Friday, March 14, 2014

A Critical Analysis of the Costumes in 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun.'

Do you like how proper the title of this movie is?

Some of you might think I'm just being mean by picking on 'GJWTHF,' a gem replete with so many 80s-style hijinks that it should collapse under the weight of Sarah Jessica Parker's unhinged effervescence. But please remember I'm not mean: I'M A FAN, which is why I'm so mean. Why the hell else would I spend so many hours combing the internet for screen grabs of Helen Hunt's barrettes? Hence, 'GJWTHF's inclusion into what will now officially be a recurring post on this blawg: the critical analysis of so many awesome fucking costumes, amazing hair/makeup stylings and moments of costume DRAMA that I should probably instigate a ratings system for it separate from the Nickelback standard.

From now on, costume admiration shall be rewarded with this timeless image of The Bake worshiping Ariel's boots (that her daddy hates). There is no costume as potent as the red cowboy boot.

So the costume designer for 'GJWHF' didn't exactly have a standout career, but who cares, because she did this movie, and that should allow her entrance into Valhalla no matter what (and who the hell am I to throw stones, as I sit on my couch pondering how to hot glue a cat toy onto a banana clip to wear to work tomorrow?). All of those dopey teen/dance/school/love/rebellion movies from the mid-80s smell the same, but this movie stands out in particular because the costumes are off the chain - and I don't mean that they suck, I mean that they're actually creative while also being ludicrous.

We essentially have 2 areas of costume excellence in this movie: daywear and dancewear. The first is best illustrated through Helen Hunt's costumes. As the Wacky Bestie, she spends most of the movie squirming out of her Catholic school uniform and into whatever insanity the costumer decided would be the opposite of a Catholic school uniform. The second is best illustrated through everything that happens on Dance TV, a sensational hybrid of MTV and Soul Train hosted by Richard Blade, whose skinny ties and dulcet tones were an important wedge in the Trivial Pursuit pie of my 80s experience. SJP is the linchpin dancer of this timeless tale. Her costumes mainly revolve around the status of her virginity, as is right and proper for a movie of this ilk. What is the thematic point of all this, you ask? It's to illustrate that in this new age of style and substance, there is a direct connection between sex and spandex. Meaning! I HAZ IT.

And now, as Billy Hixx would say, "Let's rock!"

From the jump we know we're in for something good when all the DTVers get their Casio on by shakin' it in matching tank tops/socks, black miniskirts, Michael Jackson gloves and rad wraparound studded belts. I totally did a dance routine in that matching top/sock combo when I performed in the Junior Miss Pageant, BTW. And no, you can't see video of that, so stop asking.

Wacky Bestie shows her DTV love by stripping on the school bus. She's rigged her kilt to reverse into a leather skirt and velcros off her blazer sleeves so she can rock a fur collared-plaid vest, plus she puts on a studded belt and barrettes with plastic Dimetrodons on them. And this is just to babysit! I feel SO LAZY. You should too, SJP!

The great thing about the daywear is that even throwaway costumes get love. When twelve-year old Brenda (sorry, Shannen Doherty) first shows up, she's wearing a vaguely boring striped sweatshirt, but she has a dang rhinestone brooch pinned to it!

We can't forget the Bad Boy Love Interest (TM The 80s). This clown is giving me serious Mitch Gaylord in 'American Anthem' vibes, even though that movie came after this movie; it ultimately doesn't matter, because the Rick Springfield style (semi-mullet, jeans, leather jacket, sweaty over-revealing tank top/sweatshirt cut into a muscle shirt) is eternal. Remember, he's here to make sexytimes with the protagonist, so he has to dress, uh, like he's always just had sex, or is about to have sex. Right?

Holy shitsnacks! Did I have a brain tumor for breakfast, or is that awesome?

The Bitchy Girl in 'GJWTHF' has some serious costume 'tude, and by that I mean that compared to Wacky Bestie everything she wears that might be ridiculous looks super-serious. When we first meet her she matches her room, which is decorated as though Joel Schumacher smeared harlequin masks and ballet all over the walls like a chimp smearing poop on a rock. Everything is that pale dirt pink color reminiscent of Flashdance, including her costumes and makeup. We know she's a rich bitch because she's lounging around in a silk shortie as though waiting for Matt Dillon to crawl through her window, but then she really hammers it home: she totally has Cher's closet from 'Clueless'! But I bet she knows exactly where her white collarless shirt from Fred Segal is.


So when everybody shows up for the DTV auditions, we get to see some dancewear action. First, our heroines are ready to dance, and by that I mean Wacky Bestie is ready and SJP is still wearing her lame school uniform (which the drug-addled audition coordinator thinks is "a 'Sound of Music' fashion risk."), because she's a virgin. Bestie is wearing my (and possibly everyone's) favorite costume of the whole movie:

All joking aside, this is really good. The grasshopper on her hat is comedic, but her actual outfit is solid: a black bodysuit, an awesome off-the-shoulder tunic with that big sexy cutout in back, an army-green duffel jacket and black legwarmers that give her legs a great shape. Unlike SJP, she clearly gets laid all the time!

I'd also like to give a quick shoutout to American Anthem's sidekick, Jonathan Silverman. I like that his character is a complete cipher but still gets to have a bit of costume flair. His nerd entrepreneur style, which is fairly consistent, is a Henley shirt under collared shirt under blazer, with some kind of color or pattern juju making it interesting. He wears a bright lavender Oxford in one scene, even. I dig this one in particular, especially with collar UP:

And, he's come to the DTV auditions to sell t-shirts! He is ALL about costume.

Brenda, however, is not so sartorially savvy this time.

I believe that might be Puffy Paint (TM) all over that pink sweatshirt. I'm surprised at you, Brenda! You were on the cutting edge with that cool brooch! No Red Scrunchie (TM) for you.

Bitchy Girl shows up overdressed for the party in white fur, which she peels off to reveal a relatively serious brown getup with a wide gold python belt. (She must be saving the heavy lifting for the final dance-off.)

Everybody else who shows up for these DTV auditions has brought their dancewear A-game. To wit, a list:

1. a Pointer Sisters dance team wearing cute floral dresses, tons of jewelry, striped leggings and fascinators
2. ballerinas in that somehow depressing pale dirt pink again
3. a dude with a studded belt wrapped around his fucking thigh
4. a dude in trashed jeans, suspenders, no shirt, black gloves and a belt made of handcuffs
5. a New Wave dance team in excellently coordinating red-and-black outfits complete with dangling single earrings and tons of wrapped belts
6. a square dance dance team straight outta Nashville
7. a low-budget sock hop dance team straight outta 'Grease'
8. a Chicago cop who looks like he wandered onto the set by accident
9. teenaged twins in excellently coordinating red-and-black jazz outfits
10. a couple dressed in burgundy and black Stevie Nicks outfits

SJP and American Anthem are, frankly, the least interesting of the bunch. At least Anthem's wearing a cut-up red shirt and blue jeans meant to harken to the colors of James Dean's outfit in 'Rebel Without a Cause.' SJP does her whole dance and gymnastics audition with her hair flying around all over the place. How does she not step on it when she does all those flips and shit? It must be SCIENCE!

Aside: I wish I could find a picture of the beleaguered assistant audition coordinator, because her outfit is also terrific: pencils holding her hair up, a military-style cargo shirt under a hacked-up Brandeis sweatshirt, and genie pants. WHAT?!?

At Anthem's school (he's in high school? Seriously?) we catch a quick glimpse of serendipitous 80s crossover magic: Stiles, from the abominable Jason Bateman movie 'Teen Wolf Too,' is in the hallway with a girl wearing a terrific callback to the Pink Lady costumes from 'Grease.' Remember how Stiles also sold stylish Teen Wolf t-shirts? Just like Jonathan Silverman?

No? You don't remember that? Because you never saw that movie, because it was a flaming sack of shit left on cinema's doorstep? Ah, right, okay, gotcha.

Wacky Bestie gives us another glimpse into her fashion genius: the mysterious costume she's wearing when she's mysteriously at the dance studio, not dancing. I'm guessing she's just there to make us jealous of this:

Davy Crockett hat? Check. Chuck Taylors with slouchy socks? Check. Shaped skirt with oversized New Wave tunic covered in flair over cut-up sweatshirt, accented with scarf, belt and insane rubber duffel bag? CHECK! No wonder SJP is freaking out in this screen grab! Who wouldn't be?

Bestie finally rubs off a little on SJP. When they go to the mall, she doesn't wear her damned uniform, for once; she wears a jean skirt and jacket, a big white collared shirt (which totally gives me flashbacks to shopping for Esprit at the Westside Pavilion), a pink shell clip in her hair and WHITE PUMPS WITH SOCKS YES. At least she's not going to publicly humiliate Bestie, who's confidently wearing a cute daywear/dancewear hybrid of a minidress with another cutout tunic over it - it's enough to give her legitimacy when they run around inviting all of Chicago's riffraff to Bitchy Girl's deb party.

No words needed.

There are so many sick-assed costumes through this Gettin' It Together montage that it's worth watching the movie just for 80s clothing inspiration, in case you, I don't know, have an office Halloween party to go to or something. Mohawked punks in Social D jackets, lady bodybuilders wearing spandex and rainbow suspenders, Slash (possibly), Gibson Girls, Debbie Harry wannabes with geometric face makeup, greasers, girls with green dreads and Iris Apfel glasses, and a shitpile of extras who may have been in the actual titular Cyndi Lauper video are all hanging out at the Peach Pit together! It's glorious!

All of these people are going to crash the Bitchy Girl's deb ball. Jonathan Silverman's already there, dashing in a tux with plaid cummerbund and bow tie, as is American Anthem, sporting a revolting combination of jeans, unbuttoned tux shirt and cutaway tails. This isn't a Herb Ritts photo shoot, dude! Bitchy Girl makes her entrance in an evening cocktail ensemble which looks like Andie from 'Pretty in Pink' got her grubby mitts all over it, but her triumph is short-lived when all the riffraff crash the party and fuck shit up. There is an infamous super-plus-bonus in this scene:

I...uh...what is Iron Man wearing? Come to think of it, what is that other guy wearing? Was there a New Wave movement involving styling by Jo-Ann Fabrics that I missed?

Bitchy Girl is not fucking around. BTW, who let that elderly woman wearing the aqua turtleneck in?

OK, remember what I said about Bestie influencing SJP? Well, so does Anthem. When she sneaks out to go dancing with him, she wears a muscle shirt and jeans JUST LIKE HIM! I hope she gets some style of her own someday. Oh, wait, yeah, I forgot.

It's time for SJP to come into her fashion own. Are you ready for some deep analysis, motherfuckers? You knew it was coming. So SJP and Anthem made out, because, dancing together, you know how it goes. Now, when rehearsing her smooth moves, she sports a white leotard (!) without a skirt, some Flashdance off-the-shoulder style, a two-piece leotard plus suspenders (!), and, in one scene, her version of the outfit Bestie wore at the mall. This, of course, is all related to her burgeoning sexuality, taking us from one superlative cliche to another: prissy Catholic schoolgirl becomes gyrating hussy. Her trajectory climaxes (see what I did there?) in a terrifying scene where she's in her bedroom with her much younger brother, wearing a pink fitted tank top and bikini underwear. YIKES. But it's the only way her character can get to a place where she has the stones to rebel against her dad and sneak out of the house so she can dance on DTV, of course! I told you, THIS MOVIE HAS A POINT!

Bestie (wearing a kookoo lace combo pioneered by Madonna [a legendary pioneer of sex costuming, of course] with her hair sprayed straight up in the air) helps her finally escape her virginal prison and they haul balls to the DTV studio. Anthem is waiting for her there with bated breath AND with a smoky eye, bronze lame dance pants with a studded belt, a white blazer with the sleeves rolled up and a midriff-baring splatter-painted shirt.

Aaaand the GIFs just keep on comin'!

Because SJP's taken charge of her sexuality she symbolically rips off her good-girl overalls to reveal her sparkly pink dance costume. She's magically rockin' a perm, too. Want me to assign some kind of symbolism to that as well? OK, her hair is bodaciously curly instead of stick-straight now because, uh, she's taken charge of her sexuality. How's that?

The dancewear for the DTV finals is mostly typical  80s competitive stuff, except for those teenaged twins, without whom Janelle Monae would have no game. This look is tight. Also, they should have won the contest. SJP's a skilled dancer, but Anthem moves like Willard before Ren teaches him how to disco. Just sayin'.

Bitchy Girl busts out her poshest dancewear, a mauve sequined lingerie-styled leotard Richard Blade tells us is a "Michelle St-Germain original." Is there such a thing? The Google didn't seem to think so, but since this movie existed before the Google did, it's possible it's mistaken. Regardless, it's not enough, because although that costume IS sex, SJP wins and blah blah blah. We've got one more costume victory right at the end here: Bestie, also apparently relinquishing her career as a high school student to be on TV full-time, appears driving a chariot in a belted gold lame tunic with a tiara garnished with one of those rubber finger puppets with wiggly arms.

Again, see what I did there?

Most incredible part: there are only 3 people in the costume department listed in the credits. They definitely deserve this, once more, with feeling:

No comments:

Post a Comment