The Down-To-Earth Wardrobe Of Dunham’s ‘Girls’ Next Door

With graduation looming just around the corner, I am trying to stay positive. I am looking for all of the silver linings that will come with finally graduating: a solid income, my first real apartment, no more homework, more brunch? I don’t know. It’s not a great list. It’s hard to see life beyond Chestnut Hill right now. But sometimes, when I watch Girls, I feel like life beyond college can be great, exciting, and beautiful. Lena Dunham takes me out of my present and plops me in New York-full of dreams and crazy fashion choices. Not only do the characters in the show make some bold fashion statements, but the show’s creator, writer, and director Dunham has her own fabulous fashion sense, and reminds me that post-grad, I too can write a fabulously popular award-winning show, and become wildly successful (maybe someday). Anything is possible when you don’t have homework due for your 9 a.m. on Friday.

Fashion, it can be argued, really makes this show. From Hannah’s ill-fitting, quirky, cutesy, vintage inspired looks, to Shoshanna’s lovably tragic Juicy Couture sweatsuits, the show is a sartorial treat, a real and complicated glimpse into what it means to dress as a 20-something living in New York and trying to figure it all out. Their outfitting feels honest and not overdone. The clothes feel real and accessible for the characters as they are portrayed. I have never once looked on and thought that Hannah wouldn’t have been able to afford something that she is wearing, or that Marnie’s outfit wasn’t matching her state of mind. It’s always done to a T.

Jennifer Rogien, the show’s costume designer, is quoted as saying, “The overall theme of the show is all the mistakes we go through when we’re trying to find our footing.” As someone desperately trying to find her own footing while wading deep in the waters of second semester senior year, I can’t help but feel connected to these characters. Even when they try and they fail, sartorially or otherwise, you can’t help but root for them. Even looking from the first season to the present, the characters’ styles have changed individually and evolved, but no one has struck that perfect chord yet. No one has her style perfectly defined and executed at any given moment, I would argue.

The show’s wardrobe is a mirror of the authenticity that each character strives for in their own way, whether misguided or not. Dunham has created a world that is not filled with caricatures-she has created complex and emotional characters that feel so resonant because they are fleshed out, and beautiful even in their ugliness. Each character is dressed so perfectly believably. Adam, in his jeans, plain no-nonsense t-shirts and perfect heavy, leather boots; Ray in his awful ironic t-shirts, working at Grumpy’s; Marnie the picture of someone trying so hard to look like an adult, but often getting it all wrong; and the ethereally eclectic Jessa, who can wear a full-length gown in the middle of the day, a bathrobe out in public, or a completely sheer dress to go and babysit. These characters feel like people that Dunham has plucked off the streets of New York and given to us. I can’t say that these looks are much different from ones I have seen with my own two eyes while wandering Brooklyn.

In the latest episode, “Two Plane Rides,” Hannah is accepted to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, one of the most prestigious in the country. She receives and celebrates her acceptance letter in a perfectly Hannah-esque outfit that shows that even when bits and pieces of her life are coming together, she still doesn’t have it all figured out. During her victory dance, she dons chartreuse pleat front pants that are so bad that they are somehow amazing, paired with a blue, jersey halter top with few coordinating stripes. Hey, despite the absurdity, the colors do go. The outfit carries an innocence and a joy to it. And while to the average on-looker, it may seem that it was a shabby ensemble that was thrown together in a moment of not caring, under a closer investigation this is the sort of outfit that someone like Hannah would purposefully put together, and think looked nice. The colors go, it’s fun and bright and quirky as all hell. It’s a fashion treat that wants a cross-body bag and a slip-on mule.

Some days, don’t we all feel like Hannah Horvath? Some days, isn’t the best we can do, or aspire to do, wearing coordinating colors? The visual interest is always there with Hannah’s wardrobe. She is an artist in her clothing and her craft, while Dunham tends to follow the same suit.

I may not have it all figured out yet, my fashion or my future, but I am excited for all of the exploration along the way. Also, to look back and laugh at all of my fashion gaffes I will make in the process, though I hope I never give in to pleat front pants.