Legally Blonde: Iconic Fashion & Defining a Feminist Generation

Elle Woods is both a fashion and feminist icon for young women. Here are 5 important lessons she teaches us to fight the patriarchy.

It’s no secret that this iconic character’s fashion has stood the test of time with many high profile celebrities still recreating and sporting her looks (Mindy Kaling, Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande).

But, we remember her most for her definition of a new feminist generation. We watched her as girls, and now we are women- key players in the workforce.

She was before her time-  crusading for the #MeToo movement before hashtags existed, her iconic color could have written a chapter in the history book of pink (Vogue). And, her commitment to always being kind to and supporting other women is perhaps the most important characteristic we should adopt from Elle. 

An Icon shapes a generation of young women

The costume design by Sophie De Rakoff Carbonell is exquisite as she builds the visual representation of the story of Elle Wood’s. The costumes which struck young girls 20 years ago still resonate today with the young women shaping the world today. We relate to her exaggerated femininity which emphasizes the way society views pretty women who enjoy feminine things, and women who, for whatever reason, are discounted at first glance, labeled as stupid, vapid, or “not serious” (Vogue).

To quote the vintage fashion connoisseur, Doris Brocamp from the Way We Wore, Elle Woods really was a “woke” role model in the times before the movement #MeToo existed. Fictional character as she was, she fought an important battle that women are still fighting. Reese Whitherspoon has often said that she carries the character with her still. The strength, perseverance, and resilience that Elle Woods shows in her battle to fit into a world to which she is told she does not belong are even more relatable as we join male-dominated industries as women.

Though Elle Woods is turning 20 this year, the challenges her character faces of discrimination, sexual harassment, and prejudice, unfortunately, still exist today. However, we can always look back to Elle for some guidance in the female revolution we are still crusading for.

5 Important Lessons from Elle Woods 

1. The significance of fashion and feminism

A common stereotype of feminists is that we must be plain, masculine or even downright ugly. The whole “judge a book by its cover” thing is getting old, though. We must crusade for all women, regardless of shape, size or color. 

In just the first five minutes, we see a shop-girl try to sell Elle Woods a sale item at full price and refers to her as a “Dumb blonde with daddy’s plastic.” Obviously, the shop girl is assuming that beautiful blondes cannot be intelligent. What we later find out is that Elle has a 4.0 GPA in merchandising proving that she is so much more than just a stereotype.

We also see Elle win the case at the end of the movie with her knowledge about perm chemicals, proving that females hold an important space in law enforcement because you won’t see any CIS straight males with this type of knowledge solving crimes!

2. Stay true to yourself, no matter what

Elle makes a submission video (not an essay!) to get into Harvard, and she does not shy away from showing her personality. Even knowing that she is going to Harvard to be seen as a more “serious girl”, she seizes the opportunity to display her uniqueness. And, while it’s not always welcomed at first, it is her best quality and what she is most celebrated for in the end. 

3. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has been told she can’t do something

When (that dick) Warner tells Elle he’s ditched her for someone more “serious”- she embarks on her journey to prove him wrong, which brings her to law school. Warner then tells her she’s not smart enough to continue law school and that she’s wasting her time.  

When Elle finally has the realization that she is wasting her time, (not on law school, but on his dopey ass)  she starts to focus on herself. She ends up disproving every misconception about her.  

A woman who has been told she can’t do something seriously is the most powerful woman you will meet!

4. The bonds of sisterhood are sacred

We, as women, need to have our backs. The fight against the patriarchy is one we fight together! Too often are we put against other women to compete as is present at the start of the film as Vivienne and Elle compete for Warner’s heart and recognition by the professors?  

Eventually, these women realize that they share a stronger bond through their female-ness. The discrimination they both face is ultimately what bonds them, and what bonds us all as females. They realize it is not a competition between who’s smarter or prettier,  but that both can co-exist as two completely different types, both beautiful, both smart, both worthy.

Your success does not take away from my success; your beauty does not take away from my beauty. When we realize this, we see how powerful the bond of sisterhood really is. 

5. Pink is a powerful color

While people are quick to discredit Elle as a “Malibu Barbie” type, what they forget is that Barbie – whose signature color is also pink- is the ultimate female role model. Since 1959, Barbie has been doing the impossible year after year, inspiring girls and women everywhere to achieve their dreams. What other woman do you know that has become a professional skier, a doctor, an astronaut and raised a family? 

The color pink has the capability to harness the undeniable power of the divine feminine. Let your innermost female shine when you wear this color- explore everything the universe has in store for you. 

Elle Woods certainly was a force to be reckoned with. Her sense of style, intelligence and integrity can not be forgotten. She has taught us many valuable lessons in fashion, sisterhood and believing in thy self. If we wonder what she might doing today, one could think some of her current crusades in 2021 might be fighting to close the gender pay gap, to end animal factory farming for consumption, and for the refugee crises around the world. 

I hope you have enjoyed my celebration of 20 years of Legally Blonde and all the amazing ways in which this character has impacted my life. It would be shameful not to give her credit, and even more shameful not to do it in her signature color.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the move: “If you’re going to let one stupid prick ruin your life, you’re not the girl I thought you were”. What’s your favorite costume/ favorite quote of Legally Blonde? Tell me in the comments below!

4 Responses

  1. Love reading your blog! And that purse is soooo cool. I don’t have a favorite outfit or quote from the movie but I absolutely looove the court scene!

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