If you’ve read our Troop Beverly Hills life lessons post, then you already know having money isn’t the most important thing — having friends is. And I want to start this post by thanking a few of mine. First, my everlasting gratitude to Sarah, for being the best writing partner I could have asked for on that post and for gifting me her copy of the movie on DVD when she upgraded to Blu-ray. I can’t even count how many times I’ve used it! A huge thank you to Gillian, without whose instagram comment “Please do a Troop Beverly Hills fashion post for @headoverfeelsdotcom,” this never would have happened. And finally, thanks to Kim and Sage for deciding that I would in fact do a Troop Beverly Hills fashion post for Head Over Feels and then letting me know (love you bitches!).
Fashion and costume design are integral to the characterization in Troop Beverly Hills. Phyllis Nefler simply is not Phyllis Nefler without each and every one of her 15 variations on the Wilderness Girls troop leader uniform (and 22 other eye-catching ensembles). Shelley Long describes the process in one of the Blu-ray special features by saying, “When I put the dress on, I knew who Phyllis was, and that was perfect, and that had never happened to me before, where a costumer showed me who my character was.” And I think this extends to all of the characters, each outfit was chosen to convey something specific about the character or the situation. I’ve watched this movie countless times since December in the name of research and I can tell you honestly, it does not get old. And that’s due in part to the way that the costumes help with the pacing of the story by showing who the characters are instead of telling us.
And you have to love a movie that identifies its villains by their accessories:
Okay, as you may have guessed, there is an insane amount to cover in this post. Let’s start by ranking Phyllis’s non-uniform looks. As there are 22 total, I’ve grouped some together to save time.
I am recently (so, since December) obsessed with peplums and I will give you two guesses as to why. Also, I spent most of my childhood reading the Anne of Green Gables series, so I love a redhead in puffed sleeves.
PHYLLIS IS THE MOCKINGJAY. This outfit was for the meeting about cookie sales strategy with the girls’ parents and did Phyllis ever bring her A game. This is the power suit to end all power suits. I have a boss bitch red cardigan to wear on days of important meetings, and I’m thinking that I need a large broach to go with.
I can think of nothing more appropriate to wear while describing the fall fashions to the blind. In the words of the divorce court judge: “Stunning.”
To know me is to know I’m a sucker for a black and white look. I love everything about this, right down to the gloves.
Even her pajamas, you guys. I might literally murder someone for that silk robe. LOOK AT THOSE SLEEVES. I’m dying.
Phyllis is black and white and red all over and I love it.
If someone could explain to me how Phyllis looks so casually sophisticated in these outfits, I would really appreciate it. How is she making culottes work? HOW?
I don’t have as much affection for these glitzy looks, because they’re both part of Phyllis’s shopping montage at the beginning of the movie and represent the materialistic start of her arc, but let’s be real: Her taste is impeccable.
This is Phyllis at her lowest point and she only looks drab because we know how fabulous and colorful she can be.
These at-home lounging looks aren’t bad per se, they’re just not my favorites. And you’ll see when we get to the uniforms, she can do so much better with lamé.
Okay, it’s time to have a serious discussion about Phyllis’s color palette. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she tends to wear black and white and bold, primary colors. She mixes patterns and has fun with accessories. What she does not often do is wear pastels. And I think that was a very conscious decision, because at first glance a lot of characters write Phyllis off as a silly housewife in frou-frou outfits. But the colors she gravitates toward represent her strength. So these few pastel outfits automatically went to the bottom of my list.
I don’t like this outfit for her first troop meeting, but I get it. It almost seems a little costume-y, like she dressed up as her idea of how a troop leader would dress. (I do appreciate how perfectly she coordinates with the decor.)
Phyllis wears this outfit to go see Henri about redesigning her troop leader uniform and part of me is convinced we’re supposed to see her as shallow in this scene because of the pastels. NOPE. I fully support Phyllis’s customizing the uniform, in case that wasn’t already abundantly clear.
But what we really need to discuss is this gown she wore to the gala. I mean, it’s fun. It’s flattering. But I just hate it. Freddie tries to compliment Phyllis by telling her she looks softer somehow, and excuse you Freddie but no. I’m too attached to my color palette theory to see that comment as anything but trying to keep Phyllis down in a way. How has Phyllis been hard? Why is soft a compliment anyway? The movie really wants me to ship it here and I just can’t. I have a lot of feelings about this, you guys.
Moving onto the sacred uniform that Velda accuses of Phyllis of turning into a little cocktail frock (I fail to see the issue, but whatever).
This is Phyllis when she tries on the standard uniform for the first time:
n her words, “The color’s wrong, the collar’s wrong, the material’s a nightmare from hell, it’s cut badly, it itches, and it’s not me. But all of that can be fixed.” And fix it, SHE DID. Some variations of the uniform work more for me than others, but honestly, they all beat this.
This ensemble makes it clear to me that Phyllis is my spirit animal. I would dress like this every single day if I could. It’s so day to evening Barbie, and if you don’t understand how that’s a compliment then I feel sorry for you.
SWISHY SKIRT ALERT. This look would just be so much fun to wear, especially while performing “It’s cookie time!” on Rodeo Drive.
Apparently I love a cape. I’ve learned so much from this movie.
File this under things that shouldn’t work but inexplicably and emphatically DO. How is she pulling off jodhpurs?
Looking at these together, I prefer the khaki tie over dark green. You?
Moment of silence for this white coat.
Again, CAPE. And I like the dark green in kerchief more so than in necktie.
Okay, I don’t love love these but I do appreciate Phyllis’s dedication to a THEME.
Now these are all FINE, but I don’t feel excited about any of them, you know?
For some reason, these pants aren’t really working for me?
This is the only uniform look that I actively dislike. It’s just not coming together for me at all.
What I really love about this movie (aside from everything except pastel colors) is that it’s like a perfect little time capsule of 1989. Have you ever wondered what pre-teen girls dressed like in the late 80s? Come over, we’ll watch Troop Beverly Hills and I’ll just shout SEE? THIS IS WHAT IT WAS LIKE while pointing vigorously at the screen.
May I present Exhibits A and B?
One thing that keeps running through my mind when I watch this movie on repeat is that people really don’t wear enough hats nowadays.
Although it’s possible that Lily’s Ray-Bans are my favorite of the girls’ accessories. She just wears them so well.
Apologies if this isn’t the best photo of Claire’s absolutely incredible pink jumpsuit with blue fringe jacket, but you needed to see the glorious side eye she’s giving to the original troop leader uniform. Bless your light, Claire.
The other outfit you just really need to see is this one that Hannah wore to the divorce court hearing (after describing fall fashions to the blind, of course; one man said he could actually feel the colors). I just love how much you can tell here that Hannah is Phyllis’s daughter. From the feather to the colors to the puffed sleeves and baby peplum. The plot description on the DVD back cover tries to convince you the movie is about Phyllis and Freddie, but the real love story here is Phyllis and Hannah.
Obviously this post would be incomplete without the girls’ dance outfits. I love how each girl’s individual style is expressed and I just can’t get over how of the time they look. Exhibit C, I guess.
Okay, I should have talked more about Phyllis’s accessories, I know, but there’s just so much. This one is obviously my favorite, although I do love all of her Princess Diana-esque chokers and earrings. And the mockingjay! And, okay, most of them.
Now, the first time I watched to specifically takes notes for this post, I kept my eyes out for a turban because it seems like a real missed opportunity not to include one. I think the closest we get is Jasmine’s mom in this kind of head wrap, but I’m not complaining because it’s amazing.
Now, Stephanie Beacham will always be best known to me as Dylan McKay’s mom, but Vicki Sprantz is my absolute favorite of the supporting adult cast and this is my favorite of her looks. She’s to die for here.
Okay, I know that was a lot, but I could keep going on for days. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything essential! And remember, khaki wishes and cookie dreams!