4 Things Teen Movies Taught Me About Style And Beauty

I can still remember every makeover scene, every outfit and transformation montage. Looking back, most of them don’t make any sense, but I was hooked.
Publish date:
August 8, 2014
hairstyles, Corsets, glitter, Thongs, teen movies, glasses

While most teens spend their summer vacation working or hanging out with friends and family at the beach, I spent mine hidden in my room or on the couch.

I’ve always been a bit of a hermit. It takes a lot to drag me out of the house. I prefer reading and binge-watching television shows on Netflix to leaving my cozy nest. Winter is my favorite season because I get to do this as much as I want; I don’t need to come up with an excuse not to leave home. But when summer rolls around, there’s no escaping the invites and plans to have fun in the sun at the nearest beach (god, I hate the sun).

So, during high-school summers, I did as much as possible to avoid going out; when I was able to successfully convince my friends that I was sick or grounded, I usually spent that time reading true-crime novels and young-adult fiction or binge-watching teen comedies.

Even today, if I’m bored, I’ll watch a teen flick and get lost in its ugly-duckling-turned-gorgeous-quirky-girl plot. I spent most of my summers imagining what it would be like to return to school with a new look and a new lease on life. I can still remember every makeover scene, every outfit and transformation montage. Looking back, most of them don’t make any sense. Even as a teen, they didn’t make much sense, but I was hooked.

So, what did teen comedies teach me about style? Some of the most laughable and true lessons I’ll ever encounter.

Hair Can Make Or Break You

Nowhere is the power of hair more obvious than in a makeover montage. Fern’s mousy brown strands become a short platinum ’do in "Jawbreaker"; Mia Thermopolis straightens her frizzy mane in "The Princess Diaries"; Anna Coleman’s mom gets a trim in "Freaky Friday." All of these moments prove that sometimes the only thing you need to feel like a new and improved you is a new hairdo.

Still, some hair transformations are painfully dumb. I mean, as much as Mia’s straightened locks upgrade her look, do you really mean to tell me she never once thought about straightening her hair? In "She’s All That," a film parodied in "Not Another Teen Movie," Laney Boggs takes her hair out of a ponytail and suddenly we’re all supposed to see the potential that was hidden before. Same goes for Cady Heron in "Mean Girls"; yes, it’s established from the beginning that she’s pretty, but once she takes her hair out of that tired ponytail, her face truly shines. Are we really supposed to believe that the thing keeping women from reaching their true potential is a ponytail?

There have been times where I’ve envied girls with long hair because I dreamt of a day when I wouldn’t have to style my slowly growing short hair and I could just toss it into a messy top knot and head out to enjoy the day. Am I to believe that I am pursuing this dream for nothing? Oh no! Come hell or high water I will toss my hair into a ponytail, I WILL! (Actually, I recently got box braids, so this is possible now).

Glasses Are Ugly But They Also Make You Look Smart

In first grade, I got my first pair of glasses, and I accidentally on purpose stepped on them so that I wouldn’t have to wear them. Laney Boggs, Mia Thermopolis, the sorority girls in "House Bunny" all took off their glasses because glasses make you ugly. Get contacts or walk around blind, but do not wear glasses.

The first person to make them cool (well, the first person that comes to mind for me) was Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde." Elle underwent a different sort of makeover before these other teen queens came along to tell us glasses were gross. On her first day at Harvard she walked the halls with cute black frames. The message was clear: Glasses make you look smart, but only if you have the right accessories and clothes to match.

So, my sophomore year of high school, I went to the nearest Hot Topic, purchased a pair of cat-eye glasses, and wore them everywhere I went. I have no regrets.

Corsets, Glitter Eyeshadow & Thongs Are For Slutty Girls

I made it through most of "Easy A" without ever really thinking about Olive Penderghast’s wardrobe. Played by Emma Stone, the high-schooler gains a false reputation as a slut and creates the wardrobe to supposedly match. Olive dresses in what her parents refer to as stripper clothes, but I honestly didn’t see it that way until it was pointed out.

I’ve always had a thing for corsets. I dreamed about wearing them in high school because in my mind they were edgy and sexy. I knew the connotations that were attached, and in my small southern town, the only time you saw one was during Halloween.

However, Olive was nothing compared to Tracy and Evie in "Thirteen," played by Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed. Their glitter eyeshadow and thongs peeking out above the waistband of their pants was a look I definitely remember being briefly popular (I tried the thong thing, but drew the line at glitter eyeshadow -- I will hate glitter until the day I die). And, while I don’t condone some of Tracy and Evie’s behavior, I wouldn’t call them promiscuous, and neither is Olive.

This lesson was probably the most important one I learned from teen films; people give meaning to clothing. Olive officially became a "slut" when she donned that corset, and Tracy became one before she even started having sex, as soon as she put on that thong and eyeshadow. It was and still is unsettling. It wasn’t my first encounter with slut-shaming, but it was my first real moment of understanding it because it was something I could apply to my life; it was something I’d actually personally encountered -- the power of how you dress and the liberties people feel they have when it comes to judging who you are based on an article of clothing.

You Can Only Find True Love When You’re Disguised

In "A Cinderella Story," Hilary Duff’s character, Sam, falls for a guy she meets online, only to find out the sensitive guy she’s been messaging is the most popular guy in school. In "She’s The Man" (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and similar to "Just One Of The Guys"), Amanda Bynes's Viola disguises herself as boy in order to play soccer, but ends up falling in love with her teammate.

This was my life, except unlike Viola, I didn’t cross-dress, and unlike Sam, I didn’t hide behind a computer or a mask at a school dance. Instead, I felt that I was hiding behind the only clothes I could afford and that if I scraped up enough money, I could free myself of the “disguise” that was holding me back and buy some jeans at Hollister to show the world who I really was, and maybe the MySpace profile I’d created would be enough to get the attention of the guy I liked until I could break free.

But really, I would have been better off pretending to be a dude.

What are the most ridiculous style and beauty impressions teen movies gave you when you were younger?