Beauty in the Movies: Clueless

This week for Beauty in the Movies I’m featuring the best ’90s teen film ever, Clueless, which in many ways defined a generation and proved that not all teen movies are created equal.

Clueless catapulted Alicia Silverstone to fame overnight (she was previously referred to as simply “Aerosmith girl”) in the role of Cher Horowitz, the wealthiest, most popular and prettiest airhead in her Beverly Hills high school. Cher is based on the title character in Jane Austen’s novel Emma, and while you can definitely enjoy Clueless without knowing the plot of Emma, it’s pretty fun to draw comparisons.

Cher, like Emma is well-intentioned but completely oblivious to the feelings of those around her—even her own. With the help of her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), Cher plays matchmaker to a pair of lonely teachers and then sets about making over new-girl Tai (Brittany Murphy), who is the equivalent of ugly duckling Harriet Smith in Emma.

It takes a while for Cher to realize you can’t force people to be something they’re not, and that in trying to help Tai, she has actually created a monster of sorts. The adaptation was pretty brilliant of Amy Heckerling since Emma really is a clueless teenage girl (ok, she’s 20, but still). Clueless proves the versatility and timelessness of Austen, but also that teen movies don’t all have to be about sex and stupid antics, they can be smart, funny and enjoyed by all ages. Clueless paved the way for films like Mean Girls and (another update of a literary classic) 10 Things I Hate About You.

I saw this film in theaters when it was released in the summer of 1995. I was 11 years old and not yet a teen myself, but the impact it had on all the girls my age (whether you were a popular girl or an outcast) was massive. I remember going back to school that September and suddenly all the girls were wearing knee socks and mini-skirts. Clueless changed fashion almost instantly.

It was the age of grunge, Nirvana, My-So-Called-Life and doc martens, but Clueless brought an infusion of color, of girlishness that was in total opposition to the style that was dominant. I myself, maintained Angela Chase as my role model, but secretly loved the ’60s revival that took hold in the mid ’90s—though at the time I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pair of knee socks.

The amazing thing about Heckerling’s writing is that she takes the stereotype of the rich, spoiled, popular girl and instead of making her a bitch (like we expect) she makes her endearing and likable, even if she’s shallow at times.

As much as costume designer Mona May deserves credit for changing the face of ’90s fashion, Heckerling has to be praised for the effect she had on ’90s language—specifically slang. “Whatever”, “as if”, “not even”, “I’m Audi”, Heckerling didn’t come up with these phrases (she hung out with teens at Beverly High to get an idea of the language they used) but featuring them in Clueless made them part of American teenage (and general) vernacular.

Hidden among the snappy dialogue and the colorful outfits, Clueless has a pretty important message about acceptance, self-awareness and peer pressure. Not pressure in relation to sex or drugs, but the pressure to be a certain way, to hang out with the right people (even if they’re jerks) and to wear the right clothes. Clueless is as relevant today as ever, the kids who were born the year it came out are exactly the age of these characters now, which makes me feel really old, but I hope they’ve all seen this movie, it’s a modern classic that remains as funny and honest today as it did 16 years ago.

Also, RIP Brittany Murphy, and may you forever be rollin’ with the homies.


Clueless by justinez featuring cotton blouses

Dolce Gabbana white cut out dress
875 GBP –

Calvin Klein spaghetti strap dress
314 GBP –

Clemens en August cotton blouse
$98 –

Sheer top
$65 –

H by Henry Holland yellow cardigan
18 GBP –

Petite Collection cotton cardigan
18 GBP –

Dolce Gabbana plaid skirt
$361 –

D G pleated skirt
329 GBP –

Acne ripped jeans
172 GBP –

Vanessa bruno
26 GBP –

A P C Madras mini skirt
$68 –

Fogal cashmere tight
80 EUR –

Plaid skirt
$35 –

Mini skirt
$26 –

Knee high socks
$15 –

Over the knee socks
$13 –

Old Navy plaid skirt
$9.97 –

6.90 GBP –

Ernesto Esposito mary jane pumps
208 EUR –

Biviel t strap pumps
$99 –

Christian Dior fur handbag

Aspinal of London vintage handbag
495 GBP –

Leatherbay leather bag
$130 –

Tarina Tarantino lucite necklace
$70 –

Forever21 flower necklace
$7.80 –

$4.99 –

John Lewis Women black hat
29 GBP –

Gucci Classic Logo Rucksack
570 GBP –

Ivy & Moon Long Camisole (Big Girls)
$12 –

Hair Scrunchie (optional)
3.95 GBP –

$120 –


Filed under Beauty in the movies

7 responses to “Beauty in the Movies: Clueless

  1. mkz201

    In Emma Harriet Smith isn’t supposed to be an ugly duckling so much as something much worse – poor. And, I actually think that class issue comes through in Clueless too. And the clothes!! I thought they were sooooo awful back then, but kind of love them now. Preps!

  2. haren

    If only the world of High School had more well meaning girls like in Clueless it would be less of High School Hell.

  3. Yahoo, movie poster design, I love it!! I keep thinking the guy in the bottom right hand corner is Paul Reiser.

  4. lizzy

    “is this a noxema commercial or what?”
    you know my feelings about clueless. its perfect!! my friends and i knew the sound track by heart! alicia silverstone is perfect in it! i love her forever!
    and i love the little diet coke can in the corner. adorable!

  5. jennifer

    Another excellent choice! I’m a fan.
    I watch this movie every time they rerun it on television, which is quite frequently.
    You are correct in that this movie changed style in the 90s. We were flannel, construction booted, doorknocker earrings, and bright red lipstick until this movie came out. Then girls started wearing baby doll t-shirts and skirts en masse. It was also one of the first movies that recognized a teen market.

  6. Pingback: Beauty in the Movies: Sense and Sensibility | beauty dart

  7. ysquared

    I also like that the film touched on social issues such as acceptance on homosexuality (Christian being gay) as well as racial equality (Cher’s best friend, Dionne. Both of them were just as popular as Cher. Although the focus is on Cher’s story, it just cements the fact that Clueless is not your typical shallow teenage movie.

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