This article may contain spoilers.

Rebellious, mismatched, unabashedly honest and born on the wrong side of the tracks, the fashion of Lady Bird - both the movie and its namesake protagonist - enjoys a timeless style reminiscent of growing up: in any era, in any place, in all its glories and its struggles.

"Seeing it as it really was: as quirky and individualistic as her clothes, unconventional yet charming nonetheless"

Sitting in the passenger seat, the film’s opening scene shows Lady Bird arguing with her equally stubborn and opinionated mother Marion, who seems, at least on the surface, to believe that Lady Bird’s future is as bleak as their surroundings. Wearing chokers emblematic of teenage defiance and refusing to hold back her distaste for her hometown of Sacramento, California, Lady Bird boldly proclaims that she wants “to go where culture is - like New York.”


This desire to remove herself from her roots - without recognising that they are part of who she is - is what we’ve all come to expect from the teenage years and informs much of what we see in popular fast fashion outlets today. In one of the film’s most memorable exchanges between the mother-daughter pair, the topic of discussion is none other than what Lady Bird will be wearing for Thanksgiving dinner at her boyfriend’s. Expressing her sadness at Lady Bird not spending her last Thanksgiving before college with her family, another argument is on the horizon before quickly evaporating into excitement as soon as Marion lays eyes on the perfect, 1950s-style lace dress.

In this amusingly accurate and honest snapshot of the mother-daughter relationship, fashion seems to be the only thing these two see eye to eye on, and it is no accident that they’re looking through the racks of a thrift shop as they do so. Marion repeatedly emphasises that the family can’t really afford to shop elsewhere, yet also prods her daughter to fold her clothes properly so her peers can’t tell that her mother must work two shifts to make ends meet and that her father just lost his job. Underneath it all, she strives to teach her daughter a lesson that how she chooses to present herself is a big factor of being proud of who she is - something that Lady Bird continually struggles with, even going so far as to lie about living in a larger, much more expensive home in a different part of town.

Indeed, the timeless vintage fashion that Lady Bird adorns throughout the movie highlights how thrift shopping is seeing a resurgence in popularity, and for good reason. When famous fast fashion retailer H&M opened its doors in the U.S. in 2000, just two years before the time in which the film is set, the New York Times announced that this heralded a new era in which it would be “chic to pay less.” These stores take their inspiration from thrift shopping’s hidden gems, recycling treasures of bygone eras, from the low-waisted jeans Lady Bird struts through the streets of Sacramento to the classic blazer she later dons on the sidewalks of New York.


When Lady Bird states early on in the film that Sacramento is the Midwest of California, she takes a jab at the mannerisms, lifestyles and trends of a town that seems too small for a personality as big as her own. Yet those small-town thrift stores she so desperately wanted to leave behind continue to set the trends that everyone wants to follow, and in the movie’s closing scenes, she embraces this in an entirely new city in the same old fashion.


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Here, she finally seems to be comfortable in her own shoes, both literally and figuratively; in looking back lovingly on her humble upbringing, scenes of Sacramento flittering across the big screen again, the film’s ending finally sees Lady Bird recognising and coming to terms with her roots. She leaves a loving voicemail of apology for her mother, and finally calls herself by the name her mother gave her when she was born: Christine. In accepting her appearance as well as her identity, it becomes evident that she had to leave her hometown behind to see it all for what it really was: as quirky and individualistic as her clothes, unconventional yet charming nonetheless

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