I hesitate to reduce Renée Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland in Judy to a bunch of clothes, but it must be said—the clothes were really, really good.
I am not a movie critic, but I am a thinking person who, on occasion, will have a critical thought about a movie, and when I saw Judy, I found it to be, rather critically, eh. Why? For the very informal reason that I kept thinking about, like, “laundry” and “whether I put my silver pumps away” while it was playing. It got slow, then picked up, then got slow again, and if I’m being really honest, I’m pretty sure the only thing that kept me seated was the fact that every outfit Zellweger wore as Garland outdid the one that came before it.
I will say that in my untrained opinion, Zellweger’s performance was excellent. At times her depiction of Garland’s decline was hard to watch, which seems like the marker of solid acting. Don’t the best actors make you feel compassion—or is it empathy?—for their characters, as if for better or especially worse, you can see yourself in them? You are them. Zellweger as Garland lifted the blanket on the inner-victim that loiters quietly within us all to varying degrees of suppression.
Fundamentally, we all desire to prove ourselves worthy of love, right? Some people have developed enough discipline to live comfortably with this primal instinct because their tools of resistance are healthy and strong enough to believe they are proving it. Other people lapse, or avoid, or dismiss the desire regularly enough that when you are confronted with the intimate portrait of an unraveling life, it’s tough to look at. Almost like it’s too real or something. You know? I wish I had something clever to bridge this point to the clothes, but I don’t, so before this becomes an exorcism of the soul (I can hear my brother asking me why a movie can’t ever just be a damn movie), let’s revisit point A, yes? The clothes were really, really good.
So good that even though they are distinctly not aligned with the vision of streamlined fashion I have been drilling into your heads for the greater sum of the last six months but especially the past few weeks, I am re-evaluating what inspires me and as of right now, I offer:
Consider the above assets a mood board, a gentle, successive roadmap for fall dressing cues—over-the-top looks that can stand a bit of neutering to become the ideas you apply to get dressed every day. As for the below? Highly specific directives to either buy your way into Zellweger-as-Garland style, or to simply inspire you to take to your closet, armed with the breakdown of what makes her style work, to re!cre!ate!
Criteria No. 1: The Pants
They’re not cropped, but they’re not long. You seem some ankle, but not so much that the straight leg tailoring could be mistaken for a culotte gone awry. They’re bright, they might be brocade, they’re most likely patterned, but they’re not gimmicky, and why?
Criteria No. 2: The Shoes
This one is crucial. None of these pants are paired with the ankle boots of the modern era, much less the weighted-sole sneakers of the even more modern era. They’re not penny loafers, or ballet flats, or those glove shoes that Martiniano made famous. They’re paired with, let’s call them, pump/loafer hybrids that feature a low block heel. Think a classic Roger Vivier shoe, or browse the below for inspiration. You can find these in droves on the second-hand-web.
Criteria No. 3: The Blouse
Not poplin, not clingy silk—almost like a pajama blouse in one of those blended fabrics that don’t wrinkle. So it’s always crisp! Even after 3 p.m. The most important part of the anatomy of this blouse is that it should be short enough that you’d wear it tucked out of the pants, but long enough that it’s not cropped/to cover the fly of your pants. This way it can espouse a relaxed energy even though it’s more formal than like, a crew neck sweater or t-shirt.
Criteria No. 4: The Jacket*
*which can be a mini dress, and the mini dress, which can be a top, and the top, which is worn with the pants.
For when you’re not wearing your pajama blouse. Not the most beautiful shopping bar we’ve ever cobbled together, I admit, but Etsy has some goooooooooooooooood shit if you’re keen on this look. Just search “brocade jacket” and let the inspiration roll. On an unrelated note, I am fairly certain I am going to get this to wear with ripped jeans.
Criteria No. 5: The Spice of Life! (A Feather, a Crystal, a Fringe—Whatever)
Pile it on, woman—and just like that, pooooooof! Minimalism is dead.
Photos via Everett Collection.