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How Realistic Is the Styling on HBO's Girls?

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, television, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls, and getting blasted for Racked for years now. Today, we're borrowing his regular column from Racked National for a very special New York City edition of Love, Frank.


Girls via Stylish Thought.

So, we're guessing you've seen this show Girls? HBO's new Sex and the [Outer Boroughs of the] City, but with amoral, broke (middle class white people "broke") young people? Certainly, if you haven't seen it, you've read about it—the column inches (and column pixels) devoted to the series have been unreal.

Based on all the hype, you couldn't be blamed for ignoring the the whole thing and hoping all the everything would just blow over and everyone else would be as jaded as you are and would just ignore it and then it'd be gone and we'd all be fine.

But the show is really, really good. It's truly worth not ignoring.

And—this is a little horrifying—you might well relate to it. Especially if you're of a certain age and live (or have lived) in North Brooklyn. Because the characters—as despicable as they often are—are real. And they're real in a way that other youngish-people-in-New-York shows just never manage.

Friends? Those people would never have been friends, and their apartments are ridiculous. 2 Broke Girls? The L train is not the Middle Passage, and that "dump" the main characters share would be pretty desirable to anybody actually looking for an apartment in Williamsburg or Greenpoint. Sex and the City? It's a fantasy, and the reason why so many young women are in debt up to their eyeballs and still ordering Cosmopolitans.

Which brings us to the styling on Girls. A number of publications and personalities have attempted spreads, videos or buyer's guides based on the character's looks. But here's the thing, and here's where Girls isn't Sex and the City: The Girls are too young or too broke or too indifferent or too not style-minded to inspire fashion emulation in any real way. (Hannah does love cupcakes, though, and she will eat one in your bathroom given the opportunity.)

Hannah has humongous, gratuitous tattoos and a wardrobe that just screams "Fuck it!" Yet you know that deep down inside, she's insanely insecure. She looks terrible in basically everything—it's almost like the character (or the stylist) is trying to emphasize the worst. You also know that if she didn't have artistic ambition or parents helping her out financially, she'd be an administrative assistant for an accountant in like Florida and she'd knit and she'd still be eating cupcakes in the bathroom. No one is praying for guidance on how to buy her too-short knits and her faux-Mod jumper dresses and her bargain basement boots.

Her roommate is Marnie—the gallery assistant, the most conventionally attractive, the one most grounded in reality. She has really pretty hair. But her look is boring. She wants to be Kate Middleton. Her dresses are short but not short enough to be in any way remarkable, and they're probably all from Zara. Her shoes are ordinary—most likely Nine West. No one needs help dressing this way because this is already how most girls dress.

The Marnie situation is actually one of the show's most glaring missteps. Marnie is an aspiring gallerist who lives in Greenpoint. She should be wearing faux Celine printed slacks from J.Crew, eccentric collaboration tops from Anthropologie, quirky vintage jackets and jewelry, the odd designer piece from the Barneys Warehouse Sale, Karen Walker sunglasses, and ethnically-printed faux Marni anything from Alter. Oh, and she should have one tiny, black Chanel bag.

Jessa lives across the river in Nolita and travels from place to place wearing eccentric scarves and feathered things. Hannah envies her worldliness (it's the accent mainly, but also the money that said worldliness relies on) and her general coolness (aka her money—the wealthy don't sweat the poor stuff).

She sort of occasionally nannies but she mainly just glowers and seeks out the cooler, the more fun, the more interesting. Her clothes should speak to that; and they should be expensive. Instead, she's costumed like normal-girl-comes-back-from-first-semester-at-college-having-discovered-thrift-shops-and-Morrissey-circa-1988. There are layers and worn-out jeans and fedoras and gauzy things and boots; and a very weird bird costume she wears to a party in Bushwick.

She lives with cousin Shoshanna. We all know a Shoshanna. Except our Shoshanna lives on the far Upper East or bar-adjacent in Murray Hill and would never come to a party in Brooklyn. Her eyebrows are severe; her inflection is Valley; she loves sequins. Her look is one part seasonal clearance at Scoop and two parts Forever 21. And, she's the one with the Sex and the City poster on her wall (so meta). She's insipid and a little green—and she's an utter stand-out. A bit of refreshment after all the dour self-entitlement and hyper-selfishness emanating from the pores of her three friends.

And we haven't even touched on the guys! Their personalities are straight off the L train. There's the post-alcoholic sociopath artist (Adam) who all the girls inexplicably flock to despite his joblessness, his attitude, his filthy apartment and his only being friends with hipster lesbians. There's the sweet guy (Charlie) who tries too hard and is too nice and gets the shaft even though he's both employed and crafty and much more conventionally handsome than the sociopath. There's his buddy/bandmate (Ray) who is basically just a dick and works at a coffee house. There's the gay guy (Elijah) who, of course, used to date Hannah—when he was straight, in college, and they did theater things together.

The personae are on point—the styling is not. Well, Adam's look is pretty on point—boys like that do just tend to wear skinny jeans and youth-sized tee shirts. But, come on! There isn't a beard in the bunch. And Charlie should obviously be one of those heritage-Americana boys who wear Gant and J.Crew and has a little leather knapsack. And Elijah should not be wearing too-short polos; he should be wearing giant, slutty tank tops and drop-crotch designer sweat pants from Oak and a severe black shoe with a double monk strap.

Point is, Girls isn't some fashion inspiration board. At least not yet. It's all too ordinary. But the show in and of itself is fantastic. It's relatable and embarrassing and hilarious and filthy and far too real. Whether you actually love it or just love to hate it, the season one finale is on this Sunday. And it will be back next year.

If you haven't already, you ought to give it a whirl. Just don't hate yourself too much if you really like it, or, worse, if you know it all too well.
· See and Shop HBO Girls' Latest NYC Onscreen Street Styles [Popsugar]
· HBO's "Girls": Shop the Shows with Dana Weiss of Possessionista [YouTube]
· Dress the Part: Girls [Vogue]

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