Costume designer Alana Morshead also made a point to support indie and women-owned brands.
In an early scene in the Netflix dark comedy "Do Revenge," awkward new girl Eleanor (Maya Hawke) tentatively steps onto the grounds of Rosehill, a posh Miami private school swimming with sharks. Luckily, cute, alternative underclassman Gabbi (Talia Ryder) generously gives an impromptu tour through the campus cliques: There are the Instagram-influential "Rosehill witches," the "horny theater kids who tried to mount a mostly-white rendition of 'Hamilton'" and the popular alphas — a staple in all teen movies (and life). The social primer feels like a wink-wink tribute to "Clueless," as do the sea of coordinated school plaids.
"I was definitely inspired by cult classics like 'Romy and Michele' and 'Jawbreaker' when I read the script," says costume designer Alana Morsehead."It immediately reminded me of those movies I watched when I was a teen in high school, classics that we could [take inspiration from and] turn this into something like that."
For the Rosehill regalia, though, Morsehead took direct inspiration from South Korean school uniforms, which have become fashion in their own right, as also seen in K-dramas and on K-pop performers. "They were just so trendy and cool without being over the top, and they were so modest," she says.
The Easter Egg color palette speaks to both the setting of Miami — with its famed Deco architecture (and the iconic pastel suits in the original "Miami Vice") — plus the stylized aesthetic that brings a "heightened reality" of this tony, cut-throat private school ecosystem. The crisp bowties, chic capelets (which really are academic attire), plush knits and saucy berets also highlight the consistent effort Rosehill students make to present themselves.
"They take pride in looking their best, with their hats on straight and the ties tied all the way," says Morsehead, who individualized each character with an expressive array of patterned and embellished socks, variations on school-kid shoes and statement jewelry.
The uniform elements — all sourced from vendors overseas — also allow for gender inclusiveness: Performative "golden boy" Max wears the dainty ribbon bowties with his copious jewelry, while Eleanor begins the school year in obscurity, wearing an oversize v-neck sweater and pleated khaki pants. "We have the pieces for everybody," says Morshead.
At Rosehill, "Cruel Intentions"-type machinations unfold under the watch of oblivious (and rarely-seen) adults. The versatility and interchangeability of the uniform elements indicate a hierarchy ranking — and possible decline, too. In a Teen Vogue video, Yale-bound scholarship student Drea (Camila Mendes) presides over Rosehill in a pristine pistachio cape ensemble, with her bowtie on point and beret perfectly askew.
"That was more of a power move for her, to be in a cape," says Morshead. "Once things really start to go downhill for her, we see her without a tie and [her shirt is] unbuttoned and that's really, really not Drea at all." Though she used to lead "Rosehill's Royal Court," that went downhill when then-boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams, above center) disseminated a sex video she made for him.
The characters' off-campus styles are just as extra, fun and specific, complete with glee-inducing nostalgic references. "For Drea, I was really inspired by all those '90s supermodel runway looks worn by Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell," says Morshead.
During summer break, Eleanor spots Drea instructing — and prevailing over — her terrible, entitled classmates at tennis camp. At first, you'd think the two won't mix at all, especially since Eleanor is wearing a t-shirt that says "models suck" (ironic considering Drea's style inspo).
"The T-shirt did feel like slight insult, not only to Drea, but to everyone," says Morshead. "It's making a statement without saying anything. The baseball cap Eleanor wore often also said, 'I hate it here.' She doesn't hold back!"
Drea and Eleanor connect over their grievances. Drea's hellbent on exacting retribution from Max, while Eleanor remains haunted by a false rumor started by her middle school crush, Carissa (Ava Capri). So, the former takes the latter on the teen flick-requisite shopping montage, turning another trope on its head. "Please don't say 'a makeover,'" groans Eleanor. "It's so problematic."
Of course, Drea is confidently dressed for the pivotal day in an eye-popping pink houndstooth set (above) custom-made by Morshead, which referenced a 1992 photo of Iman with David Bowie in Paris, wearing a black-and-white, check-on-check suit by Alaia.
"I just fell in love with that and I was like, 'How can we make this Miami?' So it was a halter top and pink," she says, adding that she imagined how the talented and resourceful Drea also custom-designed her art-poppy ensemble, along with the rest of her colorful, print-happy coordinated 'fits to keep up with her affluent peers. (Attentive viewers may spot a sewing machine in the background of Drea's room.)
With her fashion and scheming expertise, Drea helps craft Eleanor's new persona, to catch the easily-distracted Max's — and the fickle Royal Court's — attention. Eleanor transforms from her slouchy-sweater uniform to her new "high status cunt" look, complete with a power cape and beret; her off-campus wardrobe evolves, too.
"I didn't want Drea to just to make another mini-clone of herself," says Morshead. For Eleanor's mustard-and-orange palette, she referenced icons of the '60s and '70s, like Twiggy and "Shampoo"-era Goldie Hawn.
As their subterfuge is successfully underway, Drea and Eleanor scheme in unison through their fashion, like when they uncover the real contents of Carissa's hot house. Drea wears a ruffled lilac crop top by Aussie brand Dyspnea, while her yellow gingham shorts are from Blanca Miró's La Veste. They play off Eleanor's adorable marigold-print overalls and matching hat from Latinx family-owned Miracle Eye (above).
"They're a team, and it's them-versus-everybody else — but it's a balance: They have their own identity, but also they go together," says Morshead. As Eleanor infiltrates the Royal Court and gets close to Max on behalf of Drea, she ends up enjoying her new status. She looks especially comfortable with her feet (and blocked slides by Charlotte Stone) up on Max's lap, wearing a mesh floral Mary Quant-esue turtleneck by Rabôt and canary-yellow vintage shorts. An illustrious metallic bomber jacket by The Mighty Company signals her official induction into the Royal Court (below). (The costume designer made it a point to support independent and women-owned brands, like all those mentioned already, plus labels like Lesjour!, 3 Women, Muaves and RoseCut.)
"At that point in the film, she's getting used to being in this 'role' of Eleanor, and it's becoming a bit more organic for her to like dress and put together pieces like this," says Morshead. "In that moment, she has the boldest look to make her kind of pop the most."
Later, the two unite again for a climactic, hedonistic and very exclusive party. They make their grand entrance in gleaming (and very "Romy and Michele") looks, both custom-designed by Morshead in their signature hues. (She assigned Drea a "cooler palette" of blues, purples and jewel tones.)
The sort of reverse-sweetheart neckline of Drea's shimmering evening gown took direct inspiration from supermodel Carla Bruni wearing an ice-blue Versace dress in 1995 to an afterparty thrown by the legendary designer; the gilded butterfly at the bodice foreshadows a finale conversation, while the chunky gold chains hearken back to the free-spending, extravagant Clinton era.
"It just felt so '90s Moschino," says Morshead. The provenance of the embellishments, however, not so much: "The straps on that dress are actually two belts from the beauty supply store. They're like $1.50 each."
Morshead woke up one morning with inspo fresh in her mind for Eleanor's pinnacle look, which counters Drea's sparkles with an oversized pantsuit made in a dynamic metallic orange lamé.
"I was just like, 'I need to make something with orange zippers,'" says Morshead. "So I go to the fabric store, buy like 50 orange pants zippers and think, 'Why don't we make this a top?'"
The choker with asymmetrical strap provides an intentional "dog collar vibe," which creates a "little trapped illusion," says Morshead. "She's under Drea's spell."
The two still need to deal with Max, who says things like, "I would love to backpack across Europe with my camera. Just blow up my life. This is all so performative," with zero self awareness. (He also pronounces "privacy" like he's British. He's not.) The inspiration for his floral trousers, ruffled sheer blouses and vintage Gucci teddy cardigan (and no shirt)? "It's totally Harry Styles," says Morshead.
According to the costume designer, she wanted to subvert the archetypical hetero, cisgender, "kind of misogynistic" male love interest from '90s teen rom-coms. "Max is the leading popular guy in school. He's wearing a pearl necklace, and that's cool," says Morshead. "We've come really far since then. You can really just have your own style."