Brittany Murphy, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash in Clueless (1995). Image © Paramount Pictures.
Can you believe it’s been twenty five years since Clueless was released already? By now it certainly needs no introduction as I’m sure you’re familiar with Amy Heckerling’s fashion-obsessed comedy which was a huge hit upon its release in 1995 and is still popular today. If you’re not it’s on Netflix and a must-watch if you’re a fashion fan, while some things about the film don’t work as well today, the fashion is definitely Clueless’ legacy. When the movie was released in cinemas I was in fact the same age as Alicia Silverstone’s ditzy LA blonde Cher, and quickly became fascinated by her shiny world, especially her amazing wardrobe.
While the internet is currently celebrating that all these years later we’re still buggin’ about Clueless, I wanted to share how this movie changed my life in a way that I hadn’t expected but I’m still grateful for today. So, let’s set the scene, it may be hard to imagine now with the global fascination with fashion and the massive amount of content on the internet about it, but New Zealand in 1995 wasn’t exactly fashion forward. Grunge was still in its hey-day thanks to the continuing influence of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, hardly anyone had the internet yet and my source of fashion inspiration came from television shows like My So Called Life and the teenage magazines like Girlfriend and TV Hits that I bought at the local supermarket.
My sense of personal style hadn’t really evolved yet either and much like many fifteen year olds I was still figuring out who I was and who I wanted to become. I was interested in clothing but my go-to outfits as a teen involved loose plaid shirts, baggy jeans, long slip dresses with a tshirt underneath and floral maxi-skirts. Nothing too fitted, muted colours and a fair amount of black, it was comfortable, somewhat androgynous and pretty much disguised the fact that I was slowly turning into a young woman. That was a deliberate act on my part as I was extremely shy as a teenager, it was only drama and dance classes where I briefly came out of my shell only to hastily retreat back into it again.
These outfits may be 25 years old but I’d still wear most of them today.
Then, in the midst of my uneventful teenage existence along came Clueless, and in amongst Cher’s 50 fabulous outfit changes I had a fashion epiphany, this fun character with her cute, colourful outfits and her incredibly stylish friends had changed everything for me. She made it ok to dress like the girl I was and embrace all things pretty, bright and feminine which was a revelation and I promptly fell in love with fashion and how fun it could be. All of a sudden I couldn’t get enough of plaid skirts, fluffy cropped cardigans and mini-dresses. I wanted her style and everything she had in her wardrobe and I wanted it now.
But where to find such outfits in the suburbs of Auckland? Well, as much as my budget didn’t stretch to Calvin Klein or Alaia, I managed to source suitable substitutes from my favourite stores at the mall. As thankfully for me Sportsgirl, Max, Esprit and Principals were also learning to embrace Clueless‘ playful approach to fashion and it wasn’t long before my pocket money disappeared on a wardrobe that Cher would definitely have approved of, right down to the white t-bar shoes, knee socks and silver backpack, which quickly became my most prized possession. Not to mention the sweet pink cardigan I bought from Esprit which was the first time I had owned something pink since I was a child and another step in rediscovering my authentic self.
As my wardrobe expanded with cute pieces my confidence certainly grew and as much as clothes definitely don’t define a person, they send a message to the world about who you are and I was growing more sure of myself and this new me. I wore a playful dress that even featured a bow and patent heels for my sixteenth birthday and I began to feel like my transformation from an awkward teenager to a more self-assured one was well on the way. Discovering the transformational power of fashion definitely helped shape who I am today.
As I’ve grown older I’ve continued to embrace my love of dresses and beautiful pieces which is very evident in my wardrobe today. In case you’re wondering if the plaid shirts and baggy jeans ever made a comeback for me? As Cher would say “As if?!” – fashion went from being my first love to my career and I’ve never looked back.
Images © Paramount Pictures.