Last Friday, Disney’s Cruella premiered in movie theaters and on Disney+. When the trailer dropped in February, the Cut’s senior writer Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz summed up the plot pretty well: Cruella is “an evil-girlboss origin story about the 101 Dalmatians character Cruella de Vil” — played by Emma Stone as “a sort of She-E-O version of the Joker” — set in 1970s London.
So what does an evil girlboss She-E-O wear? Ahead of the film’s debut, I’ll admit I was skeptical of how this question would be answered. I simply didn’t believe anyone could live up to Glenn Close’s outrageously glamorous performance in Disney’s 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmations. But it turns out that both of the Cruella de Vils, like all real-life fashionistas, seem to identify with an actual brand. Close’s graphic looks with cinched waists and pointed shoulders clearly identified her with the alienlike supervillain aesthetic of Mugler in the ’90s. And according to Cruella costume designer Jenny Beaven, Stone’s style in the new movie reflects the rebellious spirit of Vivienne Westwood.
While making clothes for a London boutique called the King’s Road in the 1970s, Westwood helped shape the U.K. punk scene. The clothing allowed a new generation of young people to express themselves. “What was exciting about the late ’60s and the ’70s was this explosion of creativity and freedom,” Beavan said. “When you look at what Cruella is bringing to the world of fashion and clothing, the King’s Road and Vivienne Westwood’s spirit is definitely there.”
That punk mentality is most apparent when Stone’s Cruella crashes a gala thrown by her nemesis, the Baroness (played by Emma Thompson). In this scene, Cruella’s henchmen back up a garbage truck onto the red carpet. Before the eyes of the stunned onlookers, the truck dumps out a giant pile of trash, which includes Cruella, who pops up with a smirk on her face in a tattered, Westwood-like corseted dress. She climbs up onto the back of the truck, and it drives away, revealing that the pile of trash was, in fact, her gown’s massive train, which flutters in the wind.
Fashion as a way to stunt on your enemies? I’m here for it. And so was Beavan: “We’re using fashion as a weapon, really.”