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Fashion Advice from the July 1988 ‘Teen Magazine


January 7, 2013 by J.C. Lillis

Oh, ’Teen Magazine from July 1988: I love you for so many reasons.


I love that your writers were paid by the exclamation point.


I love that you printed a letter from a 14-year-old with a physically painful crush on Patrick Swayze, and I love the first line of your response. (“Crushes do a dirty dance with you.”)


I love that, even though Sassy magazine was already on the scene and running awesome features like “Zines of the Month” and “The Sassiest Boy in Communist China,” you continued inventing terms like “tubby tummy” and using them with a straight face.


But most of all, I love you for the colorful hide-your-dirtypillows-ladies fashion spread on pages 82-85, inventively titled

Are you ready for the 80s? Really ready? Stop a minute and shield your tender eyeballs with Ambervision, because there is a massive irradiated waste heap of 80s-style problem-solving DEAD AHEAD.


 . . .by stuffing a cute paisley scarf directly into the crotch of those cropped suspender pants you bought for the roller rink party. Another great way to distract the boys from those half-dozen irksome fat cells? Unhinge your jaw like a yawning opossum and strike a permanent “Leaning-Tower-of-Lisa” pose. Recall the March 1988 issue, when Eric Stoltz told us what he looks for in a lady: a great sense of humor, a voracious passion for puzzling red hats, and a sassy disregard for the laws of gravity.


…doesn’t mean masquerading as a red jalapeño is off the table. Just balance with a popped collar and a Cindy Lou Who hair tuft, and you’re good to go.


…with a Camp Beverly Hills ensemble that doubles as a pup tent for a family of four. As the photo suggests, this strategy is especially effective if your excess baggage is a large benign abdominal tumor you can’t bear to part with, and the rest of you happens to be proportioned like a ’Teen Magazine cover model.


 …when you’re dressed like a theme-park revue about preschool teachers moonlighting as tap dancers. Slip into this outfit and you’ll court fascination all night: people will approach you with inquiries about your random red button, study the soft curve of your phantom tummy-pooch, ask you to remove your ruler-slash-suspender and measure whose bangs are teased the highest. But at least they won’t be staring at your ass.


. . .you clearly won’t be bagging that hottie from Wall to Wall Sound & Video anytime soon, so you might as well inject some measure of fun into your arid little life. So dress up your dad’s old polo shirt with strips of colored packing tape, thread your ponytail through a giant finger trap, and walk everywhere on exaggerated tiptoes, like a cartoon robber carting a big sack stamped with a dollar sign. (Ronald McDonald’s hightops optional.)


. . .first thank the gods you were born in 1973 and not ancient Greece, because that shit would get you exposed on a mountaintop back then. Seriously, if you have a short neck, it’s pretty much all over for you. You can join the convent now and hope you’ll meet some hot Baron Von Trapp dude who looks at you and sees INNER BEAUTY and not OMG NECK STUMP. Or if you’re desperate to try a quick beauty fix, you can take your nine-year-old sister’s Easter dress, hack it in half, and hope guys take more notice of your slice of exposed torso than the horrorshow above your collarbone.


. . .need the sort of definitive coverup that a black mock turtleneck just can’t provide. Time to get creative! Ask your mom if she can spare a bedsheet from the linen closet; if she balks, just tell her it’s either that or pricey fat injections in your upper arms. Then dig out your sewing machine, the same one you used to make that lopsided throw pillow for your Girl Scout sewing badge. Don’t panic; you’ll only be making a few quick nips and tucks to approximate armholes. Your goal here is to obscure the female form thoroughly, to transform your filthy girl-curves into those of a freshly baked gingerbread man awaiting his raisin buttons. (If you don’t have buttons, just silkscreen an old photo of your grandma’s home ec class on the front of your shirt, along with some random words people will have to lean close to decipher. Remember: Every second they spend pondering your belly-journal is a second deflected from the tragic twigs dangling from your shoulder sockets.)


There’s also this one, you guys, which is honestly keeping me up at night.

I know you’re too busy staring at the pelvic region of her mom jeans, but if anyone has any idea a.) how this distant Amy Poehler cousin is balancing on the actual tips of her Converse, and b.) what in the name of Zeus is happening with that self-levitating red bandana, I sure would be grateful.

I might even let you borrow my stirrup pants.



  1. Dre says:

    OMG. LOVE. Weeping from laughter … especially RE the red jalapeño girl. I’m embarrassed to say that I actually wore some of this stuff, like the suspenders, clipped of course to an acid-washed flared skirt …

  2. Brian says:

    I am also embarrassed to say that I wore some of this stuff. :( Damn family short-neck genes…

  3. OMG, this is brilliant! I was in their target demographic at the time, so I probably wore some of those atrocities myself.

  4. g8torgrrl says:

    This is frickin’ HILARIOUS. Sadly I was one of those kids that voraciously poured over those 80′s teen fashion mags. Plus, *shudder* I had a subscription to some strange mail-order girls’ club that sent these ridiculous 3 ring punched pages you kept in a binder. Pages that gave you advice on how to do your make-up, talk to boys, do home facials, etc. I think I still have that binder in a box with my girl scout stuff. lol
    Question: Why on earth is everyone on their tip-toes(except for the gingerbread girl and the short-necked freak that’s actually hanging on to her foot)? I certainly didn’t saunter around town afraid to let my heels touch the ground…

    • J.C. Lillis says:

      I would pay a considerable sum of money to see these binder pages of which you speak. These teen magazines are a gold mine — a few pages after the Problem Solving fashion spread is a chirpy article about plastic surgery that must be seen to be believed. I’m blogging about it next week. (Do you have a blog? Scan those triple-punched pages if you ever find ‘em!)

      • g8torgrrl says:

        I don’t have a blog – maybe the last person on the planet without one at this point – but I’ll try to look for the binder this weekend. I’m almost certain it’s in a box shoved in one of my closets. I’ll scan in some page and email them to you. I’ll pick through for the “best” pages… If I remember correctly, there’s more than a few doozies. lol

        • J.C. Lillis says:

          Hee! *tingles with anticipation*

          • g8torgrrl says:

            I got a little carried away and scanned quite a few pages…. I posted them to a host site rather than trying to email so many jpgs.

            I’m going to warn you, there seems to be a freakish obsession with teenage cleanliness (were we all dirty, grubby kids?), a lot of leggings, POLKA DOT EYE SHADOW, a reference to a phonograph (babysitting page, check it out) and apparent angst over understanding boys.


          • J.C. Lillis says:

            OMG. Hilarious. I think my very favorite is the “Color Pizzazz” page, where the model is wearing enough bracelets for the entire cast of 90210 (including one that resembles the rings of Saturn). Runners-up: the model on the “What about Color” page (because she looks like a bank teller who just lost a paintball match), and the girl on the left on the “Friends: To Be or Not To Be” page, who seems to be wearing her grandfather’s pants and a sweater that doubles as some demented eye-exam chart. *DYING* at the SHOULD YOU CALL A BOY page, too. “Should I call a boy, or should I frown at my white princess phone until my bangs go sad and droopy and I miss Who’s the Boss?” And yes, the polka-dot eyeshadow = terrifying. (Thanks for scanning all of these! I love having new material for my nightmares.)

  5. g8torgrrl says:

    Ahh… it was a little bittersweet to look through the binder. Made me feel like a desperate teen ensconced in my teen beat postered room, listening to Bon Jovi and digging through my Caboodle for a life saving glitter mascara.

  6. [...] stopped writing for a while. I thought about blogging, but I didn’t have another post about teen magazines or thrift stores in me, so I wandered into a dark corner of the cave, curled up on a pile of [...]

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  8. D'Anne says:

    I just stumbled upon this after Googling “1988 teen fashion.” I laughed so much and loved every word. Thank you.

  9. Cindy L. says:

    I literally LOL’d! So funny ~ so creative! Your attention to detail, as well as your ever-impressive intellect,shine through and are a joy to read. I loved Sassy,btw:) Colleen got me into it in our teens. :) GO,Jen,GO! Hope to see you soon! <3

  10. Julio Alexi Genao says:

    i laughed so many times i am now DECEASED

  11. Oh it is so funny <3.Thank you for sharing. This post make me happier

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