It was the yellow tartan ensemble heard around the world. Having just finished watching the 1995 cult classic Clueless for what seem like the millionth time, I can’t help but wonder: will we ever really be beyond Clueless?
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years you probably know all about Clueless. The 1995 teen comedy was loosely based on Jane Austin’s novel Emma and became the sleeper hit movie of the 90s, gathering a strong cult following. The film’s fashion created a vibrant world full of bright colours, fluffy backpacks and of course a plethora of tartan. The writer-director of Clueless, Amy Heckerling, and the films costume designer, Mona May, envisioned a style to contradict the popular grunge fashion of the time. But why are we still obsessed with their uber-feminine, tartan clad look?
With the release of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea’s new Clueless inspired video for her single Fancy it’s surprising that this movie still continues to have such a strong influence in a world where a trend survives as long as a Big Mac at a fat camp. But she is hardly the first person to inject a little Clueless realness into their look. This Clueless effect can be seen from high street fashion from New Look to Topshop, to the Versace Fall 2013 RTW collection, the Wildfox SS13 line, the Moschino cheap and chic SS14 collection, to the Antipodium SS14 collection. What is it about this particular teen classic that keeps designers rollin’ with their homies?
To investigate this trend we spoke to the man that is fast becoming the world authority on teen cinema, writer and director Charlie Lynne, whose new film Beyond Clueless is a “part historical account, part close textual analysis, part audio-visual mood piece and part head-over-heels love letter to the teen genre”. Lynne, an award winning film critic, editor of the blog Ultra Culture and a self confessed teen cinema lover appears to be the perfect man for the job of unraveling this mystery. “Teen movies are fascinating because they make up perhaps the only genre that’s explicitly aimed at people of a certain age, and an incredibly impressionable age at that. These are movies that say ‘we specifically want to be seen by the people who are most likely to be influenced by what they see’”.
These movies have served as a muse for designers and inspired many wider cultural trends, but although their collective impact was great, no single release inspired more than Clueless, the archetypal teen movie. Lynne states that “Clueless is a perfect film, so it’s no wonder it’s remembered with such fondness. More significantly however, it arrived at a time when teen movies were in a dire state. In one fell swoop it kicked off a whole new wave of teen films, convincing filmmakers and their backers alike that there was still an appetite for these films.”
When we think of Clueless, we are drawn to the fashion, and why not? But Lynne points to a combination of both style and substance. “Clueless, She’s All That and so on have very distinctive looks, but I think they never would have taken off if they weren’t engaging as films at the same time. The style of the films helped them take off as a genre, but their quality is what makes them – and by extension, their style – so enduring.”
The fashion of Clueless is so enduring because it’s larger than life, the perfect example of optimistic clothing. In the turbulent financial, political and social times we find ourselves living in, what better way to escape (if even just for a little while) than with a fluffy pen or some group co-ordinated black and white workout gear? A tartan wardrobe isn’t going to fix your financial situation, but at least you can fill out those job applications in style.
Beyond Clueless is showing at various festivals across the world over the summer and will be more widely available later in the year.