The cult classic Empire Records was once described as “a soundtrack album in search of a movie.” However, it quickly became a cult classic known for its iconic 90’s fashion. The wardrobe from this movie is a fashion bridge between the early ’90s grunge era and late ’90s skimpy fashion. Susan Lyall, the film’s costume designer, served up a masterclass in ’90s film styling by mixing thrift finds with the actor’s own items and more polished pieces. Let’s dive into the most iconic look from the movie–Liv Tyler’s character, Corey Mason. I’ll also share a modern recreation of the look.
Here’s a quick overview of the plot of Empire Records. Directed by Allan Moyle, it’s a pre-internet based movie about a group of teens and early 20-somethings working at an indie record store. The Man (a corporation) wants to buy the record store and, you guessed it, the kids weren’t alright with this. The movie follows along about a 24 hour period at the store and the antics that ensue. Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler became the biggest names from the film. Here’s the full cast.
Liv Tyler’s Empire Records look is pretty evergreen ’90s
We can’t talk about Empire Records‘ wardrobe styling without talking about Liv Tyler’s look. I don’t think it’s the best look from the movie, but it is certainly the most remembered. Because, duh, Liv Tyler, who plays Corey Mason, in a red bra. Empire Records came out just a few months before its more successful counterpart, Clueless. I’d describe Corey’s look as an upper middle class Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone’s character from Clueless) vibe.
Corey’s look is perhaps the most remembered because she was the biggest name at the time in the movie. The plot primarily focuses around her character. Her outfit is also the most wearable, fun and relatable. I certainly had an mohair sweater and plaid skirt in the ’90s. Personally, I don’t love her character but it’s easy to see why her outfit remains so often replicated. The ’90s are almost always back in the past 5-7 years.
It also has a lot of elements to it that lend themselves to different styles. It’s fetishistic with the big combat boots. It’s sexy with the bare midriff. The looks is school girl with the pleated skirt. Like a lot of ’90s clothing, it’s hella annoying with the mohair going all over the place, including, as Liv once reported in an interview, up her nose.
A club kid-inspired look
Don’t mistake this look for too cutesy, though–it’s definitely edgy. It’s very ’90s club kid-inspired, with Susan Lyall drawing on her own life in New York City. “I didn’t need to do any research, I had that down. I lived in the East Village in New York for a long time, and went into record stores all the time, “Susan said, “That’s just kind of what you did.” However, because Liv was the name at the time, the actress also had a lot of input as to Corey’s look, which Susan said was unusual.
The look is also seductive as Corey is the good girl with an edge. After all, she’s addicted to speed to stay awake. Susan had a tricky task to present Corey as both virgin and whore. She wants to lose her virginity to washed up star Rex Manning while she pulls all nighters to get into Harvard.
Here’s Susan elaborating on the look more:
“I remember we shorted the mohair sweater a little bit because it was kind of sexy to reveal her stomach. But she also had to look virginal—like a ripe piece of fruit. I believe those boots were hers. We decided to just use hers rather than go buy a new pair and age them down.”Why That Outfit: Corey Mason’s Mohair and Plaid in ‘Empire Records’ from Elle
How to recreate this look
Truth be told, most of the articles out there on how to recreated the Corey Mason look are focused on Halloween, which is nice and all but that’s just one day a year. So, I recreated the look here for it to be wearable in every day life. I decided to skip the skirt for this look, because I don’t know about you, but I just never wear skirts.