Fashion in film: Evolution of a mean girl

Costume design of the 2004 film Mean Girls

In many movies, costume design plays an important role. Costume design can communicate the time period, the character, character development and so much more. In the 2004 movie Mean Girls, costume designer Mary Jane Fort carefully put together the outfits of the characters to represent all these aspects. Throughout the movie, we see main character Cady Herron become more and more influenced by the characters Regina George, Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith who are also referred to as “the plastics.”


The first time we see Cady in the movie she is wearing a very neutral color palette. Her outfit in the first scene we see her consists of a red shirt under an army green jean jacket and a pair of jeans. Her only form of jewelry is a beaded bracelet which in a later scene we learn was made by her mother.


When we first see Cady sit with the plastics, her blue plaid shirt and jeans are clearly meant to make her stand out from the more modern and stylish clothes and accessories that the other three girls at the table are wearing. Her shirt is loose and slightly wrinkled which is very obviously contrasting the other girls’ more properly fitted and well taken care of clothes.

One of the most popular lines from the movie is when Karen says, “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” When a Wednesday comes up, we see Cady wearing a big pink shirt that she borrowed from her friend Damian. This is yet another scene that takes place at the beginning of the movie that is used to show the large contrast between the plastics and Cady. Her pink shirt is very oversized and does not fit well on her and is a very obvious difference from the form fitting pink outfits the plastics are wearing.


Another time where Cady’s outfit is used to show her distance from the plastics is at the Halloween party. In the movie, Cady wears a zombie bride-like costume. When she walks into the party, she notices how different her large and eccentric costume is compared to the other girls at the party who are wearing more revealing and tight-fitting clothes. In an interview with Vanity Fair, costume designer Mary Jane Fort said, “I wanted it to look as different as the others as it possibly could look,” when referring to Cady’s outfit in this scene.


As we watch Cady slowly become more and more like the plastics, we see her adopt similar clothing styles to those of the plastics. Instead of developing her own style, we see her take up things like Gretchen’s plaid prints and Regina’s style of jewelry. We also see her leave behind her old color scheme of earthy and neutral colors and instead turn to wearing more pinks and reds, similar to the colors that we see Karen and Regina wear all throughout the movie.


When Cady finally transitions to dressing entirely like the plastics, we see her wearing a lot of pinks and reds. We also see her slowly transition into wearing slightly more revealing clothes, similar to what the plastics have worn in previous scenes in the movie. One particular scene that we see this truly “plastic” style of Cady’s wardrobe is the outfit she wears when she hosts a party at her house. The outfit consists of a tight black dress with a pink strip down the side as well as a black choker and hoop earrings. This outfit is a very clear contrast to what Cady had worn at the begging of the movie and shows how she has truly become one of the plastics.


In some of the last scenes of the movie, we see Cady transition back to wearing things similar to what she wore at the beginning of the movie. As she starts to distance from the plastics her wardrobe changes to tight-fitting shirts along with jeans. The jeans show that she has returned to what she was like before the plastics yet the form fitting shirt shows how she still learned how to style clothes properly while being friends with the plastics.


The wardrobe in Mean Girls shows a great progression of Cady’s character throughout the movie.