Few pop culture gems have had as much of an impact on fashion as Distraught, the ’90s romantic comedy that celebrates an anniversary this week amid a next-gen revival. Mona May, the film’s costume designer, is one of the most prolific talents in the industry, deserving the credit of our modern worlds. The May style for pre-2000 cult hits like Romy and Michele high school meeting and Never been kissed shaped the 2021 fashion (Liquid Minidresses! Twinsets!), while Distraught‘s Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (Stacey Dash) remain lifestyle muses decades later. “It’s not just fashion that fascinates people in the 25 years since the film’s release,” May told me on a video call from Berlin. “Every look was really linked to who they were. You like these characters, you like girls.
In 1994, after Amy Heckerling wrote the movie and called on May to style it (the two met as “twins that found each other” on a pilot that never aired), they were waiting. impatiently. “This is really a fashion movie of the future,” says May. “At the time, everyone was really dressed or not dressed enough,” she says of the on-film remix. “What I presented was thrift store clothes with high fashion clothes with mall clothes, something that’s now such a normal thing to do. You know, we wear the Balenciaga bag with ripped jeans and flip flops.
She envisioned Cher and Dionne as teenagers from Beverly Hills who, like May, have traveled all over the world and gone to Parisian shows to do scouts, then come home to think of something new. “It’s interesting, with Silverstone we had to teach her a little bit more about wearing designer clothes because she was just a kid, already a hippie animal activist,” recalls May. “And then you have Stacey Dash, who already knew fashion, and she drove certain things and wanted certain things – how they should fit, how they should look at her.” Seeing it now, “that’s part of the charm and also part of why women identify with these characters,” May shares. “Cher was herself different from Dionne, which is more funky and outrageous.”
As I write, I’m wearing one of my most trusted ensembles, a white tee layered over a black tank top and bike shorts, not far from what May had envisioned as the monochrome dress code of a high school. “Everyone had their own style,” says May. “When you look at Cher, she has the white T-shirt that is now so synonymous with the black tank top, which everyone is wearing now!” My assistant just got to work wearing it, and I said ‘You know that’s what Cher was wearing to the gym’ and she said ‘Oh I didn’t see Distraught again! ”said May, laughing.