ICON ISSUE: Mean Girls (2024) A Fashion Flop

ICON ISSUE: Mean Girls (2024) A Fashion Flop

In January of this year, Mean Girls (2024) was released in theaters. It is a film adaptation of the hit 2018 Broadway musical based on the iconic 2004 Mean Girls movie we all know and love. The 2004 film, directed by Tina Fey and starring actress Lindsay Lohan as the lead, ingrained itself into American pop culture. It still resonates with teenagers today, especially in the fashion department. With the rise of Y2K clothing, many of the looks from Mean Girls (2004) have served as fashion inspiration for Gen-Z. The 2024 film had a lot to live up to, and unfortunately, it did not deliver. It was a complete fashion disaster.

The outfits in the new adaptation were cheap and ill-fitting on the actresses, and didn’t match any of the character’s personalities or motivations. Costuming in films is often overlooked, but it’s an important storytelling device that lets viewers know more about the characters and their lives, and better immerses viewers in the story being told. The outfits in Mean Girls (2004) achieved just that. But in the 2024 version, the clothing doesn’t suit the characters or plot, and dulls the impact of its overall message and theme. Costume designer Tom Broecker completely missed the mark when it came to styling each of the main girls.

In all iterations of the Mean Girls story, main character Cady Heron moves with her family from Africa to Illinois, and enrolls in North Shore High School. After years of being homeschooled, Cady struggles to get accustomed to public school life and its toxic social hierarchy, and the film follows as she slowly loses her identity once she gets a taste of popularity. In her first week at school, Cady meets “the Plastics,” an elite trio made up of popular girls Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, and Karen Smith.

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The Plastics, hence their name, are like Barbie dolls. They’re beautiful, rich, admired by their peers, and are meant to be unattainable. They aren’t like your average teenage girl, and their clothing shows that. The Plastics in Mean Girls (2004) are regularly shown wearing luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, and sporting hyper feminine mini skirts and heels on the daily.

In Mean Girls (2024), Tom Broecker took a different approach. The clothing he used for the movie were sourced from fast fashion brands like Shein, Walmart, and TikTok shop of all places. I’m sorry, but Regina George would never be caught dead in Shein.

For a movie that was released almost 2 decades ago, the fashion in Mean Girls (2004) looks less dated than its modern counterpart. There’s no secret on who did it better. But for the sake of fun, I wanted to compare the fashion in both movies.

Starting off with:

Cady Heron is a “fish out of water” who finds her way in the end and discovers who she really is. She undergoes the biggest transformation out of all the characters in both the Mean Girls films, however, in Mean Girls (2024) her shift in personality isn’t as impactful as it was in the original. This is partly due to the poor costume design. In Mean Girls (2004), Cady starts off the film as the new girl at North Shore High. She has been homeschooled all her life and isn’t used to dressing up, so she doesn’t really put any effort into her outfits at first. She prioritizes comfort over style, and wears untailored shirts, flared jeans, and flannel. She doesn’t wear any makeup and leaves her hair unstyled.

When Cady meets the Plastics, her fashion gradually changes. She begins dressing like them, specifically like Regina who she eventually tries to overthrow. Her initial attempts at copying the Plastics are awkward.

But soon enough, her clothes become more fitted, feminine, and trendy. Her jeans get swapped out for miniskirts, her brown school bag for a Louis Vuitton purse to match the rest of the Plastics, and her beaded bracelet (gifted to her by her mother) for a letter C necklace reminiscent of Regina’s letter R necklace.

Even her hair and color palette changes. Cady starts curling her hair, which she used to leave unstyled or up in a ponytail. And she goes from wearing darker shades of red and green, to pastel pink and blue. Cady becomes an almost-carbon copy of Regina, with many of her looks taking direct inspiration from Regina’s outfits, and the change is jarring since her style at the beginning of the movie was so different.

Cady ends the movie wearing a mix of both her old style and “plastic” style of clothing, incorporating trendier silhouettes but reverting back to her old color palette.

In Mean Girls (2024), Cady’s change is barely noticeable so it isn’t as shocking for the audience. Her color palette remains the same throughout the entire movie, as does her style for the most part. She starts wearing skirts after meeting the Plastics like 2004 Cady, but that’s pretty much it. Her “popular girl” outfits that she wears when becoming a Plastic are very underwhelming, and her somehow becoming more popular than Regina George didn’t feel earned or realistic since her outfits weren’t that impressive. In the end, she looked like the same character she was at the beginning.

Regina George is the leader of the Plastics. Her name means Queen in Latin, which is fitting since she is repeatedly referred to as the Queen Bee of North Shore High. She is described by other girls as being “flawless,” and Cady notes when she first meets Regina that Regina is like a “glamorous Barbie doll.”

Her outfits in Mean Girls (2004) match her regal reputation. Her style is more mature and sophisticated than the other Plastics, Gretchen and Karen, which alludes to the power she has over them as their leader. Regina is a fan of classy silhouettes that make her appear older (and intimidating). Due to her wealth, she wears high end brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. She is shown wearing blazers over nicely-fitted collared button ups, tight leather mini skirts, and never leaves the house without a pair of high heels. Her main color palette consists of pink, black, and red.

The pink symbolizes the soft, feminine side that she presents to the world, whereas the black and red represent her true dark nature. Regina’s fashion is deceptively sweet at a glance, but when you look at it closely, her true self shines through. Her fashion matches her two-faced personality.

In Mean Girls (2024), Regina’s fashion lacks any sense of class and is just plain ugly. Reneé Rapp, who plays Regina George in the musical adaptation, reportedly felt uncomfortable wearing skirts. That’s perfectly fine, but the costume designer could’ve still styled her in some nice pants other than unflattering cargos. None of her outfits give off that “chic and sleek” vibe that 2004 Regina had, and I don’t see why any of her peers would be envious of her style.

Gretchen Wiener’s style is preppy and the most conservative in comparison to the other Plastics. She is also the wealthiest of the group since her father “invented toaster strudel,” and she shamelessly flaunts that by wearing British designer brands like Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. Gretchen’s color palette consists of orange and peach shades, and she loves wearing bold patterns like argyle and plaid.

Out of all the Plastics, Gretchen’s style in Mean Girls (2024) is the most different from the 2004 version. 2024 Gretchen wears tight corset tops that reveal her bra. There’s nothing wrong with wearing revealing clothes, but 2004 Gretchen would find it tacky. Her color palette and style in the 2024 film is too similar to Karen’s, which is strange since they have starkly different personalities. In my opinion, the costume designer should have leaned into the preppy, light academia look for Gretchen to differentiate her from Karen.

Unlike Gretchen, Karen Smith’s style in Mean Girls (2024) is the closest to her style in the 2004 film. The outfits that Karen wears in the new movie actually seem like outfits that 2004 Karen would also wear.

Karen is the most provocative of the Plastics and likes to wear revealing clothes. She isn’t “classy” or “mature” like Regina and Gretchen, and doesn’t care to be. Karen has a sweet and childish personality, and her fashion reflects that. She dresses in colorful, youthful clothes and is less put together than the other Plastics to show how she isn’t as manipulative as Regina and Gretchen. Karen fits the “dumb and ditzy blonde” stereotype. She’s pretty but airheaded, and Regina purposely added her into her clique because she isn’t smart enough to challenge her. Karen’s whole shtick is that she’s just happy to be included, and she copies Regina and Gretchen’s style to an extent but still stays true to her own interests.

Karen’s color palette is girly and innocent, made up of soft pastel colors like pink and blue. She likes to wear tank tops with cute slogans and simple designs like stars, ribbons, and stripes, and she pairs them with short skirts.

In the 2024 movie, Karen’s fashion looks similar to her fashion in the 2004 version and actually makes sense for her character. My only gripe with it is that it looks too mass-produced and cheap, and a lot less glamorous. But her aesthetic is close enough that I don’t mind that much.

Though, I would’ve preferred it if 2024 Karen wore a coquette type of style. The coquette aesthetic is very girly and sweet and includes elements like lace, bows, florals, and light colors. Coquette is all about looking cute and feminine, which fits Karen’s personality perfectly.

Overall, the fashion in Mean Girls (2024) was a disappointment to fashion lovers everywhere. By trying to be relatable to Gen-Z, they failed to capture the essence of what made the fashion in Mean Girls (2004) so iconic in the first place. Costume design in film isn’t just for show. Each outfit has a purpose, and the outfits in Mean Girls (2024) not only disregarded that, they weren’t even cute.

Mean Girls (2024) was not fetch.

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