Box-set binges and endless movie runs needn’t be fruitless exercises in self-isolation
Netflix has taught us many things. It has taught us how many hours we can sit in front of a TV with such little movement the platform thinks you may have died (Are you still there?). It has taught us how low our bar can be set for enduring some terrible, terrible programming. But it has also taught us some more practical and adaptable life lessons.
With the streaming service giving us access to some of our favourite films, from Blue Velvet to Uncut Gems, there is much more we can take away from these flicks than the cinematic journey they offer us.
Whether it’s getting dressed with the meticulous eye of Patrick Bateman, finally clearing out your wardrobe à la Cher from Clueless, or learning that looking cool is first and foremost to any outfit thanks to True Romance, here we explore some top fashion lessons to learn from a bunch of our favourite Netflix films.
BLUE VELVET: DON’T BE AFRAID TO EMBRACE A SIGNATURE LOOK
We first meet Dorothy Vallens, the femme fetale of David Lynch’s seminal film Blue Velvet, wearing, you guessed it, blue velvet. Lounging in her softly pink lit apartment in a dressing gown, the look has become synonymous with the film and has inspired countless adaptations. Although we go on to see the character, played by Isabella Rosselini, in some non-blue velvet pieces, such as a sequined black halter dress, Vallens is still singing the song “Blue Velvet”, while rocking blue eye make-up. The point is, sometimes when you find a look that works for you, you should stick to it, and if you can’t wear blue velvet everyday then sing about it. Fashion is multidimensional and fit for many interpretations.
TRUE ROMANCE: DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT WILL ALWAYS BE COOL
If you gauge anything from the 1993 cult classic True Romance, it should be that cool is key. Whether you are running away from a drug dealer in a purple Cadillac or frolicking on the beach, make sure you do it looking cool. A sentiment aptly illustrated by the movie’s protagonists who rock animal and Hawaiian print pieces as boldly and effortlessly as they embark on their run-away romance. With the film’s closing scene capturing the movie’s heroine, Alabama Whitman, repeating the phrase “you’re so cool”, this film can also be applied to another fashion lesson: self-affirmation. For example, “you’re so cool”, I tell myself as I put on the same pair pyjamas for the seventh day in a row to sit in my room all day. “You’re so cool.”
SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT: DON’T GET TIED DOWN TO ONE THING
It can sometimes be easy to feel attached to one lonely item of clothing. Those boots, that perfect pair of jeans, the one top you have managed to wear with every single outfit for months on end. But, as demonstrated by Nola Darling in the Spike Lee film She’s Gotta Have It, you should never settle for just one thing. Darling juggles three men who have varying degrees of reactions to her sexually liberated mentality, and in the end it is only Nola who can truly be with herself. So, although we told you to embrace a signature look, which is still of course true, that doesn’t mean you can’t spice up that look with a kind of ‘same same but different mentality’. Expertly demonstrated by every popular 90s/00s girl band.
NIGHTCRAWLER: TAKE RISKS
Fashion is all about taking risks, a lesson subtly put to us in Nightcrawler, where Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot for his TV news business. And whether he is stalking the roadside of a nearby car accident or breaking into someone's house after a murder, what better fashion lesson could there be?
AMERICAN PSYCHO: PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL
In Bret Easton Ellis's iconic novel, American Psyco’s protagonist, Patrick Bateman, describes clothes in minute detail. In the film, this narration style comes to life as we meet Bateman completing a morning routine so long it would give even the most perky influencers a run for their money. Although fashion has veered towards a more stripped-back athleisure-come-cult-inspired-style recently, could it be time to put the monochrome tracksuit away and embrace the details? We think yes. Forget Coco Chanel’s advice to take at least one thing off before you leave the house. Fuck it, whack a couple more things on instead.
UNCUT GEMS: DON’T FORGET TO ACCESSORISE
What is an outfit without accessories? What is a look without an OTT diamond encrusted Furby chain whose eyes move so hauntingly it feels like it is trying to reach into your soul and reveal your deepest secrets? Telling the anxiety inducing story of a high-stakes gamble, Uncut Gems also lends us a reminder of the importance of jewellery. Apparently, the creepier the better.
CLUELESS: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF AN ORGANISED WARDROBE
In times like these, where many of us are buzzing around our rooms like flies trying to find something to do (from laptop, to book, to phone, to puzzle, to painting by numbers set), there is also the option put to us by Cher Horowitz in Clueless: organising your wardrobe. Although we may not be privy to the state of the art technology demonstrated in the film, an organised wardrobe is the foundation to a good outfit. If you are someone that has clothes falling out of your closet as soon as you open the door, or shoes piled on top of hats, how are you ever meant to find a look as iconic as Cher’s chequered yellow mini skirt and blazer combo? Don’t hold back any longer. Now is the time to sort out your clothes and show that lamp in your room your fancy new look.
LADY BIRD: UTILISE THRIFT STORES
You may spend hours sifting through endless racks of clothes, but a thrift store is a world of hidden treasures. Whether, like in the film Lady Bird, you are looking for a prom dress or something to wear your boyfriend's house on Thanksgiving, finding an incredible piece in a sea of discarded mismatched outfits is one like no other: as pointed out in the above scene where the discovery of a pink lace baby doll dress ceases an argument. Fashion is a powerful beast and must be respected.
PHANTOM THREAD: LET FASHION BECOME YOUR PASSION (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)
Phantom Thread tells the story of an esteemed fashion designer in mid 20th century London. He really loves clothes, and watching the main character, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, talk about the pieces he designs, it really does ignite a sense in you to understand your clothes more deeply. To appreciate the stitching, the fabric, and the prints. But his love borderlines obsession and that really does suck the fun out of it. Appreciate your clothes the same way you would a lover: enough so they feel so respected but not so much you end up naked and alone. But don’t take the love story in this film as any kind of example.
PARIS IS BURNING: RECOGNISE FASHION’S ABILITY TO HELP BUILD COMMUNITIES AND SHAPE CULTURE
The 1990 documentary, Paris Is Burning, gave viewers a chance to peer into the world of the ballroom scene – a safe space which allowed black and brown members of the LGBTQ+ community to come together to dance and compete. With fashion being a central focus, as the community would often create looks to mirror those of high fashion houses and models of the day, clothing played a key role in building and shaping a practice which has become so significant in defining our understanding of queer culture today. The ways clothes are used and spoken about, as a tool not only of escapism but also of empowerment in your own skin and a way to build communities, is a notion that’s easy to forget in the fast-moving and profit-driven fashion landscape we inhabit today, and ultimately one to be celebrated.