Why The Fashion On 'Broad City' Is Important For Young Women
In my eyes, Broad City has never felt like a show that relies on aesthetics. Sure, the scenes around New York can be equal parts exciting and beautiful, and the cast members showcase their unique attractiveness in a way that feels realistic. But the show isn't seemingly based on style. So why is the fashion of Broad City still discussed and celebrated in such depth? I don't think it's because Ilana and Abbi look so authentically awesome, although they do. Rather, it's because of what their style represents for young woman.
In a world of #OOTD photos, our style doesn't often get a chance to stop. Too easily can you be accused of following trends and being unoriginal. And too easily can a stranger pull out their iPhone to mock your outfit on their Snapchat story. (It happens.) Many of us want to be unique, individual, and authentic, but we usually don't want to be embarrassed because of it. I've met plenty of folks with a strong Instagram aesthetic who would never wear their "out there" looks on the street.
Thanks to Broad City, however, and thanks to Broad City's costume designer Staci Greenbaum, we can be comforted on both sides of the coin. Abbi Abrams playing it safe with styles that highlight her "ass of an angel" is emblematic of the many people who wouldn't feel comfortable in a quirky Ilana-esque look. Ilana Wexler's bright lipsticks, crop tops, patterned leggings, and overalls prove that as wild as our style may be, we don't have to walk in packs of those who look similar to us. This was a revelation I made after moving from a small town to the big city. It was a very Broad City moment.
When first watching the show, I was nowhere near as interested in Abbi as I was Ilana. Today, I love them equally. What Abbi and her style stands for, to me at least, is recognition that this idea of clothing always representing our personalities might be a sham. Although Ilana seems like the most ridiculous, OTT character, Abbi is the one who pegs on a first date, leaves a condom inside her vagina for three days, and gets blackout drunk to sing jazz in a prohibition era bar. Her style is simple, understated, and maybe even a little boring. But she is none of those things.
In no way is Abbi less than Ilana because she's the safer dresser. If anything, she's the funnier and crazier of the pair. Her style is laid-back, yet she is not — which isn't a characterization we often get to see. Many shows rely on style to represent personality. Take Phoebe from Friends, in contrast to Rachel and Monica: She's the quirkier, hippie dippy one, so her clothes are too. Broad City, on the other hand, is showing us that although style can be one of the most rewarding ways of expressing our personalities, that isn't the case for everyone. And the girl in the vintage wedding dress and Dr. Martens isn't always the most interesting human at the party. We should make time for the person wearing fast fashion basics from head to toe as well.
But as much as I feel that Abbi represents the "average" girl, so too does Ilana. Their contrasting styles showcase the realities of getting dressed as a 20-something. In high school, cliques are regularly formed based on our sartorial choices: Goths hang out with other goths, skaters hang out with other skaters, and preps stay with preps. But in the real world of being a semi-functioning-adult, that isn't usually true. Abbi and Ilana are best friends regardless of their differing styles, and they still take the time to compliment each other on their looks — even if they'd never wear what the other does.
What we can learn from this is that women can appreciate other styles without necessarily wanting them for themselves. Women don't need to judge others for choosing different fashion genres different to their own, because women are so much more than their style.
Ultimately, personal style really is personal. When Abbi impersonates Ilana for almost an entire episode of Season 3, the situation is laughably ridiculous. But when Ilana does her backflips in booty shorts and a bra, it's easy to adore her. It's OK for our personal style to make sense for us, but not for other people. Not only should we not expect others to dress like us or appreciate the things we appreciate, but we shouldn't disrespect those who don't dress like us, either.
There's much to be dissected in both Abbi and Ilana's sartorial choices, but the use of clothing in the show is a pretty accurate depiction of how clothing can affect a Millennial's life. From fashion faux pas, to re-wearing outfits, to knowing Ilana's favorite type of bra, clothing is used in a way that feels relatable without becoming a focus of the program. From Ilana's infamous dog hoodie scene in Season 3 — when, to make up for her unprofessional attire, she proceeded to color-in her stomach to give the (poorly orchestrated) illusion of wearing a longer top — to the bike chain she wore as a belt, her quirky sartorial disorder is emblematic of the style evolutions so many of us go through.
What Broad City really achieves is the affirmation that these kinds of fashion "embarrassments" are just a part of being a contemporary young woman. So next time you realize that your skirt's been tucked into your panties for the past hour, don't worry. We've literally all been there.
Essentially, Broad City's fashion is important for young women because Ilana and Abbi are young women. They re-wear their clothes, have favorite outfits (that they also re-wear), and make a bunch of so-called styling mistakes. Their style provides realistic insight into dressing like a broke 20-something, reminding young women that life isn't always like a curated Instagram grid. And, more importantly, that it doesn't have to be.
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Images: Comedy Central