As the film turns 15, we chart its best looks which prove that beauty and power aren’t mutually exclusive
“There’s nothing I love more than a dumb blonde with Daddy’s plastic”, says a bitchy sales assistant in the opening sequence of Legally Blonde, which celebrates its 15th birthday today. She’s watching Elle Woods pick out a dream outfit for the date with boyfriend Warner Huntington III (“I want to look special... bridal!”) and immediately pounces before being shot down with a brilliant monologue on the dangers of half-loop top stitching on low-viscosity rayon. The message is clear – she’s not as dumb as we think. She enrols in Harvard to chase a lover yet quickly ascends to the top, gaining credibility without sacrificing her hot pink wardrobe or her beloved gay chihuahua.
Her style is era-defining – this was a post-power-dressing era of strappy sandals, blonde extensions and pink mini-skirts characterised by the early-noughties looks of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Woods swiftly dismisses the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype and is credited with inciting the feminist awakenings of writers such as Carolyn Todd, who called the film “(her) own version of Feminist 101”, and Daisy Buchanan who credits Woods for refusing to compromise her glamour for the sake of credibility. Woods’ feminist tendencies are post/Third Wave, but they’re also relatable because they aren’t academic or overstated – she’s a style-conscious woman fighting for respect in a male-dominated field without bending to the ‘masculine’ characteristics usually attributed to successful women. Even better, she does so in a series of spectacular outfits – here are five of her best.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION ON HARVARD
The hard-hitting topics discussed in Elle Woods’ Harvard video application include the politics of toilet paper, cat-calling and an evil brainwashing scheme in soap opera Days of our Lives – it’s a brilliant, light-hearted glimpse into Woods’ world, albeit one that’s perhaps not quite right for an elite law school. The outfits are fairly fabulous too; there’s a figure-hugging halterneck dress in her signature colour, a sequinned gold look and a shimmering emerald green bikini, all of which perfectly encapsulate Woods’ pre-Harvard look.
TEACHING THE ART OF SEDUCTION
Not only does she have a BA in Fashion Merchandising; Elle Woods also has a PhD-level mastery over the immortal ‘Bend and Snap’. She demonstrates her skills wearing cropped, flared black jeans, patent T-bar heels and a yellow chiffon blouse (with a pink cami underneath, obviously). The iconic technique is one of the film’s most enduring takeaways, a fact proven by Reese Witherspoon herself, who shared a video demonstrating the elusive skill to her Instagram in celebration of the anniversary. She may look sweet, but Elle Woods is well-versed in the art of seduction – when used properly, the ‘Bend and Snap’ has a proven 83 per cent rate of return on a dinner invitation. Time to uninstall Tinder?
BECOMING A BUNNY FOR HALLOWEEN
For Halloween, Elle dresses up as – you guessed it – a Playboy bunny. She’s tricked into thinking it’s a costume party and ends up a laughing stock, but she does have the last laugh in a fairly fabulous outfit of pink knickers, a satin corset with maribou trim, hot pink tights and black heels, all teamed with a bunny tail and bunny ears. This is, incidentally, the scene that Elle decides to get serious about her education and struts into the local tech store dressed in full costume to buy herself a new laptop. It’s also a scene famous for one of the most biting comebacks ever, delivered to Warner’s judgmental girlfriend Vivian – “When I dress up as a frigid bitch, I try not to look so constipated.”
RECLAIMING CANINE CUSTODY
How perfect is this glamorous take on winter casuals? For most of us, colder months mean layering up beyond recognition; for Elle Woods, it’s an excuse to debut a purple fur-trimmed shearling coat, a scarlet roll-neck and a knitted purple beanie accessorised with a lone flower. The outfit is just one highlight of the scene which sees Woods accompany her friend Paulette on a trip to reclaim canine custody of her best friend. The duo pose as a lawyer and a client, snatching the dog back from Paulette’s good-for-nothing ex – or, in Paulette’s words, “I’m taking the dog... Dumbass!”
DITCHING THE PANTYHOSE
Elle’s style evolution throughout the film results in numerous attempts to dress the part and yields some brilliant results; she wears a pea-green tweed skirt suit when she discovers she’s been chosen for an internship and, for her first day as a “serious law student”, she teams a jade silk skirt with knee-high leather boots. These outfits are enviable, but they’re just not Elle. She comes to the realisation that she shouldn’t need to conform to be taken seriously – “I’m done with being boring. No more boring suits. No more pantyhose!” She sticks to this mantra in inimitable fashion in the final court scene, overturning a murder allegation in a hot pink dress complete with embellished belt and contrast cuffs. It’s a delicate mix of fashion and formality that sums up Elle Woods’ style-conscious compromise between beauty and power.