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From Letting Queer Characters Be Feminine to Understanding Current Trends, Let’s Talk About The Fashion In Mean Girls

by Oana-Maria Moldovan

Get ready to go all-out pink again, because Mean Girls is making a return to the big screen this month. 

Tina Fey, the comedic genius behind the original film and the subsequent Broadway musical, brings us a sequel/remake/revival that is set to capture the hearts of a new generation.

The highly anticipated film stars Reneé Rapp (who also starred in the Broadway musical) as the iconic Regina George, opposite Angourie Rice as Cady Heron. 

Familiar faces such as Tim Meadows, Jenna Fischer, Busy Phillips, Jon Hamm, and Ashley Park also breathe new life into the noughties classic in supporting roles.

But, while the casting is fantastic and their premiere outfits were near perfect, the teaser trailer doesn’t give us hope for the film’s fashion.

For the 2024 revival, Fey opted to collaborate with longtime costume partner, Tom Broecker, known for his work on SNL sketches. 

While Broecker is undoubtedly a seasoned professional, his designs seem to be frozen in the 2020s TikTok, lacking flair that the Y2K original movie was known and loved for.

Although there’s clearly great fashion call-backs evidenced in the trailer from Regina’s black top and long hair plait to Cady’s party dress to their ’Jingle Bell Rock’ costumes, the issue lies with their ‘day-to-day’ looks. 

A film so notorious for its perfect fashion moments, there was always going to be a lot of pressure to get it right when bringing it to a modern age.  

But, the cheap-looking outfits ‘The Plastics’ seem to be wearing from the trailer lack a certain glitz and glam, these girls are all super rich, toaster strudel rich, remember.

With Reneé as Regina, there’s no doubts of her performance ability. We all know can both play the part and sing it, and her role in The Sex Life of College Girls is proof enough that she was made for this kind of typecasting. But by putting her in clothes no one as interested in fashion as her character would ever be caught in, it runs the risk of making us believe its still her - through no fault of Reneé.

The thing is, Reneé fits the role, visually. Anyone can see her as the rich, spoiled girl. To have this formidable decision of casting but to choose to go to the absolute max with their wardrobes for the sake of wanting to seem modern, is a fashion crime.

Let’s talk about that promo image. 

Reneé is seen, in the middle of the three Plastics, wearing a corset-like long-sleeved shirt that is so not made for her body type, with badly fitted and a crumpled pair of loose pink jeans and a very not-true-to-character pair of Doc Martens (even her gym shoes are heeled). Any fan knows this is not something Regina George would ever wear - so why didn’t anyone on the set know that?

As for Gretchen (played by Bebe Wood), her styling appears more like a bad combination between Karen and Regina. Where did her plaid and preppy style go? She’s the richest of them all and tried too hard to maintain a respectable reputation, she would not have her bra on show. Let’s not even talk about how ill-fitting both her skirt and corset are. 

With Karen (played by Avantika Vandanapu), of the three, she initially appears to capture the essence of the source material best, presenting a seemingly appropriate depiction. Although, a closer look at her outfit, specifically the mini skirt with fake pockets and metal buttons, raises eyebrows.

All of their outfits look like they were shipped straight from Shein - 4 years ago. This contradicts the established image of these characters as fashion enthusiasts.

Not even the colours work for them. I get that they need to be in pink, but Bebe’s bra completely merges into both her skin and cardigan while Reneé wears the most atrocious shade against her skin tone. In terms of colour, Avantika has, once again, got the better part of the deal, but that doesn’t mean she looks good.

Despite being two decades since the original movie, the persisting challenge of dressing characters who do not conform to the size-zero ideal becomes evident. This issue raises questions about the adaptability and inclusivity of the movie’s costume department, highlighting a significant obstacle in portraying diverse body types authentically.

While each of the three plastics looking like they’re wearing the wrong sized garments, Regina George’s wardrobe choices in particular are cause for concern. With 2004’s Regina being a pinterest perfect style icon in baby tees and slash necks, an aesthetic often depicted on teeny tiny models, they had the perfect opportunity to showcase the style on Reneé, a gorgeously tall and curvy woman. 

It’s very clear in the original movie that the Plastics took inspiration from stars like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. That is the whole joke, the whole satirical element of the movie. An element that was important to the plot and now is missing.

Gretchen could have kept it preppy, looking like the definition of the ‘Sofia Rich-ification.’ Being the ultimate IT girl, Regina would have been perfect as a combination between Alexa Demie and Olivia Rodrigo. And Karen could have been an almost Ariana Grande lookalike paired with desi accents and jewellery.

While the decision on costumes has raised concerns across the board, the biggest critique is reserved for the portrayal of Regina George. 

Reneé, who has expressed her interpretation of the character as queer, incorporates Doc Martens, along with other items, into her wardrobe, an action that aligns with her vision of her movie persona. But we fear the collaborative effort between Reneé and the costume department seems to have missed the mark, leaning towards a more androgynous style.

While we love Regina as a queer icon, why does that mean her fashion has to change? 

This decision unintentionally sends a message that one’s queerness is confined to a specific look, rather than embracing a more diverse representation. We are so over the boyish queer girl in movies, why not let her be feminine this one time?

In the few promo shots we’ve seen, the Y2K girlie, mini-skirt wearing, pink princess looks completely different. 

Now, that’s not to say dressing more masculine is a problem, in fact, one of Regina’s best looks is a men’s shirt with high collars, but why couldn’t this masculinity be made feminine. It would have been so exciting to see this look played on. Rather than paired with a muted black jumper like the original, make it gayer and more over-the-top by bending the girlie colour pallet and boy-ish silhouettes - I’m thinking forget the jumper and make the shirt unbuttoned, exposing some of the boobs for a slutty and feminine but somehow male and gender-bending look, similar to Doutzen Kroes’ Vogue France pages from October 2012 in Inez & Vinoodh. 

While the movie is expected to be both hilarious and smart with its cast and Tina Fey staying put as the director, it might lack the chick-flick visuals fans were eagerly anticipating. When it comes to fashion films, perhaps every movie stylish should take a cue from Barbie?

Edited by Emily Duff

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