How the Fashion from 'Heathers' Stands Up 25 Years Later
If you haven't seen Heathers, I have one question for you: "What's your damage?" The movie premiered 25 years ago and is available on Netflix. You've had nothing but time, which you've apparently been wasting with countless not-Heathers activities. Go watch it and get back to me. If you have seen Heathers, allow me to proceed.
The black comedy, which stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, celebrated it's 25th anniversary this week with the premiere of Heathers: The Musical on Monday night and tons of think-pieces about how relevant the movie is two and a half decades later (SPOILER ALERT: still very relevant). Heathers, despite totally flopping at the box office when it was released in 1989, is a brilliant cult classic about the cruelty of teenagers, the murderous sex appeal of Christian Slater, and the devastation of shoulder pads.
As with high school, aesthetics are very important in Heathers. The fashion of the film is so '80s, complete with knee-length plaid skirts and blazers with shoulders that could probably take your eye out. The opening sequence even features a scrunchie. You can't get anymore '80s than that. Scrunchies are more '80s than John Hughes.
Before you write off the pleated skirts and oversized hair as too dated, consider the great power of Heathers' costuming. Despite it's '80s-ness, the fashion manages not to alienate the modern viewer. Veronica Sawyer and The Heathers still look sexy and alluring upon repeated viewings, even though "sexy" means something very different in 2014 than it did in 1989. The deliberate nature of the fashion is what stands out, especially in terms of colors.
Each "Heather" has a color theme — domineering red for Queen Bee Heather Chandler, envious green for Heather Duke, weak yellow for Heather McNamara — while Veronica is given the foreboding palate of black and blue, reminiscent of a bruise. The girls' signature colors are echoed throughout the film in the objects that surround them, not just their clothing. This careful use of color gives the whole movie a surreal feeling, sharply contrasting the saccharine ambiance of the film with the dark nature of the script.
The fashion from Heathers posed a challenge to costume designer Amy Clark as she set out to design the looks for Heathers: The Musical. According to Time:
"The costumes that looked so sexy 25 years ago seemed downright dowdy. “From a contemporary point of view about clothes,” she says, “I couldn’t put that on stage. The audience wouldn’t have visceral reaction to those silhouettes [...] That said, they knew better than to mess with the film’s iconic attention to aesthetic detail. “I think they really established a vocabulary and slammed it home the whole time,” Clark says. “The film has this feel of almost being curated, like a museum.”
Exactly. In the end, they wound up with shorter hemlines and blazers without the shoulder pads, but they were careful not to change too much. This was wise because Heathers just wouldn't be the same if you put the central characters in Abercrombie and Uggs. Besides, we have Mean Girls to see what Millennial cliques wore in high school.
More than two decades later, Heathers has much to offer by way of relevant fashion advice. Take heed. Or, in Heathers speak: "Lick it up, baby. Lick. It. Up."
Power Dressing is Key
The first scene with the Heathers at school shows them all wearing variations on the skirt suit, symbolic of 1980s power dressing. The shoulder padded blazers, buttoned up blouses, and (unpictured) pleated skirts might be dated, but they absolutely do the trick when it comes to ensuring that the audience sees the Heathers and Veronica as the most powerful girls at Westerberg High School. How very.
All You Need is Some Shoulder
Sometimes, all you need is to flash a little shoulder and Christian Slater will be buying you a cherry Slushie in no time flat.
Monocles Are Cool
Veronica wears a monocle when she writes in her diary. Since The New York Times has declared monocles hip again, does that make her the original hipster? At the very least, Veronica Sawyer is ahead of her time.
...and Suspenders, Too!
Heather Duke might be "such a pillowcase" according to the late Heather Chandler, but she is a damn stylish pillowcase in those suspenders, another paragon of hipster fashion. In 2014, they'd be even cuter with boyfriend jeans.
The Crop Top Reigns Supreme
From the lace-trimmed crop top to the oversized cardigan and ruffled skirt, this outfit is so on-trend that you can probably buy it at Urban Outfitters as we speak.
Wear Glamourous Sleepwear
Why? Because you never know when your best friend and her boyfriend will wake you up with a poisonous breakfast. You don't want to be caught sleeping in an old t-shirt and boxers, now do you?
Colorful Legwear Makes a Statement
What better way to protect your delicate legs from the elements during a game of croquet than with colored tights and leggings?
Now you know how to dress like the best of the "Swatch dogs and Diet Coke Heads" from Westerberg High School. Emulate their fashion, but not their after-school activities. And always remember the most important lesson of fashion and of life: "The extreme always seems to make an impression.”
Images: New World Pictures