While most of these films are technically as straightforward as they come, their aesthetic is in its own right and has unwittingly informed the style choices of a generation decades later. Whether it’s Sigourney Weaver’s plain white tank top in Extraterrestrial or the exaggerated looks of David Bowie in Labyrinthon-screen icons paved the way for the most popular styles of LGBTQ+ today.
This is not to classify LGBTQ+ fashion as a separate entity within the world of aesthetics. Instead, it acknowledges characters who have warped our understanding of physical expression, either by challenging gender norms or setting a standard of warmth that baffles the heteronormative and patriarchal mindset.
The Parent Trap (1998)
The parent trap there’s no shortage of fashion icons, and each character’s outfit has its own unique nostalgia for fans of the beloved Disney film. Hallie feels like a character created to inspire young queer viewers – she wears flannels, jeans, cowboy hats and helped her sister cut her hair and pierce her ears. And that’s not to mention Hallie’s poker look: a green silk varsity jacket, black shoe polish and a messy bun.
Of course, a true fan could never forget the “tie-dye girl”, i.e. the camper who pulled Hallie’s gym bag out of a giant pile with ease and called the other girls ” babe”. There’s also Chessy, Hallie’s live-in nanny, who’s perfectly dressed for a Sapphic life in the vineyard.
Stick It (2006)
Rebellious Hailey has two choices, juvenile boot camp or gymnastics, and a judge awards her the latter against her wishes. So she shows up at the gym in a skater-chick look, throwing tricks in a sweatshirt and a t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt (a classic mid-’00s look). Hailey’s bare mouth, though suppressed, runs through the character at every opportunity, and there’s a good amount of Sapphic tension among her teammates.
The movie has a sweet moment of gender norm inversion when Hailey’s skater friends go shopping with the gymnasts and try on dresses and makeup. All in all, there’s a lot of wacky, anarchist energy to this movie. Hopefully this movie will inspire sports gays for decades to come.
Weird Friday (2003)
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been transformed by the punk rock aesthetic in this body-altering Lindsay Lohan classic. She has funky highlights, just like her friends, and each outfit includes something slightly ripped, belly-worn, or chains.
While Lohan’s girl group and their punk looks are a major inspiration, Chad Michael Murray’s character is the gel-haired bad boy with a sensitive side we all aspire to be. He wears a string choker, long-sleeved t-shirts, and moto jackets, with his golden locks falling steeply from his midsection. Paired with Jamie Lee Curtis, there’s a cool Sapphic dynamic between her pixie cut and her hidden-behind-the-ears bob, and they honestly have better chemistry than the more traditional romantic pairing of Lohan and Murray.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Where to start with Ferris Bueller and his avant-garde friends? First, of course, there’s his signature runway look – stripped down to his faux-letter jacket, he wears a white t-shirt, cheetah-print wool waistcoat, jeans and his long boyish haircut. . And, of course, there’s girlfriend Sloan in a cowboy-style fringed white leather jacket, white boots and high-waisted shorts with a chunky brown belt.
The incomparable Jennifer Gray plays Ferris’ sister, Jeanie, in an oversized peach sweater with patches, a white button down with painted bodies on it, black capris and Nike sneakers. Her attitude, combined with her style, cements Jeanie’s legacy as the mean woman we all strive to be.
Sandy’s transformation into a true ’70s villain is, of course, one of the most referenced makeovers in all of movie history. Homosexuality in itself involves a personal metamorphosis beyond society’s heteronormative norms, and Sandy reinventing her good-girl image as a smoking hottie completely derails Danny.
In turn, he tries to turn his bad boy persona into a sweater-wearing sweetheart, demonstrating that Fat puts its protagonists right in the middle of discovering their identity and outward expression. What’s more LGBTQ+ than experimenting with new looks and accepting potential setbacks in judgment and reputation?
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Few characters look quite as strange as Watts, the protagonist’s best friend who is secretly in love with him. Watts has spiky blonde hair and wears a combination of a black leather jacket, red mittens, a loose white tank top and a small vest. Without forgetting his dog tag necklace and his keys chained to his belt loop, two sacrosanct gestures for straight men and very gay women today.
Then there’s the fluffy-haired dream ship Keith, a soft-hearted entertainer who sneaks under the social radar at school. Keith is caught between Amanda, the popular woman, and her best friend Watts, who is androgynous and arguably has more masculine energy than he does. In the end, Watts wins her heart, and when they kiss, their haircuts make them look like a cute lesbian couple.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This movie provided the blueprint for all the queer artistic vibes a woman could need via Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, Margot. Although she’s sporting a stylish fur coat, her blue striped polo dress, loafers, sleek bob and red hair clip could have come straight out of a Pinterest post.
Margot’s makeup is a statement she was born to stand out – heavy eyeliner and pink lipstick add to her campy version of femininity, which has become decidedly queer coded in fashion today. Margot also hides her smoking habit from her husband, as well as her extra-marital banter; this secrecy mirrors the experience of self-repression, as she remains in a metaphorical closet for most of the film.
This ’90s favorite stuck to a science, and its protagonist, Cher, never goes long without a sparkly sparkle, feather boa, or matching plaid top and bottom. Secondary characters are also brimming with style – women who feature women can take inspiration from Tai or Dionne when it comes to varsity-worthy fashion (think collars, headbands, lots of plaids and everything that buttons).
But a relatively underrated LGBTQ+ fashion icon in the film is none other than Josh, played by the immortal Paul Rudd. Josh dresses only in band tees, baseball caps, and oversized faded flannels while remaining an absolute knockout, and he inspires viewers to embrace their butch basics. Last but not least is Christian, Cher’s crush and the film’s most suave dresser. Christian stole hearts with his panama hat, black t-shirts, dress pants and slicked back hair, and he pretty much looks like one of the Jersey Boys. And LGBTQ+ fans can emulate her look for a night out without too much fuss.
Matilda’s signature red ribbon is a wardrobe staple, and she’s never missed it with her pretty dresses. She also wears a ton of striped t-shirts, which are a must-have. But the ultimate wardrobe upgrade comes, of course, when embraced by none other than queer icon herself, Miss Honey. In the film’s epilogue, Matilda relaxes in a French-inspired striped boat shirt while Miss Honey almost looks like one of her students, dressed in a pink t-shirt and denim overalls.
The characters have a newfound freedom to exist without restrictive parental figures in their lives, and without their interference, they both begin to dress and play like children again. In a way, the new mother-daughter duo stage their own coming-out story, finally being allowed to be their true magical selves.
The Matrix (1999)
Keanu Reeves was arguably the original shaved bald villain who inspired so many young LGBTQ+ people to lose their locks at the first opportunity. Okay, it could be related to Natalie Portman’s clean-shaven look in V for Vendetta. With black leather jackets, tight pants, and custom jumpsuits like Trinity’s, there’s apparently no better way to fit into The Matrix than to look like a ’90s vampire.
Combined with opaque black sunglasses, gelled hair, and general aerodynamics, these super-sleek looks bring an overall conformity that’s both intimidating and incredibly hot. For anyone looking for a unified yet badass look, The matrix covered them.
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