‘Party Girl’ is the Ultimate Fashion Movie

Happy Birthday Party Girl

06.09.17

Party Girl is an absurd and incredible film. It was made in 1995 — 22 years ago to the day — and feels like it, top to bottom. It stars a young Parker Posey as 23-year-old Mary, a New York party girl who fulfills every stereotype of her character because breaking stereotypes was whatever back then. She loft-, club- and party-hops like the rest of us breathe and feel tired. She’s so fun. I want to live in her pocket (for like a week, and then go to bed). The film follows her as she tumbles into an existential crisis by way of a jaunt in the drunk tank that puts her behind on rent and makes her realize she needs to get her shit together and like, be something. No spoilers, but that something turns out to be a librarian. And I only tell you that because it’s material for the below style retrospective (which, sorry, is rendered in negative a million resolution because this movie was made 150 years ago).

Narrative arc aside, the undisputed hero of Party Girl is Mary’s wardrobe. The first time I saw the  movie, I spent the entire length of it gasping. It’s essentially an hour-and-a-half style montage. One straight-up LOOK after another. Sometimes multiple inside a single minute! The costume design was done by Michael Clancy (whose credits include high fashion films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Madeline) but he did such a good job that you all but forget he exists. Mary and her wardrobe are one. And both could teach us a thing or two about dressing entirely for ourselves.

1. I need a favor

Take this outfit she wears approx. five minutes into the movie while on her way to ask her godmother for $100. Is this what you’d wear on your way to ask for a loan? A silky white blouse and black blazer, leopard coat, coifed-as-fuck pony, red gloves, red sequin shorts and — not pictured — red fishnets?

That rainbow clutch alone turned me into an optimist. Mary’s wardrobe is a little all over the map, but she never lacks creativity.

2. Crewneck, no neck

Consider this lounge outfit she wears while dramatically quoting Albert Camus. Wide-leg jeans, a simple black tank and a blue crewneck sweatshirt. But do you see what she did with the sweatshirt? She’s only wearing the sleeves. When she turns around you can see the neck hole on her back. It looks like a cotton bolero. It’s too good.

3. Four-for-one

Mary’s approach to getting dressed is one of pure individuality and unadulterated confidence in rule-breaking. While learning the Dewey Decimal System at her new job, she wears four long-sleeve shirts at once with a scrunchy made of fruit. FOUR AT ONCE. Are you seeing this? So novel.

4. Can I help u

That look was one of her least thematic, though. For most of her library shifts, she dresses like a hungover 1940s secretary, which is perfect because eyes roll so much harder behind tiny, round spectacles.

5. 2015 via 1995

Her most wildcard outfit is one she wears while running errands. Slouchy black leather pants, a chunky knit, black gloves (always the gloves) and Adidas-looking midi heels. It’s a full 2015 look two decades ahead of its time. The shoes are not pictured here but you’ll see them in their pixelated perfection in a moment.

6. Lunch-run chic

The best style moments of the movie take place at the falafel street cart she goes to everyday for lunch. The guy who owns it, Mustafa, is her love interest, but I swear they made this his occupation purely so they could do a montage of her waiting for her food looking incredible. Please fetch your magnifying glass and observe:

Note: Adidas-esque heels! Also, a velvet miniskirt, shorts with tights, a bowler hat, a fluffy hoody and a fur coat tugged off the shoulders. The far left look is a Halloween costume waiting to happen. Dibs though.

7. Party girl

I can’t wrap this up without mentioning her eponymous going-out looks, which feature nary an OTS top and range from downtown Audrey Hepburn to borderline offensive (that “Middle Eastern-themed” party does not age well). Is the necklace pictured here not a reimagining of those marbles that knocked together on all corporate desks in 1995?

Mary, or Clancy, or perhaps Posey herself, are genius.

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  • Ah such a good movie — with legendary fashion statements!!!
    Thank you so much for writing about this movie!!
    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • Emmie

    thank you v. much for bringing this to my attention <3

  • Louise

    I’d love MR to do a retrospective on the fashion of Almadovar movies–especially the ones from the 80’s and early 90’s, the fashion if Man Repeller-y AF

    • Magda

      Yes!

    • Hilary

      YES PLEASE

  • xtyb

    He-He-Heloooo! Thank You MR crew for discovering my most fave movie from my time in NYC. I still hold the VCR tape dear even though I have no way to play it.

  • Vanessa

    I love this movie!!!

  • Shevaun

    I’m a newly minted librarian and at grad-school clips from this movie are shown as an example of how librarians are portrayed in media. (Along with Conan the Librarian from Weird Al and Giles from Buffy).

    I haven’t watched Party Girl yet though. Might need to go ahead and get some outfit inspo from it for when I start working. I’m digging the sarcastic 40’s secretary look.

    • Lilia

      Hey congrats! I also just got my MLIS! Sadly my program did not involve watching clips of Party Girl… but we did watch Desk Set, which also has some next-level fashion!

      • Shevaun

        Hey congrats to you as well. We watched Desk Set for my cataloging class actually! Where did you go for your MLIS, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • Emily

    OMG YES. I have been OBSESSED with this movie ever since I moved to NYC as a young 20-somethin’, and it has inspired many great outfits over the years!!!! Leather pants + a chunky knit is still a winter go-to for me, and I have hoarded kooky colored tights for the past decade.

    The soundtrack to this movie is also amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!!

  • emily moran

    I can attest that Posey herself, is a genius.

  • Liza

    Yay! So happy to see you singing the praises of this movie! I could watch that fashion montage scene a thousand times. 💗

  • Kay Nguyen

    I have never seen this movie before but damn, this blog makes me want to check it out! The 4-for-1 is so fun and different, I have never seen anybody pulled that off that well haha <3

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Daisy Tinker

    I’ve never seen this film before, and now I’m wondering why I haven’t!
    Watching IMMEEDS. The sweat/bolero is too good to miss.

  • Delphine Gintz

    Thank God for Man Repeller, I had never heard of this movie and after watching it, I can easily say it’s now one of my favorites!!!
    (mention spéciale for that improvised runway moment in the library <3)

  • I discovered this movie when I was like, thirteen and since then it’s done a lot for my personal style. Good call Man Repeller!

  • casey

    I was Party Girl for Halloween one year and no one knew who I was. I even had a fake falafel 🙁
    But now I feel SO VALIDATED. Thank you.