Picture the scene: you get out of bed in the morning, brush your teeth, and then sit at your computer terminal to choose your outfit for the day. You call up a yellow-and-black tartan suit and ask the computer to accessorise it for you. This, according to Cher, is "way normal life for a teenager". Various items from her extensive wardrobe of preppy suits, patent leather bags and shoes, and girly knee-high socks which move around on a motorised carousel, can be called up on screen so she can mix, match and colour co-ordinate without ending up with a huge pile of clothes on the floor. When she does have a trying-on session, Cher doesn't trust her mirror image and has a friend take polaroids instead. The computer recommends a yellow mohair waistcoat, a white patent rucksack, some knee-high socks and a pair of white loafers. Even her bubblegum is yellow to match.
The characters in Clueless are 15, going on 16. They spend their days going from one class to the next, dressing to impress one another. Cher's main objectives in life are pure and innocent - to dress herself well and to help others follow her stylish lead. The girls dress up and the boys dress down. They wear their trousers yanked halfway down their designer boxer-short-clad bottoms. "I don't get how guys dress today," says Cher in disgust. The guys in question take their fashion cue from baggy skateboarders, while the girls look to the Paris catwalks and the shiniest of shopping malls.
When a new girl called Tai arrives at school, looking like an extra from Kids (the other teen movie that caused a controversy in America this summer), Cher feels the need to give her a makeover. After a session of hair-curling, make-up coating and a consultation with the computer, Tai is transformed from drug-toking indie girl to squeaky-clean trendoid.
In America the high-fashion Clueless look has been seen as a backlash against grunge. In actual fact, Cher is just a rich girl who wouldn't be seen dead in a holey old jumper and baggy trousers if it was the last outfit on earth. Clueless girls wouldn't be embarrassed to borrow clothes from their mothers. They dress to be older than their years and to be chic at all times.
Although increasingly schools in Britain are disregarding the need for formal school uniforms, it is at sixth-form college that most British teenagers are allowed their first taste of the freedom to wear what they want. For many of them, it is a time to react against a uniform and to wear clothes their parents don't approve of. Not so in Clueless. The only time Cher's father (her mother died during a routine liposuction session) comments on her clothes is when she is going out in a tight, minuscule white dress. "What the hell is that? It looks like underwear," he says. "It's a dress." "Who says?" "Calvin Klein."
For our Clueless makeover, we took two anything-but-clueless 17-year- olds currently in the second year of their A-levels. Rachel admitted to spending up to five hours getting ready to go out at night (wash hair, diffuse hair, mousse hair) and said she would never go out without mascara. And while both Rachel and Sarah agree that most of the money they earn from part-time jobs goes on clothes, neither would buy designer clothes for the sake of a label. They shop at high-street chains such as Top Shop, River Island, Warehouse, Oasis and Jigsaw.
"Clothes like this look all right in a picture, but I'd be laughed out of college," was Sarah's comment after being kitted out Cher-style. "It's too bright - I normally wear black. And I don't like the shoulder pads. It's very American."
But the suit is by Hobbs, not by some kooky American designer. And the Clueless look is more preppy conservative chic than Valley Girl. After spending half an hour in a prim shirt, Argyle tank-top and smart red skirt by Vivienne Westwood, Rachel was beginning to come round to the idea: "I quite like the shirt and top. But maybe in a different colour. And the skirt could be shorter."
Whether Clueless clones will shimmy across the Atlantic along with the film, we will have to wait and see. The clothes are in the shops, just waiting to be snapped up and worn with knee-high socks and blush pink lipstick. And the ultimate Clueless accessory, the mobile phone, is already being banned at some schools. At Sarah's and Rachel's sixth-form college, they are commonplace. To be totally clueless all you really need is a pair of knee-highs and, of course, a gilt-edged holder for your phone in quilted satin or faux lizard. A mere snip at just pounds 49.99 from the Leather Room at Harrods. Where else?
Photograph by Andrew Lamb
Styling by Jo Adams
Make-up by Laura Dos Remedios
for No7 at GSM
Sarah, left, wears yellow and black tartan cavalry jacket, pounds 134.99, and kilt, pounds 67.99, both by Hobbs, 47 South Molton Street, London W1; Unit 31, Royal Victoria Place, Calvery Row, Tunbridge Wells, and branches nationwide; over-the-knee socks, pounds 5.99, by Hot Sox, from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1; Liberty, Regent Street, London W1; Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1; John Lewis, branches nationwide; head band, pounds 8.95, from Liberty, as before; pager, by Benetton, from British Telecom shops nationwide; red patent bag, pounds 35, by Dollargrand, from Dickins & Jones, Regent Street, W1 and Liberty, as before; yellow patent shoes, pounds 69.99, from Hobbs, as before; mobile phone, by Mercury one2one, (for further information, ring 0500 500 121)
Rachel, right, wears blue silk shirt, pounds 165, tank top, pounds 235, and skirt, pounds 115, by Vivienne Westwood, from Liberty, as before; black patent headband, pounds 16.95, by Otto Glanz, from Liberty, as before; red quilted telephone holder, pounds 49.95, from the Leather Room, Harrods, as before; mobile telephone, as before; white knee-high socks, pounds 5.99, by Hot Sox, as before; white patent shoes, pounds 69.99, by Hobbs, as before
The characters in 'Clueless' are 15, but dress to be older than their years, and, above all, chic at all times