By Charles Manning
1. Clueless: Know When to Name Check (1995)
The Scene: Cher Horowitz gets held up at gunpoint and her mugger orders her to get down on the ground. "Oh no." she says. "You don't understand. This is an Alaïa.[...] It's like a totally Important designer." Of course, her mugger doesn't give a shit and robs her all the same, but overnight Azzedine Alaïa becomes a household name.
The Takeaway: Know your audience before you start name-checking your outfit.
2. Silence of the Lambs: Splurge vs. Steal (1991)
The Scene: Young FBI student Clarice Starling wears her most professional-looking skirt suit to interview serial killer Hannibal Lecter, but it's her low-end pumps that really catch his attention: "Do you know what you look like, with your good bag and your cheap shoes?" he asks. "You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube, with a little taste... you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you?... What is your father, dear? ls he a coal miner?" Clarice's response is little more than a quavering, "right back at you," as she and everyone in the audience who has ever been called out for wearing less than "the best" winces in pain.
The Takeaway: When dealing with bitchy queens (cannibal or not), high-quality accessories make all the difference.
3. Empire Records: It's All In The Mismatch (1995)
The Scene: When Corey decides to seduce fading pop star Rex Manning, she doesn't do it with a six piece lingerie set with coordinating garters. She simply takes off her sweater, unwraps her skirt and stands there, with her white cotton underwear and red lace bra looking sexier than any matching set. The fact that the man turns out to be a completely unworthy loser is neither here nor there. Corey looks hot. It's real, it's vulnerable, and it's beautiful.
The Takeaway: Fancy lingerie sets are all well and good, but they are not what make you sexy (and for what it's worth, most guys, even the cheesy and crappy ones, couldn't care less).
4. 10 Things I Hate About You: Prada = Love (1999)
The Scene: Bianca and her friend Chasitity are walking through the quad having a deep discussion about the nature of love: "There is a difference between like and love," says Bianca. "Because I like my Skechers but I love my Prada Backpack." "But I love my Skechers," says Chastity. "That's because you don't have a Prada backpack."
The Takeaway: Before one can know true love, one must first know Prada.
5. The First Wives Club: The Karmic Effects of Body Shaming (1996)
The Scene: Brenda runs into her ex husband Morty and his new girlfriend Shelly trying on designer dresses at Bloomingdale's and can't help but take a swipe at Shelly for her rail-thin body. "My, my," she says, "the bulimia has certainly paid off... What's the matter Morty, can't you buy her a whole dress?" You feel for Brenda in the scene, but it's no surprise when Shelly responds in kind, taking her arms out wide and suggesting "Brenda, why don't you try on one of these in your size?" Burn.
The Takeaway: Body shaming only begets more body shaming. The old saying really is true: if you can't say something nice to someone, don't say anything.
6. Romy And Michelle's High School Reunion: Fashion as Self Expression (1997)
The Scene: Romy and Michelle hit the gym to get in shape for their pending reunion, but they don't do it in running shoes and compression pants; they do it in platforms, micro minis, and candy-colored crop tops. Maybe you don't look at them and say to yourself, "wow, that's how I wanna dress for the gym," but you have to admit how sad and ordinary everyone else around them looks by comparison.
The Takeaway: Appropriate clothing is boring and makes you look boring by association. Dare to be weird - maybe you too will end up with your own shop on Rodeo Drive.
7. She's All That: The Dark Power of Makeovers (1999)
The Scene: Laney takes off her glasses and puts on a little red dress and a pair of heels for her big date with BMOC Zack. As she descends the staircase in slow motion he is dumbstruck. It's like he's finally seeing her for the first time, her inner beauty reflected in her outward appearance. The way it should be. BARF!
The Takeaway: Glasses hold you back...from meeting assholes. I don't care what kind of personal transformation Zack goes through over the course of the movie; he spent all of high school hanging out with a bunch of jerks who got off on making other people feel like shit about themselves. Rock on with your nerdy self.
8. Batman Returns: DIY Magic (1992)
The Scene: After mousy secretary Selina Kyle gets pushed out a window by her boss, she's licked back to life by alley cats and develops super powers and an axe to grind. Back at her apartment, she uses the magic of DIY to turn an old PVC coat into a skin-tight catsuit, and Catwoman is born.
The Takeaway: Sometimes a new look is the best revenge (or at least it's a start), and all you to transform yourself is a sewing machine and a little elbow grease.
9. Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead: Redemption Through Fashion Shows (1991)
The Scene: After spending the entire film stealing from her hapless boss, Sue Ellen sees her company about to go under and hosts a fashion show in her back yard to save it. The outfits are ridiculous, but the blinding lights, blaring music and technicolor mash-up leave the buyers wanting more and the company is saved.
The Takeaway: In fashion, the ends always justify the means. That, and sometimes good taste is less important than being able to throw a killer party.
10. Clueless: Good Style Through Computer Science (1995) - (Not including Clueless on here twice? As if!)
The Scene: We meet Cher in voiceover form, layered over a teen-fun montage of shopping, hot guys, and haging by the pool. "Ok," she says "so you're probably thinking, 'is this like a Noxema commercial or what?' But seriously I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl. I mean I get up, I brush my teeth, and I pick out my school clothes." Cher then uses her computer to help her pick out the perfect yellow plaid outfit for school and an iconic look is born.
The Takeaway: Even fashion icons need help getting dressed and looking good is really just a matter of finding out what works for you and sticking to it. Cher pretty much only wears fitted mini dresses, plaid skirts, white button ups and cropped sweaters. It's not that hard. It's a formula, an algorithm. Probably an app can do it for you these days. (Knee-high socks optional.)
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