The opening montage of her perfect blow-dry, French-manicured nails, Tiffany necklace and diamanté wedges immediately characterises her as a stereotypical sorority princessinstagram / parade.media

I recently asked a significant proportion of my family and friends what my signature colour was, and all of them answered along the lines of: “why are you even asking – it’s obviously pink.” And I can pinpoint precisely the stimulus for this obsession – none other than the noughties icon and unapologetic fashion figurehead, Elle Woods of Legally Blonde. I still remember watching the film for the first time with my sister and immediately thinking I just wanted to be her, wanted to live her life in all its confident, industrious – and, of course, pink-clad – glory. Regrettably, the hallowed halls of Harvard Law seemed a little out of reach, so I had to settle for what felt somewhat more achievable, and altogether more fun anyway: the fashion.

“I just wanted to be her, wanted to live her life in all its confident, industrious – and, of course, pink-clad – glory”

Wearing 47 costumes in the 90-minute film (yes, fine, I re-watched the film and counted for the sake of this article), which averages a new outfit every two minutes, and boasting over 40 hairstyles (according to IMDB, because there are only so many tallies you can keep while still giving Legally Blonde the attention it so deserves), there is no denying that Elle’s fashion defines her. Reese Witherspoon had it written into her contract that she could keep all of the costumes that she wore as Elle – a genuine demonstration of just how synonymous fashion is to the character. The opening montage of her perfect blow-dry, French-manicured nails, Tiffany necklace and diamanté wedges immediately characterises her as a stereotypical sorority princess. But, before long, we are swept into her world, from heartbreak to Harvard, proving wrong everyone who said she could not be taken seriously, and doing it all in the wardrobe of noughties dreams.

Sophie de Rakoff's designs for Legally Blonde 2 instagram / reesewitherspoon

And, really, the specifics of Elle’s outfits are exclusive to the culture contemporaneous to the film’s 2001 release – lilac eyeshadow and low-rise waistbands seem now almost completely consigned to fashion history. I would even venture to suggest that Vivian’s sweater vests, argyle, earth tones and pearls – then designed to be the frumpy foil to Elle’s unabashed pink glamour – are closer to 2021 trends. But the outfits Elle wears are so unique to her, are so clearly her, offering a longevity that makes them truly iconic.

“Just because you love fashion, it does not make you undeserving of a place at a top university, or of academic or professional success, or mean that you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Elle shows us we can have it all. What, like it’s hard?”

Arriving at Harvard in a hot pink leather driving suit immediately marks her as a stylistic outsider, yet she remains oblivious to the judgemental looks and comments she attracts. Sequin bikinis and magenta fur are bound to draw attention and Elle accepts this, unembarrassed by the mockery from those around her. She exhibits an enviable self-assurance and recognition of who she is, and demonstrates a total unwillingness to change if that means being someone that she isn’t. The humiliation she does recognise, at the costume-party-that-wasn’t-a-costume-party, does not evoke shame in the fashion choices she made or cause her to question her identity. Instead, she continues to smile, pulls out the sassy one-liners, and is galvanised to work even harder to break down the stigma that she is ‘just a silly blonde’.

"Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed"instagram / bestdressed90s

Elle’s interpretation of style evolves as she is catapulted into the real legal world, despite the constraints of professionalism. Epitomising the mantra of ‘dressing for success’, she starts the first day of Callahan’s internship with a silk scarf tied around her briefcase, a Céline ruffle blouse, and a classic red lip, in what costume designer Sophie de Rakoff has described as a riff on a 1940s rom-com. In this look, she so effortlessly demonstrates how a formal dress code does not have to result in a boring outfit, nor does it eliminate any opportunity for stylistic individuality.

However, it is her return to the case to defend Brooke on her own (and, spoiler alert, win the trial thanks to some faultless haircare knowledge) at the film’s denouement where we are reminded that, no matter where she is, Elle will be Elle. The courtroom doors open to reveal a head-to-toe pink ensemble that signposts her utter refusal to be overruled by the men (and, at times, women) who have challenged her. She will use her hard work, confidence, and kindness to achieve what has become her new dream – and do it all in glittery pink heels, remaining loyal to herself.


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I’m fully aware that, in admitting a fictional character is one of my greatest role models, I might receive some judgement. But the role model in question has shown me that doesn’t matter. Instead of listening to those who might, as Elle says, be so disturbed as to believe that orange is the new pink, remain close to what you love and makes you feel confident – but also work hard, having faith in people but also having faith in yourself. Just because you love fashion, it does not make you undeserving of a place at a top university, or of academic or professional success, or mean that you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Elle shows us we can have it all. What, like it’s hard?