The loss of iconic fashion in film

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mean Girls (2004) is insanely iconic, not least for its fashion, so it was such a shame that the styling of Mean Girls (2024) left so much to be desired. Some of the choices were passable, but Regina’s fashion— apart from the ‘World Burn’ scene, which stayed true to the original — was a tragedy, when considering the impact that Rachel McAdams made in 2004. This is no hate towards Reneé Rapp or any of the cast! I thought Reneé did a fantastic job at playing Regina George, and I really enjoyed the movie. The costuming, however…


One of the problems is that the film tried to reflect the Gen Z fashion of today, just as the original movie was an indication of the contemporary styles of 2004. However, Mean Girls (2004) influenced fashion trends because of its fun and distinctive Y2K fashion, whereas films nowadays fail to have that same impact. Fashion has become too diverse and transient with numerous trends cropping up every other week, to the point that Shein, a fast fashion steamroller, releases roughly 10,000 new products every day. This ephemerality of trends is stark in the outfit choices for Mean Girls (2024), because they’re all over the place — one minute Regina’s in a black leather jacket situation, the next in a mesh printed top. People have been voicing their opinions on social media, arguing that the outfits look like they came right from Shein — and I have to agree! Many have been saying the costumes looked cheap, despite Regina George and the other Plastics being incredibly wealthy, which I definitely acknowledge, but the issue stems more from the fact that this fashion just isn’t distinctive. It’s not making an impact. These outfits just seem like part of the trend cycle that’s already gone out of style.


Also, where’s the pink? The Plastics’ introduction scene was so underwhelming fashion-wise, because you couldn’t pick them apart from the crowd. The girls were supposed to stand out, in their bubble-gum pink outfits and preppy style, and instead Regina appears in black leather. I could forgive this misstep if the rest of the styling redeemed it — but I don’t think Regina wears pink at any point in the film other than the iconic Wednesday. There’s a reason people still say ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’! The original film’s fashion continues to be recreated, because its mini-skirts and abundance of pink made it so distinctive, so authentic and characteristic of its time. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be seeing many recreations of the Mean Girls (2024) outfits, and they definitely won’t last 20 years.


If we take a journey back twenty, thirty years ago, we find a succession of iconic movies that defined an era of women’s fashion and continue to have a huge influence on young people’s wardrobes. The fashion of these films is so authentic and easily identifiable, and a breath of fresh air from the overproduction of styles today, so it makes sense why our generation gravitates towards them. Of course, Mean Girls (2004) is the ultimate example, with its baby tees and miniskirts, and its femininity infused through an abundance of pink. The Plastics have their preppy popular-girl style that we see Cady adopt later in the film — there is a clear identification of the characters through style, far more than in the 2024 film.


Legally Blonde is another era-defining movie for fashion. First appearing on screens in 2001, this film shaped not only the styles of women of the time but continues to be iconic for the fashion of today. Elle Woods’ very feminine and put-together outfits, usually in her signature colour pink, are a defining moment in Y2K fashion. The movie encourages women to embrace their pink and girly styles while also leading a professional life — it is this message, and Elle’s fashionableness, that has cemented this film and its styling as timeless.


A final example of this kind of fashion impact through film is Clueless. Everyone can picture the scene when I say ‘the yellow plaid outfit’! The fashion of this film is so incredibly recognisable that it goes without saying it should be included in this list.  Cher is a fashionable, rich it-girl, and it shows — her and her friends’ chic preppy outfits maintain a lasting impact on fashion thirty years later! The plaid mini-skirts, headbands, cardigans, simple mini dresses — it’s 90s fashion heaven, and we won’t stop rewatching it any time soon.


If only Mean Girls (2024) had had the same fashion punch. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything of the same calibre as the aforementioned films in a long time, and I doubt if we will again. The oversaturation of trends makes a distinctive era of film fashion very unlikely, but also part of the appeal of these listed films is their it-girls. Rachel McAdams, Lindsey Lohan, Alicia Silverstone, Reese Witherspoon — these women were also making waves in real life, and were recognised for their styling outside the films too. The overwhelming number of influencers and celebrities nowadays means we have lost the it-girl impact of the 90s and 2000s, which has had consequences on fashion in film.


Featured image: Yaroslava Borz on Pexels

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