There are few films that convey the power of clothes quite like Catherine Hardwicke’s little known debut, Thirteen (2003). In this gritty coming-of-age drama, the quiet but troubled Tracy Freeland falls in with the rebellious and popular Evie Zamora.
Their entire friendship is defined through clothing. Tracy begins the film in childish pastels and appliqued jeans; she is teased for her socks by Evie’s friends. As a result, she makes her distracted mother buy her some more adult clothes which catch Evie’s attention and as a result gets Tracy invited to go shopping on Melrose Avenue with her.
So begins a plot teeming with drugs, promiscuity, adolescent angst and teenage devotion. As the plot gets wilder and their antics get more dangerous, their clothes darken and rip, and their hoops and hair get progressively bigger.
The film is a time capsule. It’s an ode to a generation growing up in the dregs of grunge, around the time Avril Lavigne’s moody Let Go was released and just before the emo and scene phases really took off. It’s fantastically nostalgic in that sense, but the reason it feels so raw and hard-hitting is because every woman remembers how it felt to desperately try and dress older than you are, copying teenage girls but never quite getting it right.
Whether you grew up with Clueless or Mean Girls or Pretty Little Liars, it’s a rite of passage. What I particularly appreciate about Thirteen is how unlike other squeaky clean teen films it is, and this applies to the fashion especially.
Melrose Avenue, the epicentre of Evie and Tracy’s friendship, is filled with lewd t-shirts, glittering piercings and the perilously low slung jeans that become their staple. Evie and Tracy dress alike; the feverish obsession of a first adolescent friendship perfectly evoked by their twinned outfits, from matching nameplate necklaces to studded belts and exposed thongs.
There’s a scene I particularly like where the girls sneak out of a family film night and go out in Hollywood. It’s the peak of their friendship, just before everything begins to crash and burn. They’re both so alike, hair teased up and hanging down in pieces around their face, wearing the same shade of lipstick and frosted eyeshadow and dressed in all black.
Everyone remembers that girl you knew at thirteen, even if you’ve shrugged each other off like the clothes you used to wear.