Can't Buy Me Love is a teen film from 1987, starring the McDreamy Patrick Dempsey and Amanda Peterson, an actress who disappeared off the Hollywood radar in 1995 (but if you want see what she looks like now here she is posing with a snake and riding a motorcycle). This is classic 80's angst - it features a "nerdy" boy - nerdy the way Rachel Leigh Cook is nerdy in She's All That - who loves a popular cheerleader from afar. There is also a top-class makeover, and characters ultimately realising there is more to life than high school cliques. And of course it's packed with eye-popping outfits of awesomeness. The film is set in Tucson, Arizona (there are a lot of cactus establishing shots) and the wardrobe designer obviously wanted to capitalise on that, so get ready for oodles of cowboy hats, aztec prints, bolo ties and pointy boots. Oh and suede frill.
As with a lot of teen films the storyline is entertaining but also makes you do the, "Err really?!" head tilt on occasion. But today we're mainly here to look at them clothes. I was prompted to dissect this film by the lovely Treasure Burrell who wisely noted that there were some threads in this movie that needed to be discussed.
So without further ado...(warning, this post contains a lot of spoilers).
This is Cindi Mancini. She's got it all, at least in American high school terms. She's beautiful, smart, a cheerleader, and just happens to be dating a college football player. Here she is practising for the big game. Please note the red and white, red is very much Cindi's colour, and as we know, red is the colour of the popular girl.
Cindi loves her boyfriend so much she has a cardboard cut out of him in her bedroom.
And yes, her bedroom is amazing. I want a huge 'Outrageous' sign on my wall!
This fella below is Ronald Miller, he's completely obsessed with Cindi, in the Rom/Com way i.e. it makes him really appealing and we fall for him a bit, as opposed to the IRL way where it would just be weird and creepy.
Here he is watching Cindi at cheerleading practise. Ronald's style is very simple: T-shirts and open-necked shirts always tucked in to his jeans or slacks, light coloured sneakers, wild hair or a beret/cowboy hat, and those glasses.
Cindi meanwhile likes to steal her mom's clothes, which is what she has done on this fateful night pictured below. Her mother told her categorically that she was not allowed to wear her white suede three-piece fringed suit, BUT CINDI WORE IT ANYWAY. In her defence the reason she disobeyed her mom is because her boyfriend - who is away at college - appeared on TV and didn't mention that he missed her. So her life is basically over. Right?
Um, the suit is amazing. But unfortunately this happens:
Pretty significant that it is RED wine, no? Also look at that amazing crop top, thick waistband and boxy jacket. I'm in love.
Cindi is devastated, she goes to the bathroom and attempts to wash the wine off. Which is great as we get a close-up of her furry earrings.
Most kids would probably own up to their parents and suffer the consequences, but instead Cindi makes a deal with Ronald. In exchange for the money to buy a replacement suit, she will date him and make him the one thing he desires most in the world - popular.
Has this ever happened to anyone, ever? Because it's a common teen film trope and I don't know anyone who has done it. Or maybe they have and I just don't know?!
Of course no one would believe a perfect angel like Cindi was dating someone as MONSTROUS and deeply uncool as Ronald, so she has to quickly get him ready for their dating debut. I may be biased here as Patrick Dempsey reminds me a lot of Jeremy (my husband) in this movie, but I think Ronald looks pretty great already. Anyway, this is a lot like the speedy makeover Cher and Dionne perform on Ms. Geist in Clueless. Pay close attention, it may well come in handy for you and the person who has bought your friendship one day.
1. Asses the situation. The beret has to go. Also this screengrab gives us a nice view of Cindi's crimped hair and aztec print bag.
2. The glasses also have to go. I guess.
3. As do the sleeves, everyone knows cool people are only cool because their arms are cold.
OK, now you're ready Jeremy! I mean, Ronald!
The new couple walk the halls together for the first time. Ronald has mousse in his hair, Cindi is dressed like someone 10 years older. It's a match made in heaven.
Obviously the football players Cindi associates with immediately notice something is up.
That guy on the right must be the coolest guy in school! He's literally wearing a 12 year old girls top! He must be positively freezing! I also like how the jocks are hanging out in front of the trophy case, it must be a great conversation ice breaker, "Oh, this award? Yeah that's mine, I got it for wearing nothing but an apron in Home Ec" (see below).
Ronald's old friends, his life long chums, quiz him about Cindi and his new look. I imagine they also probably asked for tickets to his GUN SHOW.
That Friday Cindi and Ronald attend a party together. Ronald wears his best beige suit and slicks down his wayward (beautiful) curls.
I think maybe this time he styled Cindi as she appears to be wearing some of his other beige items and also his beret. They laugh about it together over a beer.
I love her brown lipstick and big earrings.
Cindi and Ronald really start to get to know each other. This is them hanging out while Ronald cleans his dad's car and Cindi reveals to him that she writes poetry. I like her relaxed matching crop top, shorts and slouch socks.
I also love this outfit she wears for hers and Ronald's staged break up outside school. Oversized blazer, yellow jumper dress, 15 denier tights and black leather gloves. She dresses like an 80's magazine art director who lives in New York and only eats dim sum.
However, my absolute favourite of Cindi's looks has to be this one. Head to toe in pale pink, with a fluffy blow dry, pale glossy lips, lacy footless tights, and an ice cream.
But then on Monday at school it's back to red, red, red (mixed with black) and a great eye roll.
Also look at these amazing pink ankle boots. Andie Walsh would have KILLED for these.
As he gets more popular Ronnie's style (he switches to this much cooler nickname) takes on a life of it's own. He really embraces the cowboy look, with waistcoats, checked shirts, western belts and boots.
Oh and of course Amanda and her credit cards help him along the way in a wonderful shopping montage that precedes Pretty Woman.
These mirrored sunglasses are everything, Ronnie starts wearing them all the time, often with a chain and a lot of sass.
Eventually his sleazy cowboy style reaches its zenith in this incredible outfit. It's spectacular, it's bold, it's slick, it's cooooooool.
And at night he mixes it up with a leather jacket, darker shirts, and a new girl on his arm.
His prom look is rad. Oh and it's another girl.
He's still pretty adorable, even if his new found popularity is going to his head. This screengrab above is him practising dance moves in the men's bathroom.
Um, can we just take a moment to look at the band playing the prom? Thanks.
What's with the big ship in the background??
Ronnie also finds a new way to wear his sunglasses which no doubt is copied by other people at his school who want to be as awesome as he is.
Sadly Ronnie's fast ride to the top of the high school heap comes to an abrupt stop when he throws a party at his house and Cindi's ex-boyfriend shows up. But before that happens we have to check out Cindi's amazing "I'm drunk and totally over all you superficial d-bags but don't I look fabulous?" outfit.
I mean she does dress a lot older than her years, but it looks goooooood. Uh oh here comes the ex with the hair.
This guy immediately recognises Ronnie for the LOSER he really is, and is stunned to find out Cindi dated him. He calls them both out on it, and Cindi drunkenly rants that all her friends are so dumb for believing this guy was awesome simply because of the clothes he wore and who he was snogging.
Ronnie is completely ostracised at his own party, and has to watch from outside like a hungry victorian child. Then he sleeps in the garage and cries all night long.
The next day at school he tries to pretend everything is OK and back to normal, "I'm wearing my cowboy-inspired dream togs guys!" but to no avail.
Cindi sees this happen, looking down on him from above, the red queen of popularity.
At lunch Ronnie, or should I say, Ronald, has to sit on his own and isn't even allowed to be seen drinking coca cola. He has to revert back to supping the inferior Shasta cola.
He reverts back to his pre-popular style, but keeps some elements of his old new look. Here he is trying to make it up to his ex best friend, but the boy with the beautiful red hair wants nothing to do with him.
Likewise Cindi won't talk to him, even when he sneaks into the girls bathroom and runs his fingers over the smooth metal door of her cubicle. I love his outfit here. The perfect marriage of Ronnie and Ronald.
And his look here is just perfect. All boys should wear black high tops, black jeans and patterned shirts with the cuffs rolled up. It's so loose and gorgeous.
Eventually it's Ronald's brother who saves his social standing, accosting Cindi at the mall and telling her how upset his big bro is. Also Ronald's brother is played by Seth Green.
Yes, SETH GREEN. WITH DYED BLACK HAIR.
I really like how Ronald has decorated his bedroom. Neon cactus, creepy pencil drawing of Cindi...it's so great.
The next day (maybe, the timeline is unclear) Ronald gets Cindi's attention by riding his dad's lawnmower outside her house at six in the morning.
I LOVE THIS JUMPER HE IS WEARING HERE IT LOOKS SO SOFT AND COSY.
Cindi doesn't forgive him...yet. She makes him wait a bit, until the next time he's on his dad's lawnmower. I like how "lawnmower" in this film is the same as "horse", hence the cowboy hat and boots.
Check out Cindi's serious outfit for a serious discussion of their serious relationship. I particularly like the matching earrings and bracelet.
Aw, they work it out and ride off into the sunset, with her swiping his hat for the perfect end to a perfect outfit.