The Craft has become a timeless cult classic as it emerged from the Tough Girl era of 1990s film. Featuring characters in a constant power struggle, The Craft is a coming of age story about not taking bullshit. The film weaves together a story of delinquency, feminism, betrayal, and power. The wardrobe stylist, Deborah Everton, wove these themes into a silent character in the movie–the Catholic school girl uniform. Each character’s uniform is a fuck you, we’re gonna do what we want while kind of obeying rules. The uniform conveys the overall message: We are women, we are pissed and we are not taking bullshit anymore.
The Tough Girl Era of Cinema
The “Tough Girl” era began in the 1950s with movies like Teenage Crime Wave (1955) and Teenage Bad Girl (1959). Storylines featured teen girls going off the rails, often as a result of being wronged by men. Luckily, the genre evolved by the mid-90s. It became an especially popular trope in horror and dark drama films–think Scream (1996), Disturbing Behavior (1998), and Cruel Intentions. In his article “Angry Young Women: The Emergence of the ‘Tough Girl’ Image in American Teen Films,” Dr. Timothy Shary writes:
Within the many stylistic and dramatic categories that constitute the genre of teen cinema, girl characters are rarely afforded a coherent, consistent identity, at least not as much as their boy counterparts. However, within the realm of juvenile delinquency films of the past generation, a distinct and interesting trend of portraying ”tough girls” emerged, in which young women began to stake out their identities through rebellious acts. As more recent films have shown Generation X youth challenging notions of gender and power, these tough girl roles have become more complex and influential.Dr. Timothy Shary in Angry Young Women: The Emergence of the “Tough Girl” Image in American Teen Films
The Irreverent Uniform as Rebellion in The Craft
Everton wove the theme of rebellion, power and delinquency through her styling of the main characters throughout the movie. It might seem like something simple but it’s very masterful how the clothing supports the movie’s main theme. Since the characters spent a significant amount of time at school, this made the uniform styling even more important. Here’s what Everton said in an interview about the uniforms:
Deborah Everton in Creating the (oc)cult fashion that defined The Craft
I was a little daunted at first, as a lot of it is very ‘Catholic school uniform’, but after thinking about it for a while I realised that I could make even the uniforms character-driven, and since they are actually in those uniforms most of the time, that was an important aspect of the film . . . It made girls realise they could work within the rules and still create an identity. At the fittings I roughly figured out in my head who each girl was, and I very loosely gave each of them an element for when I got stuck, so I could always go back to this elemental thing.
For those of us who had to wear a uniform to school, this probably resonates. And given the Tough Girl theme, the uniform was another mode of rebellion. The Church, more of less, is the patriarchy implementing the dress code on these young women, and their disregard for the rules is their rebellion in a seemingly small but meaningful way.
Everton also seemingly went out of her way not to heavily sexualize the main characters–they are not sexy school girls. I would argue that the styling for Bonnie, played by Neve Campbell, is the anti-school girl. Often dressed in oversized jackets, turtlenecks and many layers. That is, until her scars heal and she gets her wish–to be pretty. After that she does turn into the quintessential school girl. That in and of itself is a rebellion against who she used to be and her own history.
Happy Halloween to all my Tough Girls, Soft Girls and every one in between. Go watch a scary movie from the 90s and enjoy your candy!
Creating the (oc)cult fashion that defined The Craft
The Best Fashion Moments From Cult Film The Craft
Angry Young Women: The Emergence of the “Tough Girl” Image in American Teen Films
analyzing the outfits in the craft