Mona May Rewrote ‘90s Fashion. 25 Years Later, We’re Still Wearing Her Clothes.
Cueless is officially 25 years old. Though it’s hard to process that milestone, the cult favorite has adapted with each passing year, finding its way onto streaming sites and into social media conversations and countless homages, from celeb Halloween costumes to the recent Baby-Sitters Club reboot. Now available on Netflix, Clueless—starring Alicia Silverstone and quotable one-liners like ”I’m totally buggin’!” and ”As if!”—has reached legend status, immortalizing Cher, Dionne (Stacey Dash), and the kids of Beverly Hills in the annals of film iconography.
Two and a half decades later, the fashion still reigns supreme. Polish costume designer Mona May is the mastermind behind Cher’s red Alaïa dress, plaid suits, and 60 (!!) costume changes. “So many of the outfits are still so wearable,” May tells ELLE.com over the phone. “You could go to Saks and Neiman and it’s all still there.”
What’s more impressive is May’s influence on TikTok. Scroll through the video-sharing app and you’ll find Gen Z dancing and lip-syncing in sheer tops, A-line skirts, and plaid prints, unknowingly emulating the style May created on the set of Clueless 25 years ago.
“In a way, it is surprising that something can last that long,” May adds. “It’s like, wow, 25 years in fashion? Tomorrow it’s so last year. But then on the other hand, [it’s] always my goal to bring something timeless and feminine to the screen.”
Ahead, May talks 25 years of Clueless, the film’s most iconic looks, and what she thinks of that rumored reboot.
Clueless is now streaming on Netflix, introducing the film to a whole new audience. What’s it like being a part of something so enduring?
I meet so many women, and when they find out I’m the designer, they just squeal with delight. ”Oh my God, this was my favorite movie and I got the stockings and my daddy bought me the Jeep.” The personal stories, and how emotionally connected they are and what it means to them, are truly incredible.
During your research for the film, you observed real-life students in L.A. The style was very grunge at the time. Why did you deviate from that?
That was director Amy Heckerling. [The high-fashion style] was written in the film. I met Amy on another project and [we] fell in love with each other. She was like, “I want you to do this movie because it’s all about fashion and you were trained in fashion. You’re European, so you’re going to bring that flavor. We need to come up with something that’s complete innovation. How can we set trends that are not on the street yet?”
There have been rumblings about a Clueless remake. Thoughts?
I don’t know if it can ever be what it was. They can make a remake, but the innocence of the time is lost because it was pre-social media. It was a capsule of time where girls could just be girls. They were less exposed to things. So, I don’t know. There [are] filmmakers who can make their mark with it, but it would never have the charm, the sensibility, this kind of innocence that the movie had.