There was a post on the Seamwork community board asking what film has your favorite fashion, and all the answers were so dreadfully classy that I couldn’t bear to post a reply there.
Sure, I love 1940s Hollywood fashion as much as the next clothes-obsessed person, but to be honest, the movie costumes I appreciate most — the ones that have been most influential on me — aren’t the familiar silk-draped mid-century glamour fests or even any of the costume dramas I adore. My real faves are “Ghostbusters,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Party Girl.”
Yeah, you read that right.
I spent my childhood thinking Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz in “Ghostbusters” was exactly what I wanted to look like when I grew up. Almost everything she wears is red, black, grey, and white — and she has a deft hand for pattern mixing. She’s professional enough that you want to take her seriously but just goofy enough that she can handle working for a business that busts ghosts. People think she’s “too intellectual,” but clothes don’t lie. She’s a charming eccentric. (Bonus shout out to Zuul’s metallic caftan, too. I mean, did Dana just have that lying around for some reason?)
I spent much of my teens wanting to look like Catherine O’Hara as Delia Deetz in “Beetlejuice” — NOT Winona Ryder, come on. Delia Deetz was so avant-garde that she wore her husband’s sweater as pants. She later wore an evening glove as a headband, if memory serves. That is some high-level weird clothes-repurposing energy, like something Little Edie would have worn if she was deep in the 80s art scene. Delia had hair plastered like static tentacles on her face, she was a misunderstood artist-goddess, and she wanted everyone to know it. Sure, I’m now obsessed with Moira Rose like everyone else, but I’ve loved Catherine O’Hara since she Day-o’ed her way into my heart in 1988.
Finally, during college, I basically wanted to be Parker Posey as Mary in “Party Girl.” Well, I just wanted her wardrobe. The character herself was a hot mess. (“Heh-heh-hello!”) Anyone who can throw on spiral striped tights with lavender shoes and red shorts and then add a leopard print coat on top is always going to be a fashion role model for me, though. Do you want to layer four neon-colored t-shirts? Sign me up! Would you like a fisherman’s sweater that’s somehow shaped like an 18th-century bodice? Who doesn’t! I still rewatch this from time to time to remind myself that my clothes are too dull.
I know I’ve written before that I longed to be elegant as a young person, and I know that’s true. But I also know that what I really appreciated in clothing was far quirkier than I might have publicly said when I was young. I certainly didn’t dress in any way that truly pushed the envelope back then, and I’ve only started to let my fashion ideals guide my real day-to-day wardrobe now that I’m in my 40s. But there’s still time to mix some prints, wear a sweater as a turban, and combine a few higher-end pieces with thrift store finds and my own sewing.
In an ideal world, we could all dress with wild abandon — just like my favorite screen icons.