Everyone knows the iconic yellow plaid skirt and blazer from Clueless (1995). Today, nearly three decades later, it is one of the most popular on-screen outfits recreated for Halloween costumes year after year. The Dolce & Gabbana skirt suit was what started it all, but it is only one of many iconic costume design choices in the film. Led by Costume Designer Mona May, Clueless perfected and revolutionized preppy 90s style.
In order to make the costumes believable, May and the film's director Amy Heckerling visited LA schools during the mid-90s to get an idea of what clothing was popular. What they found was very grungy styles, loose-fitting jeans and plaid shirts. For their snobby, high-class main character, Cher, these styles simply wouldn't do. With the assumption that this type of rich LA girl would look to runway for inspiration, they took artistic cues from high fashion instead of grunge. Heckerling explained, "I wanted that feel of a fantasy that you would like to live in."
With a relatively low budget for costumes, May had to work magic in order to portray these characters properly. The Dolce & Gabbana skirt suit was off-the-rack and was one of many options for the first day of school outfit. Once that outfit was picked out, May designed Cher's best friend Dionne's outfit to "complement Cher but not overpower her."
The skirt suit is not the only iconic costume from this film. May revealed that Alicia Silverstone (Cher) went through 60 costume changes throughout the film, and each outfit was equally as striking. One designer pull was so major that it earned a line in the movie, and that was the red Alaïa dress that Cher wore to the Christmas party. When Cher is being mugged, she angrily exclaims "You don't understand! This is an Alaïa!"
The dress in question was not easy to obtain for what May called "a small picture." As May told it, "Just trying to get the Alaïa dress was a process. There weren’t P.R. companies who were giving you clothes. We had to find someone connected to Alaïa and worry about if we could get the dress for free, if we could alter the dress to fit Alicia." When the dress was secured, the now-famous line was added to the script and May got to work designing the boa-trimmed jacket that would be worn over it.
Footwear for this movie was also very intentional. For this scene in particular, Cher wore Jimmy Choo heels, but May made sure the heels never even bordered on stiletto. She opted for Mary Janes, sandals, and low heels in order to maintain the essence of youth in her characters. Despite the glamor and wealth of these characters, they were still only high school girls.
While the styling of this film creates a dream world that every girl envied, not everyone lived in the same wealthy bubble as Cher and Dionne. Throughout the movie, Cher takes on the task of making over her classmate Tai. Coming from a middle-class background, Tai's outfits were made to reflect the differences between her life and the lives of the upper-class. This allowed May to bring in the real-life influences of what fashion looked like at a high school in LA in the 90s. She explained, "[Tai] really represented the moment, of what it was like in high school at that time."
Even at the conclusion of her makeover, when she is practically made into Cher's style twin, there is still a distinction. May explained that the clothing wore her. Even when dressing the characters in similar styles, they were able to convey that difference. Costume design tools like the fit of the clothing and the way it was styled allowed May to show that even in the same clothing, Cher is far more sophisticated than Tai.
Not only is the styling of this film so effective, but the outfits are some of the most iconic costumes in 90s film. They revolutionized the preppy style of the time, but May shared that even decades later, these outfits are still wearable. The timeless creations are part of what made this movie so magical that it is still referenced today.