Janet's Vintage Finds

My Top 10 Movies from the 1980s

Taking a short hiatus from my exploration of vintage purses (back next week with a post about evening bags and clutches) for a fun look back at movies from the 1980s.

There are many top movie lists from that decade, which was an even more prolifically creative decade than I remember. To take one example, Vintage Everyday recently posted a list of “29 Movies from the 1980s You Need to Watch Again” and it’s a pretty amazing collection.  Many films on this list launched the careers of the actors who starred in them and became cultural touch points. Molly Ringwald had an unbelievable run, starring in Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club (along with costars Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez). Michael J. Fox starred in Back to the Future and Tom Cruise headlined Top Gun. The 1980s also gave us ET, FlashDance, The Goonies, Nightmare on Elm Street, Dirty Dancing, Fatal Attraction, and Moonstruck, to name just a few.

That’s enough for any decade but this list doesn’t even mention some of my favorites. So I started perusing other “best of” lists, which led me to create my own Top 10 of personal favorites, listed below. It was hard to narrow it down to 10 as the decade was insanely packed with quality material. So I freely admit that these do not include some of the most culturally influential or popular movies of the day. They are just sentimental favorites that claimed a place in my heart for one reason or another. (Listed chronologically; I couldn’t pick one top favorite).

I’d love to hear your thoughts — Do any of these strike a chord with you? (Movie titles are linked to synopses on Rotten Tomatoes).

The Shining (1980): I’m not generally a big fan of horror movies but The Shining is an exception. Jack Nicholson’s gradual descent into madness is brilliant and no one can let out a blood-curdling scream like Shelley Duvall. I’ve seen it more than once and each time have been scared out my wits when Jack’s psychic son Danny rides his tricycle down the big empty corridors of the hotel toward Room 237. And when Jack reveals what he’s been typing all day. And a lot of other times…

the shining top movies from 1980s
Hard to imagine anyone but Jack Nicholson playing this part.


The Elephant Man (1980). I admit this is a downer, but it’s also deeply affecting, with stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. Set in 19th c London, it’s based on the story of John Merrick who is treated like an idiot and freak because of his extensive physical deformities but is actually very sensitive and intelligent. Hopkins’ character rescues him from the circus side show circuit but he’s never accepted by society at large.

Amadeus (1984): I loved this interpretation of what it might have been like to be a contemporary of Mozart. The story is told in retrospect by the royal composer, Salieri, who could never reconcile himself to Mozart’s talent. Mozart, played by Tom Hulce, was serious about music but completely irreverent and often childish in other ways, and his lack of seriousness infuriated Salieri. It’s fascinating to watch Mozart’s declining health as he labors over his last Requiem. Winner of numerous academy awards.

This is Spinal Tap (1984): A hilarious mockumentary about a British heavy metal band on a “comeback” tour. Starring Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, how could it not be brilliantly funny?

Spinal Tap: A hilarious rock mockumentary (photo from Paste Magazine)











Purple Rain (1984). This wasn’t universally praised when it came out but I remember loving it on the big screen. Prince (may he RIP) was a musical genius and this movie turned me into a major fan.

Purple Rain Prince
Prince was the epitome of cool.

Room with a View (1985). Adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel, this one has a familiar plot (should the lovely heroine marry safe or go with her heart?) but it’s elevated by the screenplay and the actors (Helena Bonham Carter in one of her many period pieces). My favorite scene is when Denholm Elliott’s character asks why you should need a room with a view when (pointing to his heart) “here is where the birds sing, here is where the sky is blue.”

Room with a View: funny and sad at the same time. (photo from Paste Magazine)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). One of my favorite Woody Allen movies. The impressive cast includes Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, and Barbara Hershey. Lots going on with these sisters and there are many subplots running through the narrative. The funniest is Woody’s character who believes he’s going to die the whole time and is looking for answers in various religions.

Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest (photo from Paste Magazine).












The Princess Bride (1987): One of the many brilliant movies directed by Rob Reiner, who couldn’t put out a bad scene in the 1980s (his other movies included Stand By Me, another one I really like but couldn’t fit on this list). This movie, starring Robin Wright and Carey Elwes, is essentially a fairy tale where a handsome hero rescues a beautiful princess — but so much more. Witty dialogue and hilarious situations that remain funny every time I watch them.

Princess bride 1980s movies
A postmodern fairy tale.

Moonstruck (1987). A sentimental favorite, for sure, and one that I’ve watched several times. Cher’s Italian family is hilarious and her mom is played by the amazing Olympia Dukakis, who I love. The most romantic scene is when the characters played by Cher and Nicholas Cage meet at the Metropolitan Opera House. Watch it whenever you need a mood booster.



My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – Ostensibly, this is a kids’ movie but I would recommend it to anyone. It is one of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s most beloved films, and that’s saying a lot because he was an animation genius. The mystical creature Totoro helps two young girls through a difficult time when their mother is sick in the hospital. Extremely touching but never preachy.

Totoro captured my heart (photo from Paste Magazine).

Women Who Wore Hats: Pulling off the Vintage Look

Stylish hats are back in style for women who like a vintage look.  But it’s hard for some of us pull off the looks that women achieved in the early decades of the 1900s. Back then, hats were part of everyday styles, whether at the office, nightclub, or Sunday church. Looking back at some pictures from that era illustrates just how adept these women were at picking the perfect hat for any occasion. Below are some photos that I think showcase some of the most attractive pairings.

Vintage Everyday, which stores a trove of nostalgic photos on its web site, recently posted, “50 Vintage Fashion Photos that Reveal Just How Awesome People Used to Dress.” There are so many fun photos in this feature, including some that highlight fashionable hats.

Check out this picture of a crowd on the streets of London in 1908 — people going about their daily business in hats of all shapes and sizes. Note how they pair long dresses and boas with appropriately large brimmed hats with feathers. Even the kids are wearing hats.

vintage hats city streets
Hats in the crowd

This model at a photo shoot in New York City in 1956 sports a jaunty tam. I love how it looks with the cape. I haven’t seen many capes among vintage clothing today but it looks so stylish and comfortable.

new york model vintage hats
A model in NYC in 1956

“A woman’s hat is a part of her outfit as a whole, not an afterthought,” says Solanah at Vixen Vintage. She posted a collection of vintage hat looks on her blog that is worth checking out. She makes the important point that unlike men, women didn’t remove their hats when they entered a room. The hat was not only a necessary complement to her outfit but also integrated with her hairstyle. Hats were often pinned on with the woman’s hair arranged to suit her hat style.

Audrey Hepburn provides a case in point. She didn’t need a hat to look great but she definitely rocks this pink bowler. Note the positioning pinned on the back of her head rather than perched on top. I think it really accentuates her beautiful face and simple pearl earrings.

audrey hepburn pink hat
Audrey in 1962

African American women routinely wore hats to church and on other special occasions in the early part of the century, and some still do today. Vintage Everyday recently posted photos of some of those women from the 1920s-1940s. I was struck by how well they pitched them at the perfect angle and paired them with just the right outfits. Here’s one who appears to be waiting to leave for church, sporting a wide-brimmed straw hat.

vintage wide brimmed hat.
The wide-brimmed hat, perfect for dressing up in hot weather.

Kristina Uriegas-Reyes at xojane has blogged about her love for the pillbox hat. Finding the perfect positioning is key, she says, rightly pointing out that a lot of older hats are too small for the average woman’s head. However many can be worn at an angle using pins or combs.

Here are some of the hats I’ve collected in my recent travels to thrift shops and estate sales. What are your favorites?

vintage hat glenover
The Glenover Beret by Henry Pollack
vintage hat bowler
A wool bowler with front flower embellishment
vintage straw hat
A straw sunhat with open top.








vintage pillbox hat
Taupe pillbox hat with veil

Audrey Hepburn: Painful Childhood Influenced Her Work on Screen and Off

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn: “Princess of all our fairy tales,” says People Magazine (Winter 1993)

I came across a 1993 issue of People magazine recently. A Special Collector’s Issue devoted to the life of Audrey Hepburn that came out just after Audrey’s death at age 63, from colon cancer.   I remember saving it and pouring over the pictures. She’s always been my favorite Hollywood star (see my previous post on the style of Audrey and Grace Kelly).

I started reading the articles and was reminded of the difficulties she overcame before rising to stardom. We came to think of her as living among the beautiful and privileged but she first endured a harsh childhood spent partly in Nazi-occupied Holland. Born Edda Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Audrey’s first great sorrow was the divorce of her parents when she was just 6. She adored her father and lived with him for a while in London but he mostly ignored her. She later returned to live with her mother–who was of part-Jewish ancestry–in Holland, just before it was invaded by Germany. Over the next few years, her uncle and a cousin were executed by the Nazis.

Audrey Hepburn childhood
Audrey was shy and awkward as a child

Audrey’s mother survived by posing as a pro-German aristocrat but still had her home, property and bank accounts confiscated by the Germans. Audrey’s half-brother was sent to a labor camp after he refused to join a Nazi youth group. The Germans forced the family to evacuate in 1944 and Audrey found herself living in a crowded house in a neighboring village. One day, she was snatched off the streets by German soldiers to work in their military kitchens but escaped to a deserted cellar. There, she nearly died from malnutrition before being rescued by Allied troops in 1945,

The images of war always haunted her and I think this is part of her power on the screen. There are many beautiful movie actresses but, to me, Audrey rose above the pack. She had such a kind face and eyes that could simultaneously express joy and sadness. Think of the scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when she’s sitting on the fire escape outside her apartment singing “Moon River.”

Roman Holiday
Audrey and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”

Audrey started off in show business in Holland but her first Hollywood hit was “Roman Holiday,” in 1953, for which she won an Oscar. Soon after came Holly Golightly in “Breakfast,” the part she became most famous for. Here’s how People describes that role’s impact on style and attitudes at the time:

“Holly was the wanton gadfly of the Kennedy generation, with “Moon River” its love song. Young men fell hopelessly in love with Hepburn when she and George Peppard dropped their cat and dog masks and kissed in front of their elevator; young women descended on American’s major cities wearing beehive hairdos and extravagant dark glasses. Daring to be different, defying the world with her wistful exuberance, Holly in 1961 was the pre-dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

Breakfast at Tiffanys
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast at Tiffanys
With “Breakfast” co-star George Peppard

Her beauty was a mixture of girl-next-door and royal princess. Here’s how the New York Times described her in its obituary:

“Descriptions of her beauty and appeal inevitably included the word “gamine.” She was boyishly slender, with an aristocratic bearing, the trace of a European accent and a hint of mischief. ‘A Wild-Eyed Doe’.”

By the time I came to know Audrey’s work, she was already in her 50s, and I admired her even more as she aged. Her second “career” was working as a roving special ambassador for UNICEF, driven by her own experiences with living in a time of wartime suffering. I remember seeing her on TV visiting children in Ethiopia and other countries. Her celebrity status helped bring needed resources to people suffering during civil wars and famines. She was in Somalia in 1992, just a year before her death.

Audrey Hepburn unicef
Audrey’s second career: ambassador for UNICEF


The publisher’s letter notes that People magazine had never before devoted an entire issue to a single movie star. When Audrey died, the staff started sifting through all the information and pictures and finally decided that a mere article could not do justice to Hepburn’s extraordinary life. I completely agree. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the pictures from that issue — I don’t think she ever took a bad photo.

Audrey Hepburn broadway early career
“Gigi” was her first big role in Broadway
Audrey hepburn style
Audrey’s style had a big influence on fashion trends



Audrey hepburn on bike
Audrey was always stylish, never pretentious








  • Source: Content based on articles in the Winter, 1993 Special Issue of People magazine. Photos taken from the same issue.

We All Need To Look Like A Princess Every Now and Then

For my wedding (quite a few years ago now), I asked a a dressmaker friend who was just opening her own shop to design and sew my dress. In the months leading up to the big day I stopped by for measurements and fittings and remember the excitement I felt as the dress took shape. It was unlike anything I had every worn: silk and satin with an overlay of lace; a long line of tiny pearl buttons; fitted bodice with long, flowing skirt; satin bow trailing down the back. My friend was a creative designer and expert, meticulous seamstress.

wedding satin lace
My wedding dress: satin, pearls, and lace

For years now the dress has lain dormant inside a dry cleaning bag in the back of my closet. Then recently I tried it on and was pleased to discover that it still fit. I love how it makes a luxurious swooshing sound against the floor. Why have I barely glanced at it for decades, I wondered while gazing in the mirror? For one, single day I gave myself license to look like a princess. Then shoved it into the back of a closet for all eternity.

These days, my typical wardrobe falls into the general category of casual/sporty with a few dressier items thrown in for nights out or special occasions. Friends would probably describe my style as updated and practical. And the fact is that I rarely have any reason to dress up. Working from home, I go through entire days without seeing another person, communicating exclusively by email and phone. It’s hard to come up with a good reason to change out of my sweatpants or worn-in jeans.

Like many women, I like the idea of looking perfectly beautiful or glamorous but keep it in the realm of fantasy instead of actually living it. I have a nagging feeling that I’m being too frivolous or not modern enough. I’ve never been someone who was obsessed with frilly things or the color pink. However, I was hooked on Barbie for a while in my pre-teens. And I was transfixed by certain picture books with happy endings, especially “Cinderella.”

Cinderella carriage
From Walt Disney’s Cinderella, A Big Golden Book 1967 ed.


However, I think the princess thing is primal. In my 20s, I love Audrey Hepburn and must have watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s dozens of times in my 20s; it seemed to help me weather the down times (see my previous post about Audrey’s style). I also love old musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. One of my favorite scenes of all time is from Top Hat, when Ginger seems to float down that spiral staircase in a dress made of feathers. Watching them dance made me forget all my real-world troubles.

Fred and Ginger dancing cheek-to-cheek in 'Top Hat'
Fred and Ginger dancing cheek-to-cheek in ‘Top Hat’

Maybe our continuing love affair with princesses is just that: a necessary escape. As modern women, we will do the practical things everyday at home and in our jobs. We will be responsible and fulfill our obligations. But sometimes we want to immerse ourselves in a world where nothing is mundane or practical and everything works out happily in the end. I wouldn’t even want life to be like that all the time, but it’s fun to watch.

Maybe I’ll even wear the dress again someday. We could renew our vows in a vintage-style wedding (Deer Pearl Flowers has posted some great vintage decorating ideas).

What do you think of the “princess” obsession? Out of place in the modern world? Or just a fun escape?


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