Fashion and Film Don’t Mix? As If!

The film industry has a fist wrapped around fashion trends.

That’s according to new research from e-commerce styling service Stitch Fix, which found that more than 60 percent of people use style inspiration from television and films for their daily looks. More notable, the research found that nearly 40 percent of respondents deemed the ‘90s as the most fashionable era.

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One seasoned industry professional who has provided style inspiration since the ‘90s is Mona May, a costume designer for timeless movies like Clueless, Enchanted, The Wedding Singer and more.

Mona May and Tyler McCall
Mona May and Tyler McCall

May was at the Austin, Texas-based film festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), to speak on a panel titled “Main Character Energy: TV and Movies’ Influence on Fashion.” Moderated by Tyler McCall, freelance fashion writer and editor, the two spoke about costume design in film, specifically “Clueless,” and how it’s impacting fashion trends. One ensemble from the 1995 American coming-of-age teen comedy that fans across the globe continue to re-create is the matching plaid outfits seen on best friends Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) and Dion (played by Stacey Dash).

“The ’90s delivered a goldmine of fashion-forward films and TV series, boasting iconic titles like “Clueless,” “Charmed,” “Cruel Intentions” and more. Their influence has reverberated through contemporary fashion, proving the style legacy remains as potent as ever,” Kayla Marci, senior fashion and retail analyst at Edited, told Sourcing Journal. “In fact, there’s a notable year-on-year surge in demand for key pieces reminiscent of this era, with sell outs of pleated skirts (+36 percent), bandeau tops (+33 percent) and white mini dresses (+12 percent). Whether it’s the latest releases or timeless cult classics, these visual narratives consistently drive demand for wardrobe aesthetics.”

Luxury fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Christian Siriano have even taken a swing at re-creating lead character Cher’s looks for the runway, further solidifying the film’s impact on fashion.

“This movie has become so iconic that when you see yellow plaid you think of Clueless,” May said. “I mean, even last Halloween Kim Kardashian and her daughter [North West] recreated the outfit which I think is pretty amazing.”

For Cher’s plaid look, May said they had a few different options, including a blue version which she thought would “match perfectly with her blond hair.” However, the blue was not up to par with the designers vision.

“When Alicia tried the blue on, it was very underwhelming. [That’s when we decided to have her try on] the yellow version that I didn’t think would work since blonde’s and yellow don’t really mix. But, once she stepped out in the yellow outfit, It was like a ray of sunshine just lit up the room, and we knew immediately that was the one,” May said. “When we were creating the outfits for ‘Clueless,’ we didn’t think we were going to change the world. We just wanted to do a great job and tell the story of the character.”

Fast-forward to 2023, the film industry is still influencing fashion. In fact, many versions of Barbie (and Ken), seen in 2023’s top-grossing silver-screen sensation, inspired countless Halloween costume ideas last year, with “Barbie costume” hashtags accumulating over 88 million views on TikTok.

And Boohoo, the British fashion e-tailer, found 18,000 average monthly Google searches for Barbie costumes, making it the most popular pop-culture costume in America last year—ahead of Princess Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” live-action reboot and Queen Charlotte from the hit Netflix streaming series “Bridgerton.”

“Fashion trends from the past are constantly being recycled. Look how the Barbie movie’s costumes influenced trends just last year,” May said. “The art of costume design is a very intense process because it helps tell the story of a character. I feel so lucky that I get to do this [and help inspire trends] daily.”