A few years ago, a good friend of mine dressed up as one of the most iconic women in pop music for Halloween. I was thrilled. As soon as I saw the big hair—the messy bed head with cotton candy pink streaks—and the copious amounts of body glitter and face paint, nostalgia hit me, and I squealed.
“Oh my gosh, you’re Jem!”
I proceeded to sing the theme song from the mid-’80s cartoon to her. “Woo ooo Jem is truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous ….”
She stopped me, her glittered brows furrowed in confusion, “No, no, no Nic—I’m Kesha," she said holding up a bottle of Jack Daniels. “Who’s Jem?”
It was heartbreaking.
The millennial generation may have forgotten about Jem, or never even knew about her, yet now the ’80s cartoon icon is back on screens with Jem and the Holograms, a live-action film loosely based on the same premise. It makes its debut this weekend, and the reviews have not been great. But let's rewind the portable cassette player for a moment to the year 1985 and go over some important history: In the popular cartoon series, which ran for three seasons from 1985 to 1988, fictional teenage record executive (why not?) Jerrica Benton had an on-stage alter ego, the singer-songwriter Jem. To shift between the two, she grabbed her iconic earrings and set off a hologram that transformed her into a pink-haired rock star, complete with a set of rainbow-hued backup bandmembers. The accompanying dolls were all the rage for a couple of years. It was Hannah Montana before Miley Cyrus was even born.
The fashions depicted in the cartoon were edgy and delightfully eighties, full of neon colors, asymmetry, and mismatched patterns. Because fashion is cyclical, many of these once-derided looks are now amazingly in style again. So, since you probably shouldn't go see the movie this weekend, instead treat your nostalgia with a look at some of Jerrica-slash-Jem's most memorable outfits. If you're feeling truly, truly outrageous, we have links to where you yourself can get the look.
Pretty in Pink
In the opening credits of the show, Jem introduces you to her signature color—pink. Whenever she wore the pink wig, eye shadow, and pumps, her character exuded strength and confidence. But her trademark long-sleeve metallic wrap dress was what shy little girls' dreams were made of.
Get the look: Floral lace dress by Dolce & Gabbana, $2,208; Color-block crepe dress by Roksanda, $1,530; Metallic stripe-print dress by Joe Richards, $655; Draped boat neck dress by Givenchy Vintage, $823.70.
Before Jerrica Benton tugged on her star-shaped stud earrings (dubbed the Jemstar earrings) and said the three magical words, "It's showtime, Synergy!" to transform into her holographic glam-rock alter ego Jem—she was a high-powered, well-heeled record executive, who wore boardroom-appropriate coordinates in such gender-neutral hues as inky blue.
Get the look: Floral mix print pocket square by Duchamp, $125; Wool-blend blazer by DSQUARED2, $1,560; High-waist flared trousers by MSGM, $394.57; Pussy-bow silk-satin blouse by Haider Ackerman, $815.
After the catchy (and outrageous) theme song, the show's audacious use of color is easily its most memorable hallmark. Take the rival girl band The Misfits—they brought intrigue and drama not only to the storyline but to the show's style, with their flashy fashion choices that favored odd color pairings and textures as well as gaudy-yet-inventive statement jewelry.
But Jem (the show and the girl) was not all glamour and glitter. Offstage, as Jerrica, the titular character had a simple, quirky-but-casual style. She was the pre-Alexa Chung "it girl"—complete with a penchant for stripes and hats, with always a hint of androgyny. (Put simply, whatever she wore, we wanted.) As for her main squeeze Rio, he favored flattering (and keeping with the cast trend, colorful) basics such as fitted T-shirts and button-downs and lightweight outerwear pieces such as bomber jackets.
Get the look: Suede bomber jacket by Theory, $995; Pocket T-shirt by Levi's Made & Crafted, $90; Virgin wool and mohair striped sweater by Stella Jean, $330; Garnet starburst earrings by David Yurman, $475.
Before Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing created his modern-day model army—which includes Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters—there was Jem and her band of rockstar sisters, The Holograms. They were the ’80s (and animated) edition of Taylor Swift's #squad—a troupe of bombshells proving that female friendship and super-flattering candy-colored frocks with aggressive shoulders and embellishments could be not only sexy but powerful, too.
Get the look: Velvet and stretch lace mini dress by Balmain, $3,430; Double-breasted blazer by Balmain, $2,385; Color-block beaded mini dress by Balmain, $16,115. (Also check out the just launched—and more affordably priced—Balmain x H&M collection.)