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Elle Woods
Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

Ten of the fiercest female heroines on film

London designer Mimi Wade’s collections are steeped in Hollywood history – with her own twist. Here she counts down the women who have helped influence her eponymous line

In collaboration with Barbie, Girls Like Us opens a window onto five women who have made their dreams a reality. Through this series of features, we hope to inspire a new generation of girls to conquer challenges and follow their own paths.

For Fashion East designer Mimi Wade, pulling inspiration from Hollywood and the world of film has always been an integral part of her practice. From the beginning of her career and CSM graduate collection right up to her SS17 presentation featuring Mimimount, her very own take on the famous production studio, Wade's designed with the silver screen in mind.

Her painted leather slip dresses may often reappropriate Old Hollywood horror posters, but her interest in film isn't purely aesthetic. With her muse not a model but her Hollywood Starlet grandmother 'Granny Pammy', Wade has always found on-screen heroines the perfect source of inspiration when looking for a badass woman to embody the spirit of her collections. As part of our Girls Like Us campaign in collaboration with Barbie, below are ten of Wade's most inspiring women in film, from a Harvard student with a penchant for pink to detectives, gangsters, and the original mean girl...


"She proves that you don't have to be a generic knife wielding, sexed up comic book character to be a fierce heroine. Clarice is an extremely driven, eloquent and brave young detective with a strong sense of justice who manages to resist all the psychological mind games attempted by Dr. Lecter. Jodie Foster won an Oscar for the role — and delivered her acceptance speech wearing a pink suit, dedicating her award, 'to all the women who came before me who never had the chances that I've had, to the survivors and the pioneers and the outcasts...'"


"The softly spoken, sweet as cherry pie, bubble-gum chewing blonde is a true force to be reckoned with — but is also the type of character too often dismissed. Her narration over the film is deeply poetic and romantic. In the bloody fight scene she laughs her way through it, and her character is a rare breed of incredibly badass and brave, but also extremely pure hearted and lovely. She's either wearing a hoodie and jeans or a full on pink leopard capri pant with mules, gathered sheer top with coordinating neon bra, and oversized earrings that resemble some kind of delicious unknown candy. I like her duality, and I can relate very much to that wardrobe schizophrenia in a big way. I'm quite all or nothing. I feel like there is always a little bit of Alabama in my work. I'm also a big Patricia Arquette fan."


"From Danny Devito's 1996 Film. I grew up with Matilda, and what drew me to her character was the fact that despite being berated again and again by her vapid parents she does not give in to them. She is the opposite of passive, she gets her own back on her father, she uses every minute of the day to improve herself and escape her current situation."


"Catherine Deneuve plays the beautiful housewife bored by her husband, with no outlet for her masochistic fantasies. She decides to secretly start work in a brothel, sneaking off during the days wearing head to toe costumes designed by Yves Saint Laurent. Her wardrobe is the epitome of elegance and she has that not-so-in-your-face kind of sexuality which was quite new for the 1960's and still prevails. she was a big inspiration for my AW16 collection."


"Five times widowed Louisa has a terrible curse, every man she marries with pure intentions ends up being so ludicrously successful that she ends up seeing less and less of them, and they work themselves quite literally to death. The best-deceased husband comes in the form of Gene Kelly as ego maniac comedian 'Pinky' — he insists on everything being pink, including Louisa. One memorable scene sees Louisa dressed as a black-clad widow, descending a pink staircase in a pink mansion. As she reaches the bottom, she is followed by pall-bearers carrying a pink coffin. 

I came across this film at first from seeing wild film stills. I became obsessed with the visual appearance of Shirley McLaine's character, her various guises, and the set. On watching the film after seeing the imagery I was not in the least bit disappointed and it has provided me with endless inspiration. What I admire about Louisa in this film is her resilience, she never gives up, and in the end it really pays off." 


"My favourite bitch. I know this is a bit of a controversial choice for 'strong female heroine', but for whatever reason, I can't help being drawn to her character. I'm forever inspired by her Takashi Murakami cherry blossom mini baguette bag, ra-ra skirt, and Tiffany necklace. One of my favorite scenes is where the holes are cut out of her top's chest area but she carries off the look with so much confidence that everyone follows!"


"The fact that this is based on a true story makes it even more powerful. Julia Roberts plays a single mum who single-handedly fought to take down a corrupt California power company, polluting the water and consequently poisoning local residents. Ultimately what makes her such a strong female heroine is her unflinching determination. Even as it seems her case is becoming harder to prove, it only serves to fuel her desire to make sure that justice is met."


"Although not the lead role in this film, I think Claire portrays especially heroic qualities. Her lust for life is inspiring, and even when faced with the impending collision of Melancholia and the Earth, and despite her anguish and despondency, she suggests getting together on the terrace for some wine and music. I really admire that kind of fortitude."


"A dissatisfied small-town girl turned gangster with big dreams, Bonnie was a symbol of independence to women in the 1960's during the first wave of radical feminism. Bonnie and Clyde was probably the first film to explore feminity within the gangster genre. Her character feels incredibly modern in the way that, although she is presented as a very sexual being from the get go, she is never a 'sex object'.

I really empathise with her character — her sexual advances are continuously rejected by Clyde who is overwhelmed by her womanliness throughout the movie, and so she channels her unrequited passion into violence and crime. She's the female outlaw who really broke down a lot of taboos, all the while wearing a completely trouser-free wardrobe." 


"I always think that no matter how many natural gifts you are blessed with, real intelligence is recognising that what you put in is what you get out, and being clever is really about how hard you work at something. There are plenty of people blessed with natural brains who are too stupid to work hard, and Elle Woods is the anthesis of this. She remains true to herself throughout the film and favours metallic pink ensembles over tweed skirts and pearls like so many of her Harvard contemporaries. I think it takes quite a lot of guts to be so brazenly against the grain."