There are times when I’ve wondered if writing about something so niche is a bit self-indulgent. When people ask about my blog, they either get it or they don’t. I can’t tell you the number of conversations that have been cut short because I mentioned blogging about ’80s design and pop culture. Yet in the midst of this rapidly changing, worldwide COVID-19 crisis, I’ve come to realize that the things we love most are the things we should cling to when faced with uncertainty.
A few weeks before everything shut down, I was taking my time writing a post about revisiting the 1988 film Pretty in Pink. I was thinking of Molly Ringwald’s “prom dress” moment, when New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” played in the background while she mustered all of her strength to be scrappy, resourceful and creative.
When high school is over, certain aspects of life may fall into place, but we continue to have moments when we’re gutted and we need to pretend that a montage can dig us out of a hole. Because we will get out of the hole if we’re patient enough. I never finished the blog post because I had to shift my energy to stocking the pantry, finding a way to explain to my daughter that she couldn’t play at her grandparents’ house for awhile, and figuring out how to work from home while entertaining a toddler.
This is going to be a really long musical montage, folks, and it’s hitting all of us in different ways. The challenges I’ve mentioned are luxuries compared to the realities that many (including healthcare, grocery store and delivery workers) are facing right now.
While we’re waiting this out, battling worry, doubt, disappointment, and in some cases, anxiety, depression and grief, it’s the happy distractions and creative projects that just might have the power to help get us through it. For me, the 1980s have always been a huge source of comfort and creativity. If you can say the same thing, I hope today’s post will provide a bit of comfort and distraction. Not to be cliche, but we’re all in this together.
Below you’ll find a few suggestions on how to pass the time. If you’re like me and you feel like you have less free time than you’ve ever had in your life, don’t fret. Take your moments of down time where you can get them, and maybe you can string a bunch of them together for a more complete experience! I fell asleep with a remote control in my hand one night this past week. All I’d been looking forward to doing was watching a little bit of TV before bed, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to push a button.
But I know many who have nothing but time now, and the loneliness is real. However this crisis is hitting you, know that you are in my heart. Let’s be understanding of one another and recognize that we are all facing different challenges depending on phase of life and other factors. We need each other’s support.
If you’re craving daily connection, consider joining the ’80s Design group on Facebook. I moderate this group, and I can’t tell you how much I love this community of people. Seeing everyone’s projects, interesting finds, and suggestions for passing the time during these long months has been a saving grace. There’s something about connecting with people who share an interest in a niche design style that is beyond amazing. And speaking of the ’80s, here’s how you can revel in the decade, because there’s nothing wrong with living in the past a little bit at a time like this:
Escape Into a Movie
I put the TV on every night before bed. I know…screen time isn’t recommended when you’re winding down. What can I say? I grew up in the ’80s, and TV/movies were a a way of life. They’ll always be a source of comfort, for better or for worse. Here are some ideas of what to watch when you’re wanting to escape into a film.
If you’re feeling like being comforted…
Baby Boom – It’s hard to find an ’80s movie that showcases so many design styles so well. From the modern New York apartment to the modern New York office to the Vermont country house, it’s all fabulous. Throw in a warm, cozy feel and the overriding theme that it’s possible to have a balanced life if you take the wheel, and you’ve got the perfect escape.
Tootsie – There’s something about the ’70s-meets-’80s vibe of this 1982 film that’s really comforting. Add a pink and lavender palette, an overall message of female empowerment, and an amazing soundtrack, and you’re set. Enjoy with a glass of wine, because as Jessica Lange says, “…it isn’t fattening, and it’s bad for me.” God, I miss the nutritionally ignorant ’80s!!
Pretty In Pink – Watch this. Or go back and re-watch this! It’s incredibly romantic, it features an artistic combination of vintage and ’80s fashion and decor (Iona’s apartment is next level), and the soundtrack is cutting edge. This movie seriously holds up, and as mentioned at the top of the post, there’s something comforting and empowering about seeing someone stay stay unwaveringly true to herself, even in the face of adversity.
If you’re bummed that vacations are out for now…
Weekend at Bernie’s – I’m not gonna lie, folks: I’m in it for the beach house
Cocktail – I’m not gonna lie, folks: I’m in it for Tom Cruise’s rotating collection of tropical shirts. Not to mention, watching this film feels like a true getaway.
Top Gun – Lots of beach time and sunsets. And white lattice. Seriously, it’s like the set designers raided a Home Depot for lattice. And it makes me laugh when I remember that we were all corralled into the cafeteria one rainy day to watch this movie on VHS at the small Catholic grade school I attended. Teachers stood in front of the TV during “questionable” scenes. I’ll say it again: God, I miss the ’80s!
If you have dreams of making it big…
Big – ’80s loft life, ’80s corporate life, ’80s toy life. This movie has it all when it comes to design and New York aesthetics.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Because every teenager should dream of winning a dance contest with the prize of becoming a regular on Dance TV. And everyone should aspire to watch a movie that casts Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt as besties in the lead roles.
Flashdance – If you’ve ever dreamed of winning at dance and at love AND having an amazing warehouse apartment, this movie’s for you. Just nod your head and smile if you have doubts that the local dive bar would have nightly MTV-quality dancing, costumes and choreography. It’s called willing suspension of disbelief for a reason.
If you really want to laugh…
There are SO many options to enjoy here, from slapstick comedies like The Naked Gun to campus movies such as Back to School. But if I had to pick a favorite…
Real Genuis – 2 words: Val Kilmer. Not sure you want to tackle the film? Watch this scene, and you’ll be in. The story, which focuses on science students working on a top-secret laser, is one of the most smartly written of the ’80s.
Escape Into Music
If you’ve checked out Mirror80’s music video playlists, you know how much I love combining tracks based on video aesthetics. However, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for Spotify playlists, so I’ve included two new playlists with the Spotify versions below, as well as YouTube versions, which feature music videos when possible. Do any of you find that no matter how hard you try to make a 1980s playlist interesting, it quickly devolves into something you’d hear on a typical trip to the grocery store? It’s not our fault that ’80s music has become the standard for background music. Here’s my attempt to do it justice, starting with something breezy and fun, and ending with something more complex and synth-heavy. More playlists to come!
Breezy ’80s Pop
- Angel – Madonna
- Mercedes Boy – Pebbles
- Like to Get to Know You Well – Howard Jones
- True to You – Ric Ocasek
- Bad Boy – Miami Sound Machine
- Come Go with Me – Expose
- Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) – Q-Feel
- Heartbeat City – The Cars
- Point of No Return – Nu Shooz
- Date Stamp – ABC
- Physical – Olivia Newton John
- Take Me to Heart – Quarterflash
’80s Synth Tracks
- Promised You a Miracle – Simple Minds
- The Way You Are – Tears for Fears
- Talk Talk – Talk Talk
- A Question of Time – Depeche Mode
- Give – Simple Minds
- Age of Consent – New Order
- The Politics of Dancing – Re-Flex
- Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
- Touch and Go – The Cars
- Darkness – Human League
- One of Our Submarines – Thomas Dolby
- Games Without Frontiers – Peter Gabriel
Escape Into Design
Just a quick reminder that Mirror80 has many series of posts that focus on 1980s design. Learn more about specific design trends here.
One of my favorite Mirror80 series of all time is ’80s Music Video Land. It’s basically what would happen if you turned a music video into a room in your house…and dressed like the musicians! I mention this below, but don’t forget to check out years of DIY projects with ’80s flair here. And while a couple of these spaces are undergoing makeovers as we speak, you can tour some of the rooms of my home here. I’ll post updates as they happen!
If You’re Home with the Kids
If you’re like me, you have 12-13 waking hours a day at home with your children during this phase of the pandemic. I’ve actually loved being at home with my daughter. Having time to work only when she’s asleep for the night has been challenging. Achieving balance means finding time for yourself in little ways throughout the day. I’ve tried to fill our time with fun activities that both of us can enjoy. Here are a few of the many ways we’ve passed the time:
My toddler actually created this masterpiece when she went rogue during a more regimented art project I had planned. Good for her! And good for me; I’m framing this for my bedroom. True magic can happen when you hand a child a paintbrush. Even a young child!
OK, so you may not get a lot done if you have a child under 5 in the house, but you may have fun watching her enjoy the props and collectibles that always bring a smile to your face. Even a simple sorting activity using colorful AMAC boxes can be a game changer!
Throw a Party
I’m not talking about a party with guests. Just a small festive shindig for the people in your abode. We do a Saturday night party each week to keep life fun during these challenging, repetitive times. I raid my prop closet for items such as garlands and balloons to use as decorations. Check out the Mirror80 party archive for some fun ideas. Also browse a slew of DIY projects here. Some may work for your kiddos, depending on their ages!
Thank you all for reading. What can I say?! Life is bonkers right now. I’ve been making videos to document day-to-day life this week. Little recordings of absurd moments, like the fact that I’d convinced myself I had a neurological disease when I finally realized my lip twitches were caused by eating large quantities of lollipops left over from Easter. However you’re getting through this time, know that you’re not alone. And that there’s great comfort to be had in a big dose of nostalgia. Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and happy spring.