In the realm of beloved teen movies, 2004's "Mean Girls" is immortally fetch. Tina Fey's oft-quoted script, a superstar cast (Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert in the titular roles), trendsetting fashion — the box-office success had it all. Fey later adapted it into a Broadway musical that was such a hit itself, it spawned its own film, also called "Mean Girls," 20 years later.
In theaters since Jan. 12, it sees Angourie Rice step into the role of new-girl Cady (played by Lohan in the original), while Renée Rapp takes over as the HBIC of The Plastics, Regina (whom she also played in the onstage musical). The cast isn't the only Gen-Z update to the story: In the original, Mary Jane Fort's costumes are a perfect time capsule of early-2000s fashion, with the Dylan's Candy Bar-inspired color palette, Louis Vuitton Murakami pochette purses, micro-mini skirts, cheeky graphic tees and Juicy Couture tracksuits; in 2024, "Mean Girls" is speaking to younger audiences' social and shopping habits, as well as how they unabashedly embrace and express their identities through clothing. It's all brought to life by former "SNL" and "30 Rock" Costume Designer Tom Broecker.
From the get-go, we learn that this film is a cautionary tale told from the viewpoint of Janis and Damian (Auli'i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey, respectively). "So much of the visual language in this particular production is told through their eyes, and it's how they see these characters," Broecker tells Fashionista.
He spent a lot of time creating mood boards with production designer Kelly McGehee and directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., assigning color palettes to each character and imagining everything from what their bedroom would look like to which music they listened to. Unsurprisingly, they also looked to social media, because, as Broecker puts it: "That's how young teens look for their fashion inspiration, so we did, too."
Each character also had a real-life celebrity style influence. "We looked at Willow Smith, Kristen Stewart, Hailey Bieber, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, to name a few," Broecker says.
For the original, Fort custom-built pieces and sourced clothes from different stores to mimic the shopping habits of 2004 teenagers. Broecker did the same for the 600-odd costumes in the 2024 film, but there were major differences. The biggest one? Teens nowadays don't go to the mall.
"We were trying to think in the mind of a 16-year-old girl and how they shop, so we were doing a lot of online, Instagram and Tiktok shopping, because that's how teenagers shop now," explains Broecker. (You won't see any mall scenes in the film either.) "I still love going to a mall and I still love the tactile-ness of shopping in person and touching things and all that, but this was very much a new way of seeing and learning how the younger generation actually engages in their identity and in their shopping."
They may shop differently, but Gen Z has enthusiastically embraced 2000s style in recent years (and the trend is not showing signs of slowing down). It seems almost natural for the remake to showcase it, but it wasn't that simple. Broecker admits there was "constant conversation" surrounding the topic.
"We were like, 'Wait, this is 20 years later — how can the same thing that was popular at that particular moment be creeping in?,'" he recalls.
For instance, there was a lot of deliberation over the outfits worn by Regina's mom (played by Busy Phillips) and how similar they should be to Amy Poehler's from the original, like the unforgettable pink Juicy Couture tracksuit she wore to serve the girls virgin margaritas. "Ultimately, we all agreed that doing that would be too much like 'referencing the reference,'" he says. Instead, Phillips appears in a pink velour Suzie Kondi sweatsuit as a sort of modern nod to the look. (Later on, she wears a Gucci sweatsuit.)
Broecker also prioritized showing a realistic economic range when it came to what the teens wore, so we see a mix of designer and fast fashion. The Plastics, for example, wear Good American, Cider, Bardot, Ganni and Marine Serre and carry bags by Brandon Blackwood, Kurt Geiger and Versace. In one scene, Regina gifts Cady a pair of pink high-heeled Valentino pumps from her closet. Broecker also sourced from ASOS, Aritzia, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Princess Polly, North Face and American Eagle.
The costume designer also tapped the actors themselves for sartorial inspiration, explaining how it was important that they bring their own identity to these new characters. "It's their version, and 2024 is not 2004," he says. "Representation and individuality are very important, along with queer gender identity."
So, while Rachel McAdams' Regina wore mini skirts and heels, Rapp's prefers leather pants and loafers.
"Renee has this masculine and feminine sexiness about her. In talking and working with her, the directors and Tina, we decided this was the Regina for Renee. She felt great in pants and played that sexual duality just incredibly," says Broecker. "Like in the beginning, where Cady is just staring at her and going, 'Oh my God, am I supposed to love her and hug her, or should I just run away as fast as I can?'"
Regina's duality is also hinted at through her jewelry, which winks to the original film, too. Her "R" necklace chain is half pearls and half gold, speaks to the duality of masculine and feminine, according to Broecker.
"Pearls are a thing that was seen as very feminine, but in the last couple of years, [men] have started wearing pearls, so that's a bit of a statement there," he says. "When Cady begins to ascend the throne, there's the cafeteria scene where they reject Regina — she has the 'C' pearl necklace, but because she doesn't have the same duality, she only wears it for that scene. When she truly becomes the queen bee, her version of the 'C' necklace is a diamond, which is closer to the original Regina necklace."
2024's "Mean Girls" is rife with Easter Eggs and clever references to the original. McAdams' famous "A little bit dramatic" tee becomes both a sweatshirt and a neon sign in Regina's bedroom. Karen (played by Avantika) wears a gold nameplate necklace that has her name spelled backwards, a callback to the scene in which Seyfried applied a backwards rhinestone "K" sticker to her chest. Other similarities include Cady's first-day-of-school flannel with visible bra straps, and Regina's bedazzled neck brace.
Some things are exactly the same, like The Plastics' rule of wearing pink on Wednesdays, the sexy Santa talent show costumes and the expectation of dressing "like a total slut" on Halloween. Karen has a huge musical number dedicated to the art of the latter, featuring an array of outfits, including a nod to Regina's famous cut-out tank top from the original. It ends with Karen as a sexy mouse, of course — a look that was part custom-made, part-sourced from Victoria's Secret and a Halloween store. "That was a really fun musical number," says Broecker.
Cady's scary bride costume also remains "Mean Girls" canon. Regina's Playboy bunny, however, is replaced by a golden vulture. According to Broecker, it was inspired by "one of the Jenner ladies." (We're guessing Kendall's golden fairy costume from her 2019 Halloween party.)
Although the fashion from the 2004 film will always be iconic, an exact replica of its costume design would've been boring. Aside from the contemporary updates and clever homages, what's interesting and unique about the new "Mean Girls" and its costumes is how they allow the cast's personal essence to shine through. As Broecker says: "Although they have the same names and some of the same feeling, it was important that these actors bring a different energy to their character, as opposed to them playing the original parts."