If you have an older relative who grew up in the ’80s, chances are you spent a fair amount of time devouring Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High novels. The books centered on the beautiful, popular twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, high school juniors whose glossy blonde hair, blue eyes, perma-tanned skin and cherry-red Fiat convertible fit the idea we had (have?) of Southern California girls.
Pascal made efforts to distinguish the twins, in that somewhat obvious Young Adult-lit way: studious Elizabeth was four minutes older, and she was as mature, kind, and responsible as cheerleader Jessica was boy-crazy, adventurous, and daring. A lot of girls identified as either a Jessica or an Elizabeth, but for the reader who truly craved teen drama, Elizabeth was sort of a goody-goody bore, and even Jessica’s self-centered scheming to, say, make the head of the cheerleading squad left something to be desired. Luckily, Pascal also decided to bless us with her greatest creation, one of the most terrifyingly awesome (or awesomely terrifying) villainesses ever put to page: Jessica’s best friend/worst enemy, Lila Fowler.
Lila Fowler is the ultimate mean girl: while the Wakefields were upper-middle-class, Lila was filthy rich (her dad did something vague with computers, because in the 1980s computers = MASSIVE WEALTH). The Wakefields lived in a comfortable split-level ranch; Lila lived in a mansion on a hill named Fowler Crest. The Wakefields brought turkey sandwiches to school; Lila ate butter and caviar on a baguette. Jessica could be sort of manipulative when she wanted her way; Lila was more snobbish, conniving, and casually cruel than Jessica on her worst day. There was the time she rejected Roger Barrett, the shy-but-cute guy on the track team, just because he had an after-school job as a janitor, calling him a “cleaning boy” in front of the whole school! Or the time she started a rumor that Susan Stewart, the beautiful new girl in school who everyone suspected had royal heritage, had escaped from a home for the criminally insane!
In short, Lila is an awesome character. And she had great style too. In the books’ cover art by James Mathewuse, Lila is imagined as a cool dark-haired beauty, jut-jawed and haughty, her eyebrows raised in a slight smirk, her tousled hair falling just so over her immaculate collection of Smarties-colored sweaters. It’s a very fussy, rich-girl look because, unlike Jessica, Lila makes no effort to hide the fact that she is a fussy rich girl. Sure, she could be annoying: endlessly bragging about her rich older boyfriend; her dad’s beach house in Malibu; her horse, Thunder. But for her many flaws, Lila knows exactly who she is and what she wants (and will do whatever she has to do to get it), and I can’t help loving her for that. Here’s what to wear when you want to channel Lila’s very special brand of self-confidence. Try not to start any vicious, life-ruining rumors while you do it.
Burberry Big Boys cashmere sweater $75, Nordstrom
Invert Pleated Flippy Skirt $60, Topshop
Initial Pendant Necklace $56, Max and Chloe
Pink Plaid lipstick $15, M.A.C. Cosmetics
Scallop Edge Satchel $35, ASOS
Lorenzo Uomo houndstooth socks $9.50, Nordstrom
Vintage Salvatore Ferragamo Vara pump around $35, Etsy
IRH Metalist riding helmet $60, Dover Saddlery
Vintage Ralph Lauren blazer (you can find similar ones at Old Navy [$30] or Lands’ End [$80] or the thrift store)
DAV Vegan Equestrian Bit Black Rain Boot $78, Fashion-conscience.com
Purple sweater $100, Place de Tendances (here’s a similar one from Uniqlo for $30)
Ralph Lauren jodhpurs $179, Farfetch.com
NARS blush in Gaeity $28, Barneys
Gold Starter Charm Bracelet $48, Juicy Couture
Maybelline Great Lash mascara in Very Black $5, Drugstore.com
Blue First Place Ribbon, $2, Dinn Bros.
Grooming to Win by Susan E. Harris $23, Amazon.com
Knitted Fluffy Pocket Cardi $60, Topshop
Girls’ Regular Uniform Pleated Plaid Skirt $40, Lands’ End
Kenneth Jay Lane 3 Rows Pearl Necklace $150, Pret-a-Beaute
Punchout Backpack $68, ASOS
The Art of War by Sun Tzu $5.50, Tradebit
Love’s Baby Soft $14, Amazon.com
Jean Naté After Bath Splash $10, Amazon.com
Bonne Bell Lip Smacker lip gloss in Bubble Gum $2, Drugstore.com
SORT Slipper Vamp Kitten Heel Shoes $55, ASOS
Vintage Trapper Keeper eBay