Lessons in Transformative Dressing from Muriel's Wedding

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Muriel's Wedding
Muriel's Wedding, 1994(Film still)

Muriel's Wedding was released 22 years ago today, and to celebrate, we're revisiting some of the style highs and lows from the riotous Australian comedy-drama

1994 Australian comedy-drama Muriel’s Wedding is every bit as bittersweetly poignant as you remember. Toni Colette stars as Muriel Heslop, a native of dead-end town Porpoise Spit with very questionable morals and dreams of one day having a fairytale wedding of her own. Swept up by her outgoing friend Rhonda, the film follows Muriel as she moves to Sydney with money stolen from her parents – questionable morals coming into play here – and changes her name to Mariel. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the movie is all theft, fun and games. Muriel’s rollercoaster journey includes being rejected by the cruel girls she’s admired since high school, more money-thieving, helping Rhonda through cancer, and the repercussions of her father’s corrupt dealings.

Laughter and tears ensue in equal measure, not least on the numerous occasions that Muriel’s sister puts into words what we’re all thinking with the affirmation: “you’re terrible, Muriel”. But it's not just her ability to make us both laugh and cry that deserves respect: Muriel’s fashion choices also demand attention. So, as today is the 22nd anniversary of the film’s U.K. release, here we detailed Muriel’s Wedding’s sartorial points of note.

1. When it comes to hair, less is more
When we first meet Muriel it’s clear she’s trying desperately to align herself with the voluminous hair styles her peers favour – a look which appears to have spilled over from the 80s. Upon moving to Sydney with Rhonda, Muriel leaves the curls and quiffs behind and favours a sleek ’do, reflective of her increased confidence and new life in Australia’s capital.

2. Wear leopard-print with caution
There’s no doubting that head-to-toe leopard-print (any print?) is a bold look no matter the context, but does Muriel mind? Not one bit – in fact, she cares so little that she dons a leopard-print dress, complete with shoulder pads and ruffled sleeves, to Tania and Chook’s wedding, where she catches the bouquet – and is immediately forced to give it back. A further low point comes around when Muriel is arrested, accused of stealing said dress. Needless to say, her leopard-print ensemble makes a statement in more ways than one, and she abandons the look thereafter.

3. Embrace holiday dressing
We all know the feeling: you’re on holiday and suddenly your outfit doesn’t feel complete without a lobster on your head and crabs embellishing your bikini top. Tania knows, and she wastes no time in embracing Hibiscus Island life, in much the same vein as Nicole and the plethora of bananas she’s chosen to adorn herself with. The holiday also sees Muriel make brave wardrobe choices, stepping out in a somewhat garish red sequinned dress.

4. If in doubt: stop, drop, and impersonate ABBA (outfits are imperative)
It’s made clear from the off that Muriel loves ABBA. The Swedish hitmakers provide a means of escapism for her as she lives her life in Porpoise Spit, much to the disdain of her ‘friends’, who are vastly embarrassed that she listens to music from the 1970s. When Muriel bumps into Rhonda, a girl she endured high school with, on holiday, and the two perform an iconic lip syncing routine to Waterloo, outfits and all, the spectacle lifts spirits and cements their friendship. Proof (if any were needed) that ABBA’s always got your back.

5. Always try things on for size
One of Muriel’s dubious hobbies involves visiting bridal shops armed with stories of a fictitious fiancé to try on wedding dresses, take polaroids, and later to add each snap to a dedicated photo album. All she wants is to have her own wedding, but it takes a failed fraudulent visa marriage (all together now: you’re terrible, Muriel) for her to realise that being married is not the secret to happiness. At least she tried on every dress in Sydney before taking the plunge.