Where Ferris Bueller's Two Most Iconic Looks Came From

Movie characters don’t get much cooler than Ferris Bueller. A teenager seemingly driven by pure id, he pretty much does whatever he wants whenever he wants, and doesn’t really ever concern himself with the consequences. The guy even proves to have a keen sense of style and fashion, wearing multiple outfits over the course of writer/director John HughesFerris Bueller’s Day Off that left a permanent park on popular culture. But how exactly did these iconic outfits come together?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of both Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and late last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Marilyn Vance: the costume designer on not only those two films, but also John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Weird Science. During our chat, we got to talking about the various iconic looks of Ferris Bueller, and she actually wound up detailing the origins of two of the character’s most notable get-ups:

Ferris Bueller

The Vest

When thinking about the classic "Twist and Shout" musical scene on the Von Steuben Day parade float in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, one instantly remembers the strangely-pattered vest that Ferris wears while thrilling the crowd. It turns out that any fan of the film could have easily replicated this look after seeing the movie, but the process would have involved tearing apart a newly purchased garment – because it turns out that what is a vest in the movie was actually a sweater that Marilyn Vance. Said the great costume designer,

I found it at Marshall Fields in Chicago. It was a cardigan and I had to cut the sleeves off, because I couldn’t find anything that meshed appropriately with his little Perry Ellis suit.

This is funny to learn if not just because of the thought of Ferris Bueller wearing the untampered garment in the actual film. While the vest definitely sold Ferris as a cool guy giving a cool performance, he probably would have looked a whole lot dorkier if he were wearing a button-down sweater while singing.

Ferris Bueller

The Jacket

While Marilyn Vance was able to find the right look she was going for with the vest in a store, the same couldn’t be said for the jacket that Ferris Bueller is wearing for most of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As a character, Ferris really does what he can to defy categorization – particularly in high school terms – so Vance had to get a bit creative in figuring out exactly what he would wear:

The jacket we made was very special in that he wasn’t the hard guy, so he didn’t wear the motorcycle-type jacket. He wasn’t a letterman, so he didn’t have that type of jacket. So I made him a little bit of everything - the jacket that he’s wearing, the grey, the black and the white and the way it was put together, it was very unique to his personality.

The 1980s was certainly a strange time for fashion (look no further than Duckie’s various costumes in Pretty In Pink, but Ferris Bueller had an impressively timeless look that really authenticates his absolute cool-ness. It’s a tremendous credit to Marilyn Vance’s work.

Pretty In Pink is now available for purchase in Digital HD, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is available on Blu-ray.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.