Artwork provided By Mel Marcelo
During the self-indulgent 1980s, the fashion icons of the day epitomized a sense of audacious individualism that was captured in both the film and music of the decade. Shoulder pads and fizzy hair, acid washed jeans with fishnet tank tops, neon colored legwarmers with matching headbands – the fashion of the ’80s was so ahead of its time, even the most risqué style icons couldn’t keep up with all the wicked alterations. Exaggerated makeup and overflowing accessories were dubbed awesome and Bitch’n. Style icons such as Brooke Shields (nobody wore Calvins better), Toni Basil, and Jennifer Beals in Flashdance were embracing an edgier look and leading to endless imitators. With all the raging fashion bombs engulfing popular culture in the ’80s, it seemed impossible for one individual to separate themselves from the herd. Yes, the ’80s were an overflow of excess – nothing seemed to make sense and it didn’t really matter. As a result, most of the styles that emerged, albeit fantastically original, never managed to stand the test of time. A few exceptions, such as Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie, managed to leave an indelible mark on the fashion scene of the decade.
In retrospect, however, most of the fashion kings and queens of the ’80s were like individual flavors in a pack of Skittles; they were unique but hardly able to differentiate themselves from the rainbow of flavors that burst out of each pack. In the end, most of the fashionistas of the era were ‘one-hit wonders’ in the lineage of fashion icons.
Of course, there was one original – a walking conundrum that thrived on a sense of self-reliance and a magician’s mastery of an audience; and by audience, I simply mean everyone with a pulse. Her Italian roots, the ‘in your face’ New Yorker attitude – Madonna was Marilyn Monroe meets a Tommy gun; she was Rosie the Riveter at a discotheque; a trendy Minnie-Mouse with a prizefighter’s chutzpa.
She had panache mixed with a level of bravado that made power-dressed stockbrokers quiver in their Italian loafers. Like a new ride at Disneyland or reaching 88 miles-per-hour to travel through time – Madonna was a fresh jolt of adrenaline for men and women alike. Guys, myself included, wanted to party with her in New York. Girls simply wanted to walk, talk, and most certainly, dress like her.
In one of her first triumphant fashionista moments, the music video for 1984’s Borderline, Madonna ushered in a look that captured the hearts of minds of the MTV generation. Fizzy blonde hair tied up in a bow, dark-blue eye shadow, accessorized leather jackets (with adorning studs) – Madonna even managed to make graffiti look chic. Sure, her style evolved throughout the years: Madonna graduated from fingerless fishnet gloves and acid wash jeans in the early ’80s towards a more elegant classic Hollywood look that shattered the concept of ‘dressing down’ that was the rage during the mid-’90s.
Nevertheless, the Madonna boy-toy look of the decade seems to have transcended even her most glamorous style upgrades throughout the years (think Express Yourself and Vogue). From 1983-1986, for three unforgettable years, Madonna managed to effortlessly combine a tomboy roughness with the glamour of a homecoming queen on her third cup of spiked punch.
Nowadays, if you haven’t looked hard enough on the dance floor (I don’t blame you, it’s dark and loud), you probably missed all the black tank tops, bangle bracelets, and slime green nail polish being flashed your way. Madonna’s romantic-comedy debut look from Desperately Seeking Susan is making a comeback. The red lipstick, natural eyebrows, tiger print jacket – its boy-toy Madonna expressing herself all over again.
Face it, messy chic is back and we have Madonna to thank for it.
In celebration of her iconic look, here is a list of five Madonna music videos that capture the essence of her iconic look between 1983-1986.
Please enjoy these videos with a Capri Sun and some packaged ramen from the East Village:
#1 Holiday – 1983
#2 Borderline – 1984
#3 Lucky Star – 1984
#4 Like a Virgin – 1984
#5 Into the Groove – 1985