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‘Sweet Valley High’ Gets a Fashion Face-lift

Oh, yes, they’re back! (And they’re played by Leven Rambin, apparently.)Image courtesy of Random House

As ardent fans of Sweet Valley High, we eagerly awaited this week’s rerelease of the prudishly soapy, good-twin-bad-twin saga’s first two books, freshly modernized to appeal (and pander) to kids today. The plotlines remain the same, but tiny details have been updated: The school paper is a blog, top band the Droids have been renamed Valley of Death, and yes, there is one mention of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s new, smaller, “perfect” size 4 figures. They’re even allowed to say “crap.” But who cares about that when there are clothes to be discussed? With eighties fashions again at the forefront — we still can’t forgive Leggings 2.0 — we compared the crazy-bad outfits in the original eighties Sweet Valley High books to those in its supposedly with-it progeny. Did Elizabeth’s infamous tuxedo outfit survive? Read on — and bring a hanky.

The Twins: Probably to prolong their shelf life, the books are now tragically vague when it comes to fashion. For instance, in the original series debut, Double Love, Jessica longs for an outfit of Elizabeth’s that involves a tuxedo shirt, matching pants, and a bow tie. (What, no cummerbund? Horrors!) In the revamped edition, Jessica 2.0 is seduced by a mere J.Crew skirt. Right. The follow-up, Secrets, turns Jessica’s burgundy ribbed sweaterdress into a black wrap; otherwise, she mostly prances around in miniskirts and halter tops, while we hear almost nothing of Elizabeth’s wardrobe unless she’s doing her homework in sweatpants. (Get it? She’s SMART, and therefore drab, while Jessica is SUPERFICIAL and shows more skin. Some stereotypes never go out of style.)

The Adults: Back in the day, falsely accused student-romancer Ms. Dalton “never looked prettier” than when chaperoning a dance in her long velvet skirt, an old-fashioned blouse with “lots of ruffles and tucks,” and a fake rose pinned over one ear. To avoid modern-day confusion that she is either Amish or a refugee from Anne of Green Gables, she now wears an eggplant sheath. What, no leggings? And yet a lawyer whom the twins wrongly suspect of seducing their father has not been rescued from the indignity of an “ice blue suit,” though the new version swears it’s “gorgeous.” Doubtful then, doubtful now.

The Boys: BMOC Bruce Patman once made Jessica melt at the sight of him in cream-colored cords and a blue sweater, but no male wardrobe merits much mention anymore. Pay heed, Project Runway: Nobody cares about menswear. (Lascivious Bruce also lost his Porsche in favor of a Cadillac, and there is no mention of his 1BRUCE1 vanity plate — both are deeply mourned losses.)

The Tertiary Characters: Elizabeth’s BFF, Enid Rollins, a walking nap before, is now even duller: We never thought we’d miss her pale mauve off-the-shoulder gown with mother-of-pearl hair combs, but then New Enid went and wore yet another slinky black number in its place. Boring. Even Valley of Death’s outlandish singer is tamed. Where we once had black velvet jeans, pink sparkly leg warmers, and a purple satin blouse, we’re left with nothing but references to heavy eyeliner. They made the poor girl Pete Wentz.

The References: Adios to fictional boutique Lisette’s; enter real brands like J.Crew, Juicy, and Roxy. At least two guys are described as being Abercrombie-hot — so, we guess they’re saying the dudes are pretty, ripped, and homoerotic? — and whenever there’s a sexual undertone to anything, it’s slapped with some comparison to Maxim. But our favorite ham-fisted update: Describing Jessica’s awed expression, rich-bitch Lila says, “Wow, Jess, you look like you just saw your first Roberto Cavalli.” Yes, and that Bob Mackey sure is a dream. —The Fug Girls

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‘Sweet Valley High’ Gets a Fashion Face-lift