A Fashion Analysis of... Mean Girls
Updated: Mar 14
Mean Girls is a 2004 movie directed by Mark Waters, presenting an A-list cast that includes Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, and Lizzy Caplan. The movie was a cultural phenomenon, having its scenes quoted and known up to this day as basic elements of pop culture. In fact, October 3rd is known as Mean Girls Day because Cady (the movie's main character) delivered the line: "On October 3rd he asked me what day it was", which just seems like a regular quote, but as this movie is so iconic almost every phrase is memorable. And one of the most underrated principles that make this movie what it is is the costuming. Yes, a lot of people don't consider the clothes used in a show to be particularly important, but they can be crucial for world building, character development, and setting the tone of the movie.
Cady is the main character (played by Lindsay Lohan) and she will be the character we will be analyzing. In the movie, she was a girl born in Africa who was going to study in an actual highschool after being homeschooled her whole life. When she enters this world, it's all very different to her. She is very simply dressed in the beginning - she has jeans, a plaid shirt that isn't tucked in or is form fitting, no jewelry (apart from her African tribal bracelet), basically clashing with what the popular girls (referred to as the plastics) would wear.
As she started becoming friends with the plastics, she was taught several fashion rules - “On Wednesdays we wear pink”, no jeans, ponytails only once a week, and countless others. Once that happens, she slowly and indirectly starts progressing. On Halloween night, for example, she wears a bridal dress with blood spilled all over it. It is a bit more form fitting, but it is still drastically different from what the other girls are wearing since it's meant to be scary, while the others are trying to look pretty . It is made to look homemade and cheap while her other friends have tight and shiny clothes literally resembling what plastic looks like.
Fast forward to Christmas day, she is wearing a small red plastic skirt, along with a matching top, looking exactly like her popular friends - showing signs that she was getting more engrained and infiltrated in this new "feminine world". After this part of the movie, her style completely changed. She is shown walking to school wearing a form fitting pink shirt, a short skirt, necklaces and fancy heels, thus marking her official transformation into a "plastic".
This is meant to show the audience how her personality also changed from that point on. She forgot to go to her friend's art gallery in order to throw a party at her house. At this party, she wears a strapless dress showcasing her bra - which, at the time, was considered a fashion statement, further reflecting how our main character is much more involved in the fashion world than before. Another interesting element of her clothing is her choker, which is a piece of leather she took out from her African bracelet, using it as a metaphor to describe Cady - she took something from her past life and adapted it, just like the transformation she had also gone through. At the end of the movie, Cady had grown. She had learned her mistakes and wasn’t trying to be someone else just to fit in the school's "hierarchy". She's back to simple clothes, wearing jeans and a simple white shirt, but it can be seen that she had a greater sense of fashion than before. Her shirt and jeans are more form-fitting and stylish, and she is now wearing boots. And as Mary Jane Fort, the movie's costume designer puts it, "this is the real Cady because it shows what has happened to her in the past year. It shows her transformation washed away and she's come back, she's genuine, but she has picked up on a bit".
As you can see, I was able to illustrate a whole character's development and situation in the story solely based on her outfits throughout the show. Movies need to use every single element in order to build and create this world for us to be involved in, and I think Mean Girls was able to do that perfectly.