A costume designer looks back on 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion'

The year was 1997. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls was about to rule the radio, Rei Kawakubo had just unveiled her “Adult Punk” show and Madonna was the proud recipient of a Golden Globe. Mona May was putting the final touches on the costumes for “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” while simultaneously working on the TV version of “Clueless.” Little did she know the impact both would have — and continue to have – on her life 20 years later.

“‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Legally Blonde’ — all those happened after ‘Clueless’ and ‘Romy and Michele,’” says May, reflecting on the Nineties films she costumed. “It’s great to be this forerunner and to be the designer to establish what it meant to do a chick-flick movie.”

For those unaware, “Romy and Michele” is a comedy about two best friends, Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), who try to impress their peers at their 10-year high school reunion by lying about inventing Post-it Notes. What the two lack in common sense they make up for in sartorial panache — but even this isn’t enough to prevent them from wearing heels to the gym.

“Now you have all sorts of fashion workout wear, but at the time, there was nothing in the stores,” May says. After a “dismal” session of gym clothes fittings, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She came up with the idea that Romy and Michele would have made their own gym clothes because they wouldn’t have liked anything in stores at that time. So she opted for “crazy spandex, shiny, reflective, iridescent fabric” to stay true to the spirit of the duo.

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