, unexpected. I was pretty sure when I was a kid that I would grow up to dress like this:
Current me would for sure wear that black and white dress.
And I wish I could pull off a beehive. Also, I completely love the set design in Iona’s Chinatown apartment. Again, the height of cool to my young mind.
Unfortunately for me and my dreams of a Duckie Iona romance, Iona ends up with a (very nice, age appropriate) yuppie, and her style shifts to teach Andie that when love is involved, appearance doesn’t matter as much.
Or that it matters more. I’m not sure. It may be more a lesson in giving up your individuality in order to create a shared sense of being in the world, which is not my favourite lesson. I like to imagine that the yuppie would like her no matter how she dressed. Or that she’s commenting on the fact that all clothing is just costuming, so it doesn’t really matter what you wear… Anyways.
Early in the film Andie’s high school principal says to her, “If you put out signals that you don’t want to belong, people are going to make sure that you don’t.”
“That’s a beautiful theory,” she responds, surly as all get-out.
With the orginal ending (despite the fact that I still don’t think Andie deserves my Duckie) maybe this moral — that you can belong despite looking a bit odd, or maybe that you don’t even want to belong, or that nobody really belongs, or everyone does (this is why I did poorly in philosophy. Too many possibilities) — would be upheld. As it stands, I’m left at the end feeling vaguely disappointed and slightly forsaken (and wanting to go hang out with Duckie at the new wave bar). I think maybe this has to do with the fact that John Hughes wrote the movie, but didn’t direct, so it’s missing some of his sensibility and nerdlove. Still, John Hughes +Duckie +Iona +a great soundtrack = a pretty great 80s film.
In a related note, I really want to see Don’t You Forget About Me, a documentary about a group of filmmakers who try to find out why John Hughes disappeared from the film world. I love that man, and am sad he’s not around anymore. I find it hard to believe it’s been a year since he died. Major, major, major influence on my understanding of the world. If you never read that piece about being his teenage pen pal, I highly recommend it. It makes me glad people can make unexpected connections, which seems to be his whole thing.