Rah, rah, rah. Siss boom style. College Town, U.S.A., makes the perfect backdrop for Hollywood. Youth, energy, grassy knolls, sexual and romantic escapades and, of course, the pursuit of higher learning all converge in one idyllic locale. Not to mention it’s a great place to show off the fashion of the times.
Short of the Jell-O-wrestling underclassman bombshells who consort in such box-office juggernauts as “Old School,” “American Pie 2” and the all-time classic “Animal House,” the most recent batch of Hollywood coed stories has centered around the All-American Girl and her All-American style. But there’s nothing gee-whiz about her look, though it does have an understated, common-sense appeal. “The Prince and Me,” in theaters now, hits today’s collegiate style landscape squarely in the center. Starlet Julia Stiles, a Columbia University student in real life, moves from scene to scene in one set of perfectly distressed jeans and girly, layered top after another. She accents it all with an extra-long scarf or a slouchy bag slung across her shoulder. Of course, when her character starts hanging with the royals, her look gets a dressed-up revamp. Enter one-shouldered, ruched pink gowns and tea-and-crumpet-worthy day suits topped with charming hats — not exactly coed-friendly fare, but easy on the eyes in the confines of a dark movie theater.
In the Olsen twins’ soon-to-be-released “New York Minute,” their characters play highly stylized versions of the two ends of the scholastic spectrum — Mary-Kate as the uberhipster and Ashley as the conservative nerd. Either way, the fashion looks to be entertaining, from one sister’s crisp, white blouses, pearls and business suits to the other’s punk-rock vintage Ts and shredded jeans.
Coed films have often served to jump-start trends. “Love Story,” the 1970 quintessential school sob story, brought Ali MacGraw’s doomed-lover look of knitted cap and long, dangling scarf to the masses. Three years later, when Robert Redford’s apple pie-American varsity letterman fell for Barbra Streisand’s politically charged bookworm in “The Way We Were,” it was due in no small part to the fact that Babs let her curly hair go naturally ’fro, a look that soon translated on the streets, whether she helped start the trend or not. Soon after, noted WWD at the time, preppy sweaters — like the ones Bob and Babs wore when their characters met in college in the late Thirties — showed up everywhere.
And why not? Audiences have always looked to silver-screen scholars for spirit, drama and style — an almost sure-fire equation for box-office bliss. After all, beautiful, bright young things, dressed to a T — what’s not to love? Here, a look at some of Hollywood’s best-dressed coeds.