Sunday, March 22, 2015

With “It” Being Hilariously Outdated Streetwalker Garb

This week, I had to watch Pretty Woman. I realize that I grew up in a generation of kids who watched this movie willingly and repeatedly, but I wasn’t allowed to, I’m guessing because my parents wanted to leave explanations about prostitution to the Bible. As a result of not having grown up with it, I kind of hate Pretty Woman. I think if you see it when you’re a kid, you just accept it as good. If you see it as a grown-up who has the slightest inkling about what a prostitute’s life might be like, you can’t get past its phoniness. In fact, the only part about Pretty Woman I really enjoy is Laura San Giacomo, and that probably puts me in a super-minority.

In watching it in order to write even the dinkiest listicle about it, I realized that my fashion vocabulary completely failed me regarding Julia Roberts’ first costume in the film. You know the one: the most streetwalkery, the least hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. It’s hooker with an aluminum spleen at best. But while I didn’t know how to describe it beyond “What the fuck is she supposed to be wearing?” and thereabouts, I could liken it to another pop cultural woman of the night.

In the original Final Fight, you encounter a female enemy, Poison, who’d later go on to become playable in the Street Fighter games. She’s never stated to be a prostitute, but she is a streetwalker in the literal sense: She trots up to you as you scroll down the street and attempts to kick your ass, just like every male enemy does. Poison lacks Vivian’s thigh-highs and the smoking jacket, but the two characters are baring similar amounts of skin beneath their tank tops. And then there’s that hat. The Pretty Woman hat is either a pageboy cap or a Greek fishing hat, according to my panel of experts. And while most probably assume Poison is wearing a cop hat, reappropriated punk-style, I think it’s actually a Greek fishing hat.

Were Greek fishing hats in style for a certain class of woman in the early 90s? I have no idea. Was the Pretty Woman outfit representative of something a prostitute would have actually worn? Or would she have looked odd and out-of-place even in the skantastic fashion netherworld that was Hollywood Boulevard in 1990? Again, not having been in the market for prostitutes when I was seven, I can’t say.

And in case you’re thinking that Poison’s outfit might have been a tip of the hat — that is, the 90s prostitute hat — to the most famous hooker of the era, it’s not. Pretty Woman hit theaters on March 23, 1990, and FInal Fight first hit arcades in December 1989. Poison technically debuted first, so the two designs probably originated separately, though I’d be interested to know if they were both inspired by a real-life look, hookery or not.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

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