Is Girls Only Good Because The Characters Dress Like Idiots?


The short answer to that question, of course, is ‘no.’ If seeing disastrous outfits were the only end game here, we could all just as easily watch any non-scripted show on TV, look through old, duck-lipped Facebook pictures of ourselves, or maybe even leave the house once in a while.

However, as the Times (somewhat belatedly) points out in this week’s style section, misguided outfits are a major, and very intentional, factor in the production of Girls. And so, it would seem, the Times has gotten something about young people, specifically Lena Dunham, mostly correct. A promising start to 2013, yes?

“Hannah dresses similarly to the way I dressed in late college or when I just graduated,” Dunham explains of her character on the show, whose clothes are sometimes actually tailored to be even less well-fitting than they might be otherwise. “I was less concerned with things looking good on me and more concerned with things being funny or interesting or quirky. I was a really big proponent of the sacklike bubble dress, unfortunately.”

Ah, yes, the stupid fucking bubble dress trend. It wrought many casualties among us. Anyway, the idea here (and one that I’ve always thought works very much in the show’s favor), is that the clothes on the show are a subtle but very specific way of telegraphing information about the characters, whether it’s Hannah’s well-meaning cluelessness or Shoshanna’s desperate, scattershot adherence to supposed trends. Which, you know, sounds like an obvious thing to do when developing a character for a visual medium like TV, until you look at the uniformly flattering, on-trend, and totally unaffordable clothes being showcased on almost every other show that purports to represent scrappy youths.

Now, this wouldn’t be a “Lena Dunham gets it” trend piece without at least some element feeling a bit… off. Here, it’s the totally incongruous-to-the-subject-matter details sprinkled throughout the article such as Dunham’s tenure at the very-expensive Soho boutique owned by Jemima Kirke’s mom, or Zac Posen’s own tenure as Lena’s childhood babysitter (and eventual designer of her high school graduation dress). I guess I can’t speak to her experiences, but I’m pretty sure my brief phase of wearing jeans with swirls of glitter on the butt pockets (to complement a glitter-laden tank top, in case that wasn’t already implied) might have been averted had Zac Posen been a close family friend growing up. One can never be truly sure, I suppose.

Anyway, as with pretty much everything surrounding the conversation about Girls, whether you think what they’re doing here is cool or just sucks is pretty entirely subjective. Maybe you prefer highly referential realism (albeit “realism” about a very specific, totally-unrealistic-to-many-people milieu) in your entertainment, or maybe you think “art” should be something bigger-picture and more stylized. Arguments can be made for both sides, there is no “right” answer, I don’t really care what you watch.

The only real truth here, I think, is that no one on this earth looks good in a bubble dress. That, and the the Times seems to be making my New Year’s Resolutions surprisingly easy.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.


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