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Described as “handsome, clever and rich,” not to mention endearingly meddlesome, Jane Austen’s beloved character Emma Woodhouse is a self-styled matchmaker with a high-style wardrobe. The 2020 film adaptation of Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy portrays our spirited heroine as the epitome of Regency glamor, complete with feathered bonnets, delicate gloves and empire waist dresses in dreamy fabrics. For a 90s take on essentially the same character, consider Cher Horowitz, played by Alicia Silverstone, from seminal teen comedy Clueless. With her queen bee energy, ditzy air and love for preppy chic, she’s an enduring fashion icon.
Whether it’s the high romanticism of the Regency era or the quintessential chic of 90s fashion, our two heroines’ wardrobes are on-trend without falling into fashion victim territory. For Emma, it’s all about the daring details – think extra lace, ribbons, appliques and ensembles in soft yet alluring colors. For Cher, her effortless take on 90s staples such as sweater vests, spaghetti-strap camisoles and pleated minis made her styling abilities several cuts above her try-hard peers in the film. Sure, Emma and Cher may be “clueless” about a few things in life, but when it comes to fashion, they can certainly put together a killer ensemble.
Read on for two looks paying homage to their inimitable styles!
The Vintage Take: Emma
Although Emma may be arrogant and the occasional heartbreaker, she still wins us over because of her youthful high spirit and capacity for self-reflection. Her exquisite wardrobe, which includes dramatic and ethereal looks, makes her a treat to watch even at her silliest. In a movie where color and sartorial detailing speaks volumes about each character’s social ambition and romantic disposition, Emma’s ensembles stand out for their variety, impeccable tailoring and pops of rich color. The color yellow, in particular, holds especial power, as stunningly showcased when our heroine visits a town in a sumptuous pelisse.
Inspired by Emma’s fondness for girlish touches, I created an outfit rendered in one of her signature color palettes: pink, white and beige. The puff-sleeve crop top with an appropriately revealing neckline is paired with a tiered lace skirt that recalls the floaty muslins of the early 1800s. A semi-sheer summer cardigan in baby pink ups the sweetly romantic vibes, as does this gold-tone necklace featuring a delicate heart-shaped pendant alongside floral embellishments. To seal those lady-of-leisure vibes, slip into beige ballet flats embellished with a tonal ribbon, before throwing on a cloche hat that’s a simpler take on Emma’s feathered bonnets.
The Contemporary Take: Cher
Cher – the originator of the immortal line “Ugh! As if!” – needs no introduction. The vain but kind-hearted heroine of Clueless sits atop her school’s social hierarchy with her sunny good looks, rich girl confidence and 90s wardrobe radiating teen girl glamor. Take the yellow plaid ensemble she wears in the opening scene that embodies not only Cher’s love of sleek, structured silhouettes and matchy-matchy styles, but also her aptitude for breathing new life into preppy staples. In a movie crammed full of memorable wardrobe moments, Cher’s date-night outfit – a scandalously short white slip dress – is another standout due to its simplicity and straightforward sex appeal. Along the way, her style game is aided by accessorizing in everything from silky headbands to compact clutches to block-heel Mary Janes.
I curated a spunkier update on Cher’s much-copied style from the movie’s best fashion moments. Radiate sass without losing uptown edge in this twist-front camisole and sweet plaid mini, both in yellow in a nod to Cher’s most famous outfit. For Pantone Color of the Year appeal, throw on a super-sleek cropped blazer in slate gray. No Cher-inspired outfit would be complete without a pair of Mary Janes – I selected a white, double-strap platform version that’s perfect for strutting down school hallways. For a final touch, indulge in some of Cher’s favorite accessories – the wide Alice headband and the micro handbag.
Not Just An Airhead
Queen bee, budding matchmaker and poster child for personal growth, “Emma” in her different guises is a character whose breezy charm belies hidden depths. The queen bee may be rich, spoiled and naive, but she’s also got spunk, drive and a mind of her own. By the end of Emma and Clueless, it’s hard not to be cheering for our two heroines – a turn of events that might also be attributable to their quality wardrobes.