No doubt about it– “girls” are having a moment right now. Along with Lena Dunham’s much hyped HBO series which launches this Sunday, Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress debuted last weekend. It’s a smart and hilariously quotable film about a group of always well-dressed and well-groomed girls who have set out to bring a little culture and refinement to a New England liberal arts school otherwise dominated by smelly, barbaric frat boys. Other good deeds on their agenda include “helping” a transfer student navigate college social life and running the school’s suicide prevention center, where they serve donuts and teach tap dancing.
There are definitely similarities to Heathers/Clueless/Mean Girls and also Rushmore with the whole precocious-students-taking-over-their-preppy-school thing. However, Stillman’s signature style and attention to detail (not to mention brilliant writing) that makes the film special and the fashion is an integral part of that.
The same can be said of Stillman’s last film, The Last Days of Disco, in which college friends played by Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny move to New York City in the “very early 1980s” and infiltrate the disco scene as it comes to an end. Their relatively classic, pared back approach to both daywear and disco style is still super appealing today.
The reason why Stillman’s girls are so appealing isn’t because they’re wearing on-trend designer labels or overstyled and fashion-y, but because their looks are grounded in the reality of how girls actually want to look. At the same time there’s an easy elegance to it that is hard for us regular people to achieve. And as Faran wrote five years ago in a post that I found while searching our site for mentions of LDOD, “The best movies for fashion aren’t usually ‘fashion movies.’”
Whitman’s 1990 film Metropolitan was also important fashion-wise, but it’s about the debutante ball scene in Manhattan’s Upper East Side (totally the original Gossip Girl–there’s even a character named Serena) which means there’s nothing but bad ’80s formal gowns that I really don’t think should make a comeback. So, click through for a look at Stillman’s most stylish ladies and similar options you can buy today! Also, go see Damsels in Distress this weekend. It’s great and Adam Brody totally still has it.