{Costume Design: Clueless}

I don’t have a ton of sewing to show off from the last couple of weeks. I am sewing, but it’s at a slower pace since I’m still staying with family and working remotely and so my time is taken up by more stuff, and I don’t love sewing outside of my set up space at home. However, I have found ways to be productive and make some things happen.

So when I sat down to think about the post for today, I thought it would be fun to start revisiting the costume design in my favorite movies (particularly ones in which the costume design is very recognizable or iconic). And since Clueless came up in my last post, that’s where we’re going to begin!

Now I will admit… even though my ability to think about costume design from a designer standpoint is fairly on point most of the time, I don’t love my break down skills of existing work. So this is also a way to try and hone that in a little bit and improve it.

Be prepared, this may jump around a lot as I look at various images from the movie!

The costume design in Clueless was done by Mona May, who did a lot of her research by visiting high schools.

We’ll start with the most iconic look of the movie, Cher’s yellow plaid school outfit. She and Dion are not exactly copies of each other, but they do dress very similarly. This could likely be to connect them visually. The plaid is also be a nod to the popular flannel worn by teens at the time (but can you imagine Cher Horowitz in PLAID?). Cher and Dionne are over the top and meant to stand out from the crowd.

When Tai is brought into the mix, she is given a makeover by Cher and Dionne. The result is that she dresses similarly to them but not quite as sophisticated. Tai in the above photo is much closer to what a “normal” nineties teen would wear. However, I would also venture to argue that Tai’s pre-makeover look is the closest to what a “normal” nineties teen would’ve worn. I feel like she looks like everyone I went to high school with, both male and female! See below:

Speaking of the above image, I remember this dress being one of my favorI also want to point out that by the end of the movie, Tai has become kind of a hybrid of her two looks. She’s fitting in with her new world, but also defining her own sense of style that’s not quite her from the beginning of the movie and not quite what Cher and Dionne turned her into earlier.

I’m going to say that red seems to be Cher’s power color, or at least the color she turns to when she really wants to impress. The infamous Alaia dress that gets ruined on the pavement is worn to a party, and then she dons red again when she wants to seduce Christian.

However, given those two examples I’m also going to venture to say that when Cher wears red, things are not necessarily going to go her way!

I also like that costume designer has this moment of vulnerability for Cher to remind the audience that she is a fifteen-year-old girl. The costume choice of a full pajama set – long sleeves, long pants, fully buttoned up – definitely exhibits that.

Or take this moment when she’s just at home watching cartoons with Josh. This has got to be the most buttoned up outfit Cher owns. It’s baggy, it’s got long sleeves, the neckline us really high and she’s wearing jeans, which she never really wears throughout the rest of the movie.

Even the outfit she wears when she and Josh confess their feelings for one another is very tame, and more “little girly” than her other clothes.

Compare these outfits to those that Cher wears when she’s feeling super-confident about herself (including the red dresses mentioned above):

I’m sure if I went on a deep dive and really looked at every costume and compared Cher’s moods in the scenes, there would be a correlation of some kind. Perhaps that is a project for another day.

I’ll leave off with one final image for this post.

Here are the most ridiculous gym uniforms in all of history. I know this was all in good fun for the costume designer, and she got to coordinate all the girls in the same colors, but it also makes you wonder what the school criteria was other than “black and white.” Cause clearly they don’t have a set uniform, but the dressing alike is more than just a costuming decision!

With quarantine giving me more time to sit and watch movies, you can expect more costume analyses in the coming weeks!

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