From the now iconic blue Ford Thunderbird convertible to its' heroines' high-waisted jeans and motifed T-shirts, Thelma and Louise remains the ultimate road trip movie, emblematic of friendship, feminism and the 90s grunge era, as well as launching the careers of Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis and a very young Brad Pitt.
The 1991 film follows two women who are forced on the run through the outback of America, after Louise catches a man trying to rape Thelma and shoots him dead. So begins a car chase through the mountains, the girls firing down the open road decked out in stetson hats, tank tops, cats-eye glasses and double denim.
During filming, Sarandon and Davis would get dressed in costume before rolling around on the ground in order to dust up their clothing. Levi's reportedly refused to offer product placement within the film, so the array of denim was sourced from every brand except the 501® specialists. At one point, Thelma takes Pitt’s denim shirt and rips off the sleeves, before tying them around her neck as a makeshift necktie. As the film progresses, the changes in costume become symbolic, marking the increasing distance from the pearls and peasant dresses of their former lives.
1991 saw the arrival of the Riot Grrrl movement, fronted by Kathleen Hanna with bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. The film is ripe with feminism, its release predating American rape statutes. It arrived upon the new wave of feminism that had erupted with grunge as its fashion focus, which Thelma & Louise embodied with their red lipstick, biker tank tops and anti-establishment attitude.
"With their red lipstick, biker tank tops and anti-establishment attitude, Thelma & Louise embodied a burgeoning brand of grunge inspired feminism"
The unconventional outlaws can also be credited for one of the first on-screen selfies – the image of the pair taking a shot of themselves with a polaroid camera prior to the trip is the lasting shot of the film, turning up on the back seat of the car in the closing scene as a reminder of how far they have come. It was recently recreated by Susan Sarandon on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, swapping the polaroid for the iphone.
The film ends with the rebel duo driving off the edge of a cliff into the abyss, and indeed cinematic history. They became pin-ups for feminism, for women who craved a film where a female lead points a gun to Prince Charming instead of her hand in marriage. As sexy as it is sharp, the film demonstrated original girl power and female camaraderie, all done while wearing a damn good pair of jeans.
Text by Mhairi Graham