Last week, the Charlie’s Angels remake was released, starring Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott, to critical and commercial disappointment. While the franchise’s newest incarnation failed to make any major impact, the original film from 2000, Charlie’s Angels, still stands as a classic. Starring the trifecta of Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz, the character archetypes were cut and dry. Liu was the slick, worldly one in a tight leather skirt suit that carried a whisper of the dominatrix. Barrymore, meanwhile, brought her bohemian personality, sleeping with a man (played by her former fiancé, Tom Green) who lives on a tugboat. And Diaz, as in most of her roles at the time, would continue to be the beaming girl next door, just with a little more punching and jaw-breaking.
Charlie’s Angels was filmed at the height of Diaz’s career. This blockbuster was action-packed, with plenty of huge explosions. Diaz kicked bad guys to the curb in halter tops, low-slung leather pants, and black stiletto boots. There were funny moments too! Who can forget the scene when Diaz wakes up in her sun-drenched room somewhere in Los Angeles, gyrating in a pair of boy’s underwear to the tune of Tavares’s disco classic “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel”? In her Vogue May 2003 cover story, Diaz’s costar Lucy Liu said of her character’s wardrobe: “For Cameron, it’s an art form, and it’s all about transformation and change—like turning a skirt into a tube top. Something could cost $10 or $10,000—either way, if she’s comfortable in it. She makes it work. She defines her own fashion, and people follow it.” Diaz and her Charlie’s Angels character’s wardrobe were a match made in heaven. In fact, they seemed like they belonged to the same person, off- and onscreen—and that’s because they basically did.
Liu’s observation about Diaz’s chameleonic take on fashion was surprisingly on point. Over the years, Diaz, a three-time Vogue cover star, has perfected a more laid-back approach to the over-the-top, early ’00s style. There was plenty of unwearable excess during the post-Y2K years, but Diaz packaged its flashy, bare-belly antics in a more palatable way. As in Charlie’s Angels, her costumes onscreen were never too far from her everyday, off-duty outfits. In 2002’s The Sweetest Thing, her character’s wardrobe is a “girls just wanna have fun” dream. (It is the premise of the movie, after all.) She wears a heavy rotation of thigh-high boots, midi skirts with showy slits, and a barrage of useless but pretty mini scarves. There are off-the-shoulder tops in fuchsia. Metallic flares that are so tight, they appear painted on. All things cropped. Several layers of cherry red lip gloss. Her character as a New York–based crazed lover in Vanilla Sky, released one year before, was a little more pared-back but in a similar vein—just take the scene featuring Diaz’s signature booty shaking in caramel-hued leather pants.
Before her mercurial rise in Hollywood, her off-duty style had mainly consisted of elegantly pared-back outfits that weren’t dissimilar to those of her peer, Gwyneth Paltrow. She was a fan of all-black sexy shiva-sitting looks—a turtleneck or a slip skirt—but toward the late ’90s, Diaz’s personal style began to feel both more carefree and more attainable than Paltrow’s big-money minimalism. You could see Diaz’s personality poking through. She’d add a kicky high red shoe to a black pant, show a bit of shoulder, or maybe wear a necklace that felt like it was pulled from a surf shop. She was fun. She wore lots and lots of jaunty hats. Even if she wasn’t someone who lived or died by fashion trends, it was clear Diaz loved getting dressed up.
On the red carpet, Diaz also displayed that innate flair for playful fashion. Throughout this period, the actress was styled by sisters Clare and Nina Hallworth—known within Hollywood circles as “the twins”—who speak highly of Diaz’s fashion knowledge to this day. “Cameron was a collaborator. She was always open to mixing designers. She looked beautiful in clothes and she was a pleasure. Cameron was ahead of everyone,” they write. “She wore what felt right.” The duo put her in several of her most memorable looks, including the Emanuel Ungaro Haute Couture kimono dress she wore to the Oscars in 2002—a look that is now considered ahead of its time, but landed Diaz on several worst-dressed lists. Almost 20 years later, it seems Cameron’s style couldn’t look any fresher.
In that same 2003 Vogue cover story, the writer also notes Diaz’s knack for mixing and matching designers like Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen with her own pieces, like an antique necklace that she styled as a belt or a “pair of hippie-chick jeans.” The Annie Leibovitz “she can do it all!” fantastical circus-themed shoot featured Diaz wearing a hand-painted silk and chiffon blue Dior Haute Couture John Galliano gown. The final touch? A pair of Uggs from her own wardrobe. It’s an anecdote that perfectly captures the offbeat, high-low take on fashion that makes Diaz’s style feel relevant today. Truly, she could do it all.
Originally Appeared on Vogue