Life at the bottom of the Fashion Caste

Movie Mania

Movie Mania: Heathers

“Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count.”

– Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer in ‘Heathers’

Heathers title card

For those of you who haven’t been transfixed by Heathers’ darkly attractive analysis of the GenX teenager, the film depicts one Veronica Sawyer navigating the social jungle that is high school. Veronica has made it to the top of this hierarchy through admittance into the most powerful clique at Westerberg, a group of three uber-popular, conniving girls all dubbed Heather. The Heathers rule the school through a combination of fear, admiration, and sex appeal (“Everyone at this school either wants me as a friend or a fuck,” Heather Number One, aka Heather Chandler, boasts to Veronica).

Not to give away too many plot points for those Heathers virgins out there, but thee rest of the film highlights the demise of Westerberg’s most despicable characters, largely at the hands of Veronica and the rebellious newcomer, Jason Dean. Heathers is everything I ever wanted out of a John Hughes movie gone very, very wrong.

Heathers

My thirteen-year-old self was instantly drawn to this movie, chiefly based on the absolutely brilliant wardrobe choices. At the time of production, shoulder pads were at their pinnacle; there is no being a Heather without power shoulders. Giant hair, blazers at school, brooches, and monocles were also apparently things that teens wore. At least what the Heathers wore at Westerberg. And don’t forget the all-powerful scrunchie.

Monocle

Each Heather has her own signature colour which, not only affirms her place in the clique, but also conveys her character through non-verbal queues, if only on a skin-deep level. Heather Chandler, the most vicious and deluded Heather of the group, is red. She’s powerful, she commands attention, she’s dangerous. Heather Duke is green; she’s jealous, vengeful, and ironically, bulimic. Heather McNamara is yellow; she’s cautious, delicate, and easily persuaded. Our heroine, Veronica Sawyer, is blue; moody, discontent, and confused.

I love how this detail furthers the surreality of the whole film. Sure, there are dream sequences and a general fogginess about many of the scenes, but the Heathers’ ensembles catapult them from average teens to some kind of bizarre uniformed royalty. Primary coloured outfits never looked better.

Check out my style board inspired by Veronica. I am super into this schoolgirl/collegiate chic trend that’s in the works so I would definitely wear a Heathers-inspired look just about anywhere. College included.

How VERY.
Another reason my particularly angsty self loved/loves this movie is that it effortlessly captures the frustrations of overly intelligent, bored, listless teenagers. Veronica became a Heather because there was nothing better for her to do. “Now I use my grand IQ to decide what color lip gloss to wear in the morning and how to hit three keggers before curfew.” She’s disgusted with the institution of high school, the blind, hypocritical over-guidance of the adults in her life, and even more horrified at her own contribution to the unproductive cycle. When her hand is finally forced at changing things, Veronica’s own apathy overtakes any real emotion: “I say we just grow up, be adults and die.” Que sera, Ronnie, que sera.
True friends
I find Heathers really hits the mark in my book because it goes beyond poking fun at hilarious high school stereotypes. By pulling all the characters toward the extreme ends of their personas, the film not only mocks society at large, but also gives it a big eff you. Despite its dismal box office debut, Heathers has filled the dark teen comedy void and since become a headstrong cult classic. I approve.
Even if you hate Heathers, you can’t deny it’s influence on all teen/high school movies and shows that followed in the two decades after its release. Clueless, American Beauty, Mean Girls, Gossip Girl, etc. Case in point: Heathers cafeteria scene vs. Mean Girls cafeteria scene. Obviously the setup for either scene is completely different, but it is clear that each clique has its own designated table creating social boundaries that are almost never crossed. Thus, Heathers = insta-classic.
Fear not, Heathers-inspired outfit post coming soon.
ttyl,
Maria Nichole
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Movie Mania: Picnic at Hanging Rock

One of my top ten favorite movies of all time is the 1975 eerie cult classic Picnic at Hanging Rock.

If you’ve never seen it, the movie follows students at Appleyard College for Girls in Australia on Valentine’s Day, 1900, along a day trip to a local geological marvel known as Hanging Rock. Intense, intertwined relationships are revealed between students and faculty. I’ll leave the real mysteries up to the film to portray, but eventually several girls and a beloved teacher go missing without a trace.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by the masterful Peter Weir (he also directed The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society, Master and Commander), ran away with the 1976 BAFTA for ‘Best Cinematography,’ and deservedly so. There is an exceptional amount of tension building throughout the film, verging on hysterics at some points, and all emotions are heightened with excellent set design and cinematography.

I love how open to interpretation this movie is. There are all sorts of theories that Weir wanted to lead the audience to its own final conclusion about the school girl’s end.

The strange noises and dream-like delirium point directly toward alien abduction, or was it those two roguish young Brits looking for some sadistic mischief? Or did the young ladies simply fall to their demise down a rocky trench? All of that is up to you to decide.

Of course I have to mention the brilliant wardrobe of Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s nothing too complicated, period appropriate school-girl dress: all-white frocks buttoned to the chin, complete with matching gloves. The most striking thing about the costume choice is that it evokes so much context within such a simple garment. The girls are young, pure, white, yet not untainted. They have struggles and serious emotions just like any of us, but these aspects of their lives are stifled by strict censorship, protocol, and social conditioning.

Even as the troupe of hikers climb further up the rock, their inhibitions lighten and they begin to remove parts of their ensembles. First their boots and stockings, hats and gloves. Eventually, Ms. McGraw, the last to disappear, is said to have been seen climbing the rock in only her undergarments.

The girl’s clothing also nods to the overwhelmingly feminine feel of the film. A dreamlike haze rests over the majority of the scenes; school girls languidly brushing their hair, pining over personal shrines, and generally traipsing about in a childish daze. Whether you think it’s creepy or cool, I drew up a style board inspired by the fashions of the young ladies at Appleyard College for Girls.Style Inspiration: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Okay, hopefully you forgave the obnoxious number of beautiful screen shots from Hanging Rock but I am just so in love with the look and feel of this film.
What do you think of it? Kind of Sofia Coppola-esque, no? It reminds me of the over-the-top femininity of The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette. Let me know in the comments!
Until next time!
ttyl,
Maria Nichole

Movie Mania: Singin’ in the Rain

My love affair with the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain began when I was approximately six years old; The obsession has grown exponentially ever since. Believe it or not, but I give this movie a lot of credit for helping to develop my sense of humour and of fashion. Keep reading to learn more.

The effectiveness with which directors Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood) and Stanley Donen capture the glamour and excitement of Hollywood in the mid 1920’s is astounding. Their budget of $2.5 million, a part of MGM’s golden age of movie production, probably helped.

If you’ve never seen it, run to your nearest video rental/redbox/bestbuy right NOW. It’s a classic for a reason people. Also, for you film nerds, the wiki page includes an incredible amount of “did you know” quality tidbits that I was really surprised to learn of!

Donald O’Connor’s ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ bit is my case in point. Turns out he had to be hospitalized following that shoot, who knew? In the act’s closing tricks, when he hilariously jumps through that wall? That part was an accident.

Besides the production infamy, he is such a natural physical comedian that the kitschiness of the whole thing has never bothered me. That year O’Connor was awarded Best Actor at the Golden Globes for his role as Cosmo Brown, and deservedly so. Below, O’Connor and Kelly making a mockery of their elocution lessons.

After cozying up with a hot cup of tea and re-watching the film recently,  I realized its incredible scale. A large portion of it is shot inside studios on closed sets which seem, at times, the size of airplane hangars. Check out the photo below, a shot of an exquisite modern dance sequence. Obviously that’s a pretty intense paint job but still, that space is gigantic!My favorite sequence of Singin’ in the Rain is “Beautiful Girls.” In this instance the audience really gets a feel for the magnitude of the film’s costume budget. A dozen models, in addition to another dozen dancers parade about in fabulous frocks. Check out the  full scene below. The action starts at :53.

“And if you must wear fox to the opera, Dame Fashion says, diet!” God, I can’t get enough!

Aside from that act, I think dancer Cyd Charisse steals the show for the whole of the Dueling Cavalier sequence. For the longest time I was convinced her part was played by two women! Her form is exquisite and her costumes equally so. The wig helps, but Charisse transforms from sultry femme fatale (below) to dreamy stunner (also above, in white) simply through dress and movement.

The feathers! The glitz! The beading! The chiffon! The drop-waists! Need I go on? I think I’ve mentioned this a few times already but the costumes of Singin’ in the Rain are absolutely fabulous. Even though she’s obviously the antagonist, the brilliant Jean Hagan (Lina Lamont)wears some of my favorite dresses of the whole film. Look at the intricate beading of her ensemble below. I’ve GOT to find a way to replicate that head band!

Apparently Debbie Reynolds ended up with a whole lot of the most iconic costumes from the film in her own private collection until an auction in 2011. They’re a bit faded but check out the pieces from the “Good Morning” scenes, below. I love the art deco flair of that sweater.

So if I haven’t exhausted the subject quite enough yet, I was so inspired that a drew up a style board derived from the modern-day wearability of Singin’ in the Rain’s costumes.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments! Got a movie you’re a maniac about? Love this film like me? Let me know your favorite song! I could talk for hours about it, obviously 🙂

Beautiful Girls
Until next time!
ttyl,
Maria Nichole