There are many iconic film and tv scenes that stay with us for many reasons. Maybe because it really spoke to you, maybe you related to the character, maybe it kicked off your sexual development (Phoebe Cates in the red bikini, anyone?). For me, I remember the outfits.
I was raised on pop culture, learning everything about social interactions, dating, and how high school SHOULD be from popular television and movies. And I was pretty shallow- I was more into what the popular kids were wearing, how they did their hair, and failing miserably at copying it.
There are some iconic outfits that I will always remember. Perhaps it is not just because they were great to look at, but it said something about the character and why I was so obsessed with it.
SARA’s BALLGOWN, Labyrinth (1986)
Ask any girl what they liked most about Labyrinth, it would be the goblin ball. Teenager Sara (the flawless Jennifer Connelly), after eating a poisoned peach has a dream (or IS IT?) that she attends the lavish ball, wearing a formal silver dress with silver flowers and ribbons in her hair (the hair, oh my GOD her hair was so awesome) and finally falls victim to Jareth (David Bowie’s) pursuits.
Several weird things about this I didn’t realize til later: Sara is a young teenager, and Jareth is much older and is- well, her mortal enemy. Her dream perhaps represents her sexual awakening, and her confusing feelings for Jareth. Probably influenced by all the inappropriately tight pants he wears throughout the movie.
It’s unclear if Jareth initiates the dream because he’s in love with Sara (which is hinted at a lot in the movie) or if it is a manifestation of Sara’s desires. Either way, the dream can be interpreted as Sara being both scared and confused by her new feelings, and in the end too scared to confront them and tries to escape the feeling by smashing the mirror. But that dress, oh that dress! Such puffy sleeves!
ANGELA CHASE, My So-Called Life (1994)
Remember when you could get away with wearing boxer shorts to school?
I could write a thesis based on Angela’s progression of outfits throughout the series. When we first meet her, she’s a kilt-and-sweater wearing plain Jane, but after hanging out with the crazy Rayanne Graf, she starts to experiment with her outfits. Angela’s signature style is mismatching as many different patterns as she can. At one point she is wearing three different flannel shirts for Pete’s sake.
“I think I need a mirror.”
Angela’s style was one I tried to emulate, which included raiding my father’s closet and looking more hobo that stylish.
Here we have the ultimate Angela look- a plaid skirt with a shirtless plaid shirt over another shirt. How very 90s.
KELLY AND BRENDA’S JUNIOR PROM DRESS, Beverly Hills 90210 (1992)
Brenda Walsh classic bitchface
Brenda and Kelly’s bff-ship is threatened when they pick the same dress to wear to the junior prom! That is such a violation of the friendship code. And no wonder they both wanted this dress- the huge white bow is sooo flattering to the shoulders!
Don’t worry, their friendship was saved because Kelly got to suck face with Brandon and more importantly, Brenda lost her v-card to Dylan that night. Jessica McClintock made bank the year this aired, and I searched for something similar for my Bat Mitzvah dress.
CINDY MANCINI, Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Oh, I wouldn’t dare show my navel! Good heavens!
This outfit serves as the McGuffin for the entire plot of the movie, but my god, this was the ultimate in sophistication. Not to mention that this was Cindy Mancini’s MOTHER’S outfit. The fact that it was all leather also showed that not only was Cindy popular, but that she was rich, a necessity for becoming popular. More importantly, it introduced the idea of wearing a bra top under a jacket was a way of being sexy but not outright slutty. Oh, I yearned for both the body and the chutzpah to wear something like this.
However, by today’s standards it looks practically Orthodox Jewish-approved. Why is the shirt so long and so high? Show some navel and some knee!
DJ ON THE FIRST DAY OF JUNIOR HIGH, Full House (1989)
Pleats AND shoulder pads? Yeoch.
The early nineties was a time when people wore tapestry vests un-ironically. And DJ Tanner banked on this when she tries to look her best for the first day of junior high. The ultimate humiliation came when the nerdy teacher had the same outfit, pleated chinos and all.
This outfit sticks in my mind because I went on a massive shopping hunt to copy this outfit exactly for my first day of sixth grade (and succeed, THANK YOU VERY MUCH) and DJ starting junior high was such a momentous occasion. That meant that Full House would FINALLY get some storylines that included boys, clothes, shopping, etc. Which, was in improvement to the show…I suppose?
LIV TYLER, Empire Records (1995)
It’s Rex Manning Day!
Liv Tyler played Corey, who might be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s gorgeous, works at a record store, is going to Harvard, and is able to solve her pill addiction within ninety minutes. I’ll never forget her fuzzy cropped sweater, short kilt and combat boots, a product of the “grunge” era of fashion. And check those moves!
CHER’S PLAID OUTFIT, Clueless (1997)
Hello? Contempo Casuals?
Yikes! Now, not only did I have to find the right clothes, but now I had to find a completely coordinated outfit? As if!
STEPHANIE SEYMOUR’s WEDDING DRESS, “November Rain” (1992)
In 1991, 75% of my conversations revolved around various interpretations and conspiracy theories concerning Guns N Roses epic video for “November Rain.” Was Axl’s new bride trampled during the ceremony? Did Axl kill her? Did she commit suicide? These debates would happen in the lunchroom and my locker. I must have watched the video hundreds of time, scrutinizing it thinking I missed something small that would give me the answer.
The other reason was because I had fallen completely bonkers for the band. They were bad and I loved it. Could guys like Axl and Duff ever be into me? I mean, I was into schoolwork and playing in the school orchestra. Probably not. Plus, I’d have to be the type of person that would practically show my crotch at my wedding, like Axl’s infamous girlfriend, Stephanie Seymour. This wedding dress horrified and fascinated me. Good thing this trend did not catch on.
ALYSSA MILANO, “Teen Steam” (1988)
Gotta let it out!