Femininity and Iconic 90s Fashion in Clueless

Femininity and Iconic 90s Fashion in Clueless

Over two decades later and people still talk about the infamous clique from Clueless that paved the way for the likes of Mean Girls and many other coming-of-age Americana classics.

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Though when this iconic film premiered I was only six years old. I think it wasn’t until later when the likes of Harriet The Spy came about that I had a found my 90s niche. I mean, the whole opening credits is her donning her sleuthing outfit, spy gadgets and of course, the composition notebook.

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Clueless was never on my radar until American Pie (1999) and Mean Girls (2004) took their rightful place as a comedically honest guides to high school politics. I remember going over to my friend’s house and seeing the Clueless VHS cover with the tagline:

“Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?”

Like Titanic, I thought to myself: “Oh yeah right, there is no way Mom is going to let you watch that.”

I did however watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch: good clean 90s sitcom fun with a little witchcraft, no problem. Sabrina’s friends and frenemies drew many fashion trends from Cher Horowitz, but we’ll leave that for another day:

Stoner Style: How Clueless used classism to illustrate teen hierarchies

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Classic 90s skater/street wear at its finest

Brittany Murphy’s character Tai starts to fall for one of the loveable surfer/skater dudes early on in her introduction. Cher is quick to steer her away, up until later when she realizes her sense of power in matchmaking is misguided and shallow. Theres a great line from Cher where she breaks down the flaws of casual menswear and how she’s supposed to be interested in ANY of them with their lackadaisical way of dressing… as opposed to Elton, who is clearly a 35 year-old wasp trying to pass as a Beverly Hills teen. Note: see Grease for more false examples of high school.

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Color coordinating chocolate browns, who knew?

Let’s not forget the staple school girl sets of Cher and Dionne. In the beginning of the movie, Cher is picking out her outfit on a Microsoft 1995, (allegedly allegedly) and it is some how a touch screen? So, it’s 1995… and she has a digital closet with a touch screen that somehow connects to her robotic conveyor closet space. Makes sense, right?

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ICONIC plaid sets from Dionne and Cher are the first outfits of many 90s staples throughout the movie. And their brick cell phones. 

Throughout Clueless several plot points carry the film through romance, classism and self-identity. Some are resolved and some fade into the fray of the larger storylines. The Clueless plot as a whole is loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Emma where Cher Horowitz appropriates Emma Woodhouse’s character, similar to Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) which aligns to the classic Pride and Prejudice. 

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Cher and Dionne are both born into old money Los Angeles, but still go to a standard public school in Beverly Hills. There are a vast mixtures of socio-economic class as we see how Cher and Dionne befriend new student Tai Fraiser, an east coast blue collar girl new to the lifestyle of constant sunshine and Melrose Avenue.


This is Amber and we don’t know if she and Cher are friends or enemies because she is full of backhanded compliments.

Spiteful and misunderstood Amber was the real fashionista

Though a secondary character, Amber the redhead is serving up looks and dishing out dirt in every scene. She may be a frenemies with Cher battling to win over influence on Tai, but she does so looking like she came out of a Kentucky Derby after party on a yacht.

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Perfectly coiffed hair with slight volume, Amber throws shade looking like a 1960s starlet. 

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Ahoy there honey! Always color coordinating jackets to skirts to hats complete the look. 

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Oh and then there is the sultry take on Pippi Longstocking look.

Again we don’t know if Amber rolls with Cher and Dionne or just trying to weasel her way into every group photo for the yearbook, but she really is the fashionista of the school if we’re being real.

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The gym scene showcases a lineup of the female cast onlooking as Tai is introduced as the new student, followed by a laundry list of excuses to partake in physical education.

Sharp witted Dionne is the most iconic Black teen character, without being tokenized

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Cher’s best friend Dionne Davenport is equally of high society status quo. She skips out of her Beverly Hills mansion dressed evenly as coordinated as her bestie Cher in head to toe plaid set, thigh high socks and an extravagant hat fit for Easter Sunday.

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Cher picks up Dionne in her 1994 white Jeep Wrangler, sans license, which she claims she is only driving to “learn” on.

Dionne confident, quick-witted and serves up some tough love. There are endless dialogues from her and her squeeze Murray that showcases her independence and policing of derogatory remarks:

Dionne: “Murray, I have asked you repeatedly not to call me “woman”.

Murry: “Excuse me, “Ms. Dionne.”

Dionne: “Thank you.”

Murray: “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily in misogynistic undertones.”

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Murray lives in his Kangol bucket hat, Adidas and coordinating separates. Another accessory staple that came back in a big way: barrettes. And strategically placed sandwich bags… 

Dionne and Murray are textbook married couple, though the audience is led to believe that our core group are all virgins, though satisfied in other ways. As opposed to many other sexed up high school flicks, the virtuosity of Cher and Dionne teaches a valuable lesson in female autonomy, while still entertaining flirtatious situations.

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Tré Chic Cher and Dionne the Quizmaster… ? 

Another plot point is Cher and Dionne’s time spent playing matchmaker to two mousey teachers Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist as a way to get their grades back up before Daddy sees the report card. They do all of this while simultaneously giving new friend Tai a makeover and the movie montages ensue. Did I mention the amount of statement hats that Dionne wears?

A guy named Christian is a girl’s best friend

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Smooth talking heartthrob, Christian is inclined to same sex preferences, unfortunately to Cher’s chagrin.

Lastly, we cannot forget the other new kid in school that surely caught Cher’s attention: Christian. He’s a got swag, he’s got class and talks like he walked right out of Guys and Dolls. Cher tries her best to appeal to his vintage style and tastes, but ends up adorably misinformed:

Christian: “Do you like Billie Holiday?”
Cher: “I love him.”
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Every girl needs a shopping buddy to help edit her wardrobe.

It’s not entirely clear where he came from, he just walked into class one day and Cher is immediately taken with his polite demeanor and colorful phraseology. It isn’t until after a platonic movie night, when Murray points out, and I quote: “Your friend Christian is a cakeboy!”


There are so many different stories within Clueless weaving in and out of Cher’s life and they all seem to sort themselves out in the end, even Cher’s own love interest which was lying right inside her own home. Paul Rudd’s character Josh her far, far, far removed stepbrother, which Clueless attempts to make appropriate. We all crushed on his brotherly protection of Cher and his beatnik personality. And, well Paul Rudd is ageless because he could play Josh again in the Clueless redux. Let’s be real.

Hi I’m Josh and I read Nietzsche in full dark denim by the pool in Southern California.

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Thanks for stopping by!

xx The Wayback Closet

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