It’s Saturday morning, the clock reads 11 am. I’ve had a long Friday night of dining, dancing and perhaps a cocktail or two with the girls, and a restful few hours of sleep. I wake up and it’s about that time for curling up under the cover for a treasured weekend-morning ritual– drinking a cup of coffee and watching an awesomely bad 80s chick flick! Hey, don’t judge, everyone’s got their something… If you know anything about awesomely bad 80s chick flicks, you know there is an abundance of options at my disposal every Saturday morning, everything from For Keeps to Just One of the Guys— it’s a tradition exactly like cartoons, except for really lame adults! Anyways, the single best option if all else fails is an 80s chick flick so full of fluff, yet so incredible that I don’t think anything so far has matched it, Desperately Seeking Susan!
1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan is fantastic, but also a really great Madonna vehicle. But oh! what a fashion forward Madonna vehicle it is! Directed by Susan Seidelman, the film is the story of bored New Jersey housewife Roberta (played by a ditsy Rosanna Arquette) who gets her excitement by reading about a mysterious figure woman named Susan (Madonna) in the New York tabloid personals. When Roberta opens the paper to find a personal entitled “Desperately Seeking Susan”, she decides to finally head to NYC and see if she can run into the mysterious Susan once and for all. Although she doesn’t quite run into her, she does suffer a bump on her head that leaves her with amnesia. Roberta awakes confused and is mistaken for the free-spirited Susan, and quickly finds that being Susan means a series of crazy mishaps involving hot boys, magician schools, possible prostitution and dancing at nightclubs downtown. Also, it includes mafioso men who are on Susan’s tail, hoping to get back a pair of stolen Egyptian earrings. Eventually, things are righted and Susan becomes Susan again, while Roberta becomes Roberta.
With a plot as borderline murky as this, the movie is lucky that Madonna’s style frenzy was at its apex during production. Having just hit the top of the charts with Like a Virgin, Madonna’s signature 1980s style was in high-demand. The movie, which captured the then-seedy downtown New York City bohemian punk, New Wave and dance cultures, was able to use Madonna’s style as a fair representation of what the kids were into at the time. A wise move, because Madonna’s looks in the film went on to become iconic. The basics her character wears are shockingly relevant today: lots of black leggings, oversized tops and blazers, bold neon colors, lots of mesh and studded everything. Layering was an essential and was a great opportunity to mix textures– lace and sequins galore!
Mixing and matching the unlikely was also a big part of Susan’s look in the film. Madonna’s character blended looks, such as mens’ boxers, with more feminine pieces like a frilly tank top to create a stand-out appeal. Strong shoulders of the 80s were paired with girly sequins. Even the delicate lace of her leggings got a tough upgrade when paired with her studded boots. Susan was doing the whole eclectic hobo thing long before the Olsens ever were!
Beyond the basics, probably the best part of the fashion in Desperately Seeking Susan is the accessories! Susan’s style– and by extension, Roberta’s– is all about taking things to the next level with quirky statement pieces. A healthy dose of black rubber bracelets,layered necklaces (hello, religious symbolism!) and colorful head ties were all a part of the look. Most of the accessories were punk in feel, but truly, influences were so varied. Her Raybans? 50s chic! Her gold earrings and cunky belt buckles? Kinda reminds me of grandma jewlery. No matter the source, the result was amazing and inspiring for any fashionista who puts stock in the cult of accesorizing!
Oh, and that whole undies as daywear trend going on now? Yep, that’s right, Susan was one of the originators of that whole bandwagon. Mens boxers, womens lingere, heck, even a bra! If you wear it, Susan firmly believed it was meant to be shown off, regardless of how lacey and intimate it was!
Fashion wise, there isn’t a girl out there who isn’t inspired and enthralled by Madonna’s early look. Although the Material Girl has gone through more transformations since then than anyone’d care to keep track of, most girls remember Madonna’s Desperately Seeking Susan look most fondly. The layers, leggings, and quirky eccentricity is what has made the movie an irreplacable part of my Saturday morning routine!
Check out the infamous club scene from the movie below– the debut of Madonna classic “Get Into the Groove”, and a bonus live performance of the classic!