Beverly Hills High: A world in which you can talk on your phone in class, own a sports car before you can drive and ask your computer to choose your outfit. Welcome to a fantasy in which everyone is beautiful and well dressed and the sky is always cloud-free.
The world of Clueless was influential; the film defined words, set trends and made stars of a relatively unknown cast. Director Amy Heckerling, who also directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High, has a unique ability to understand, and most importantly create teenage trends. While writing the Clueless script, Heckerling sat in on classes at the school where it was set, and spoke with students to fully grasp their language and trends. She set out to create a more intelligent film for teens, one that may look superficial, but most definitely is not.
A recent sighting of Heckerling with Alicia Silverstone acted as an unofficial confirmation to fans of the film, “Yes” they beamed, “the sequel is coming”. Fourteen years on from the original, we will be transported back into the glossy Beverly Hills world of Cher and Dionne. But speculating on who/what/when the sequel will feature only makes the wait more painful. Instead, let’s revisit the fashion defined by the original.
The bright, preppy outfits worn by Cher and Dionne were a fresh antidote to the Grunge style which dominated the early 90s. Coming from the complete opposite end of the style spectrum, these girls made vanity and snobbery acceptable. In outfits that were way more aspirational than accessible, they set trends that would last right up to the millennium. Costume designer Mona May, (who also worked on Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion) only included Paris based designers. The only exception being Calvin Klein whose ‘underwear’-style dress stole the scene. It is noteworthy that only one American designer was included as labels such as Donna Karen and Ralph Lauren were seen to rule international fashion at the time.
May was inspired by European fashion and chose to create a personal style for each character. Even when wearing matching outfits, like plaid suits, the colours demonstrate their differences. Dionne generally dresses in a more daring way, with crazy prints, patent hats, crop tops and lots of leopard print. Cher’s clothing is preppier than the other characters, wearing an argyle vest over a cotton shirt and an Alice-band in most scenes. While Dionne is sassy and full of attitude, Cher is cute and naïve. Tai is the perfect tool to demonstrate the contradiction between fashions at the time as she rapidly transforms from Grunge girl to Valley girl in a matter of minutes. Often overlooked, Amber clearly has the most extreme style as she creates entire outfits based on themes such as camouflage and nautical.
The unofficial fabric of Clueless has got to Plaid, seen to span the many social groups including the popular kids and the loadies. The Grunge scene of the early 90s is still present in the film; even if is only on the extras and stoner Travis. The arrival of Tai, however, causes plaid to infiltrate the inner circle as Tai is inducted into the lifestyle of students at Beverly Hills High dressed in a plaid shirt, troll tee and baggy khakis. Throughout the film a total of 53 different types of Plaid are worn, including the seven styles seen on Cher.
Clueless was one of the most instrumental films in terms of encouraging girls to explore fashion and experiment with personal style. The designer led trends seen on Cher and Dionne became must haves in mainstream fashion, as everyone wanted to look like them. Accessories such as pagers, berets, diamond earrings and mini backpacks became must have items. Pretty soon, pink fluffy pens could be seen in every class and Baby doll dresses worn at every party. Many of these trends have already made a comeback including grunge, body con and leather, proving that Clueless never really goes out of fashion.
Published by WAH Magazine.com