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Molly Ringwald’s Outfits Through the Years: From Her Trendy ‘80s Looks to the New ‘Swan’ Era

It’s been 45 years since Molly Ringwald debuted as a child actor on television in the 1979 series “Diff’rent Strokes.” During her career, Ringwald’s style has embraced different trends on and off the screen, from wearing ‘80s party dresses on red carpets to embracing the ‘90s knotted shirts in-character.

“Style is very individual,” Ringwald told WWD in 2009. “You can’t just look in a magazine and say, ‘Oh, wow, that looks great on that person, therefore it will look great on me.’ I think no matter what, you have to feel comfortable. That’s how I always judge something. Even if it’s, like, this great skintight dress, you know, if I don’t feel comfortable in it, it’s not stylish.”

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On Tuesday, Ringwald made her return to the red carpets during the premiere of “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” in Los Angeles. In the FX series, which will premiere on Wednesday, Ringwald plays Joanne Carson, the ex-wife of talk show host Johnny Carson and one of Truman Capote‘s “Swans” — how the author used to refer to his socialite friends.

Here, WWD takes a closer look at her style evolution through the years.

Molly Ringwald at “Tempest” premiere, 1982

Molly Ringwald, tempest premiere, nyc, white dress, 1982, 80s style trends, red hair
Molly Ringwald at the premiere of “Tempest” in New York.

Molly Ringwald was 13 years old when she starred in “Tempest.” For the movie premiere in New York, the young actress wore a classic ’80s party dress with puff sleeves and a voluminous skirt.

Molly Ringwald in “The Breakfast Club,” 1985

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection, 80s style trends, red hair, ralph lauren outfit
“The Breakfast Club,” 1985

Marilyn Vance was the costume designer for “The Breakfast Club,” which featured Ringwald as the popular girl Claire. Her character took ’80s teen fashion to the big screen, wearing head-to-toe Ralph Lauren — including her pink V-neck shirt with rolled sleeves.

Molly Ringwald at the 1987 Oscars

Molly Ringwald at the 59th Annual Academy Awards, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, oscars red carpet 1987, chanel dress, red hair, 80s style trends
Molly Ringwald at the 59th annual Academy Awards.

Ringwald was one of the presenters at the 1987 Academy Awards. The actress arrived on the red carpet wearing a black Chanel column dress covered in sequins.

Molly Ringwald in “Baja,” 1995

BAJA, (aka BAD GUYS), from left: Molly Ringwald, Lance Henriksen, 1995. © Republic Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection, knotted shirts, 90s fashion style trends
“Baja,” 1995

Costume designer Kristen Anacker borrowed one of the most popular trends of the ’90s for Ringwald’s character in “Baja”: the knotted shirt. The style was worn by many female characters in blockbuster movies of the time, including Laura Dern in “Jurassic Park” (1993) and Gena Davis in “Thelma and Louise (1991).

Molly Ringwald at the “Cut” premiere, 2000

90s fashion style trends, 1 MARCH 2000 - MOLLY RINGWALD ATTENDS THE PREMIERE OF THE MOVIE "CUT" AT THE STATE THEATRE IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.  (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)
The “Cut” premiere in Sydney, 2000.

Ringwald wore a glittery pink dress for the “Cut” premiere in Sydney in 2000. Her look, which was completed with a chiffon shawl, channeled the classic prom dresses from the ’90s.

Molly Ringwald at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards

the breakfast club movie reunion, red carpet, y2k fashion style trends, LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04:  Actress Molly Ringwald arrives to the 2005 MTV Movie Awards at the Shrine Auditorium June 4, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.  The 14th annual award show will premiere on MTV Thursday, June 9 at 9:00PM (ET/PT).  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Molly Ringwald at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards.

For “The Breakfast Club” reunion at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, Ringwald embraced another trendy silhouette for the time, wearing a pink chiffon tunic over white capri.

Molly Ringwald at the 2010 Oscars

Molly Ringwald arrive at the 82nd director john hughes tribute, 2010 oscars red carpet, Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Molly Ringwald at the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

To pay tribute to late director John Hughes at the 2010 Oscars, Ringwald wore a Grecian-style one-shouldered purple gown that feated fabric draping on the front and a gold accent on the waist.

Molly Ringwald at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

red carpet, NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Molly Ringwald attends the screening of "All These Small Moments" during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 24, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Molly Ringwald at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

For the screening of “All These Small Moments” during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Ringwald donned a pink silky dress with a dainty bow on the neckline. She paired the look with velvet brown shoes.

Molly Ringwald at the “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” premiere, 2024

Molly Ringwald at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City, black and white rodarte dress, red carpet
Molly Ringwald at the premiere of “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.”

Embracing the black and white theme of the “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” premiere on Jan. 23, Ringwald wore a bespoke Rodarte dress. Her look featured a mermaid-style skirt made of white tulle that matched her dramatic ruffled shawl.

‘Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans’ Red Carpet Arrivals: Demi Moore, Naomi Watts, Molly Ringwald and More

Emma Roberts at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.
Emma Roberts at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.
Demi Moore at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.
Demi Moore at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.
Calista Flockhart at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.
Calista Flockhart at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City.

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