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Tough Times
Tough Times

Tough Times

In Foxfire, Angelina Jolie and her gang of misfit gal pals accessorize their basic tees and flannels with a sneer. By Eviana Hartman

Before there was Angelina’s Leg, there was Angelina as Legs—the bad-to-the-bone heroine of 1996 camp feminist classic Foxfire. Based on a Joyce Carol Oates novel, it was one of Jolie’s first big roles, and one that helped to cement her early reputation: Lest her red-carpetstrutting, world-saving adventures as half of Brangelina make us forget, Jolie first turned heads in Hollywood by playing, and seeming like, a knife-wielding, tattooed, girl-kissing badass. (For Foxfire, she inked herself onscreen and famously dated her costar Jenny Shimizu offscreen.) Whether it was life imitating art or the other way around (Hackers and Gia are two more paragons of the Angelina-as-wild-child subgenre, if you’re curious) Foxfire, like a riot-grrrl answer to Heathers, helped convince a generation of ’90s teenagers to embrace their power—and to dress the part.

Legs is a teenage drifter who rolls into town just in time to save a meek high-school student named Rita (a shockingly mousey Jenny Lewis, back in her own teen-actor days) from the advances of a creepy teacher. She convinces Rita and three of her classmates to beat him up, and they all get suspended. Legs is not exactly a fashionista—the entirety of her wardrobe fits into a military-issue backpack—but she is a shining example of ’90s style, and the group soon falls under her spell. The first shot of Legs shows her black biker boots—and then those legs, clad in lean, flat-front workwear-style pants. A neutral-hued tee and leather moto jacket complete the ensemble. It’s a simple but powerful look, and even the sleazy teacher is intimidated. The outfit doesn’t change much as Legs takes the girls under her wing, teaching them to stand up for themselves against mean football players, catty cheerleaders, and bad parents: a loose V-neck here, a boxy button-down there. The simplicity of the lines lets Angie’s beauty shine.

The posse—smart, sensitive everygirl Maddy; innocent Rita; tarty, fun Violet; and androgynous, mysterious, troubled Goldie (played by Shimizu)—hide out together in an abandoned house, where they raise hell, gain confidence, and bond (sometimes rather suggestively) while rocking a series of slouchy, grungy getups. Plaid menswear-style shirts, beat-up jeans, backpacks, utility jackets, borrowed-from-the-boys tees: It’s a gender-bending, don’t-mess-with-me style that enhances the girls’ feminine wiles.

As the gang start to forget about family, homework, and boyfriends, though, their antics become reckless. And they ultimately land in hot water when Legs, like a female version of Heathers’s J.D., takes things a step too far, one time too many. It turns out that tough posturing aside, she’s just an orphaned girl named Margaret Sadovsky who needs love. She ultimately skips town, but the girls—and even the remorseful head cheerleader—will never be the same. The lesson, in life and in fashion: Theatrics can be overrated; a strong point of view is what counts. In other words, you don’t need a closet full of elaborate high-fashion pieces to look good because basics can make even more of a statement. What matters is that you wear them with attitude.

Film stills courtesy of EVERETT COLLECTION