Secret Style Icons: Two Out of 3 Women

Deceptively cheerful looks from Robert Altman’s creepazoid dreams.

3 Women, a beautiful, eerie film that came out in 1977, seems to be set in a dream world—and in fact Robert Altman, the director, has said that the idea for the movie literally came to him in a dream. One of our favorite 1970s mysterious beauties, Sissy Spacek, plays Pinky, a shy, awkward teen with no sign of a past, who takes a job at a health spa for old peeps in a middle-of-nowhere California town. In short order she becomes obsessed with her co-worker Millie (Shelley Duvall), calling her “the most perfect person I’ve met.” CALM DOWN, PINKS. Millie, meanwhile, walks around in a bubble of delusion, believing she’s the most popular girl on the block, with every man wanting a piece of her and her “fancy” homemade dinners (which consist of Cheez Whiz and crackers). In reality, most people don’t pay her much attention, except when they’re making fun of her behind her back.

Both women are lone wolves with no friends, disconnected from the rest of the world. So of course they become roommates. The third woman in the movie’s title is Willie (Janice Rule), the pregnant wife of their lecherous landlord. Willie spends much of the film painting strange murals of reptilian creatures at the bottom of the pool.

Pinky’s obsession with Millie turns more creepy by the day, until she starts telling people her name is Mildred (insert side-eye here), steals Millie’s clothes, cigarettes, and Social Security number, and even reads her diary! Where’s Stephanie Tanner because: HOW RUDE! Then one day she dives into the pool from a balcony, is knocked unconscious, and winds up in a coma. When she emerges, she turns all FLIPMODE SQUAD and basically becomes Millie, but with more of a bad-girl attitude! Everyone ends up liking her and all the dudes shower her with attention, unlike they did with poor Millie. Doesn’t this remind you of that part in Clueless when Cher gave Tai the ultimate teen makeover, then Tai kind-of-but-not-really almost falls off the balcony at the mall and takes over Cher’s reign as the most popular girl in school?

The movie’s costume designer, Jules Melillo, gives each of these women a signature color. Millie is obsessed with the color yellow: her home decor is yellow, her car is “French mustard,” and she’s always wearing sunshine-hued long skirts and dresses.

Left: yellow pleated chiffon skirt, $35, Romwe. Center column, top to bottom: Kraft Easy Cheese; domed clip-on earrings, $17.50, ASOS; Veronica Opulash mascara, $17.50, M.A.C. Cosmetics; Archie’s Girls Pearlmatte Face Powder, $30, M.A.C. Cosmetics. Right, top to bottom: Cool With Me Top in Floral Yellow, $65, Modcloth; suede espadrille wedges, $49, ASOS.

Pinky, on the other hand, wears nothing but…can you guess? Yup, PINK! In the beginning of the movie, her clothes are as demure as she is, but later on she rocks that midriff to match her new sassy attitude.

Left: Rosy Meadows Vintage Dress, $40, Hello Holiday. Center row, top to bottom: Betty Lipstick in Girl Next Door, $16.50, M.A.C. Cosmetics; pink Retro Dollie Earrings, $10, Modcloth; Betty Lipglass in Summer Sweetheart, $16.50, M.A.C. Cosmetics. Right column, top to bottom: What About Bauble Necklace, $22, Modcloth; pastel pink Outer Bank on It sandal by Salt Water Sandals, $40, Modcloth.

(Willie’s wardrobe has a distinctive palette too—all earth tones—but we don’t see as much of her on screen.)

The movie keeps getting weirder and more dreamlike, as the women’s identities switch and ultimately begin to merge. If only we could be as fabulously dressed in our own strange dreams. ♦


  • AllieBee February 5th, 2013 7:47 PM

    Those pink sandals! My feet need them!

  • DreamBoat February 5th, 2013 7:53 PM

    OH LORD, I WOULD DIE FOR THOSE CLOTHES. THE DRESS, THE SHOES! Now I am also DYYYYING to see this movie, because it looks like the best sun drenched ’70s adventure EVER.

    • Ladymia69 February 5th, 2013 10:58 PM

      It’s more like a surreal nightmare, but it’s still beautiful. <3

  • hiraari February 5th, 2013 7:56 PM

    I really, really, REALLY want to watch this now!
    And also,

    SHELLEY DUVALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • StrawberryTwist February 5th, 2013 8:28 PM

    I love the pastels! :) Also, Three Women seems like an interesting film. I want to watch it now!!!

  • Tangerine February 5th, 2013 8:41 PM

    As soon as I saw that first screenshot, I knew this movie was set in my hometown! (Palm Springs.) Totally gonna hunt down a copy. It looks amazing.

  • Pocket Cow February 5th, 2013 9:47 PM

    AH! I just watched this movie, like, a month ago and thought “I’ll be damned if I don’t see something about the style of this movie on Rookie!”
    Called it!!

  • jenaimarley February 5th, 2013 10:15 PM

    Those sandals aren’t Salt Waters?

    • Anaheed February 6th, 2013 1:01 AM

      They are; I’ll add that to the description to make it clearer.

  • Tyknos93 February 5th, 2013 10:27 PM

    I was(*scoff* ‘was’) a little obsessed with Sissy Spacek’s face a year ago. I NEED to see all of these movies she’s in, because I have this compulsion to look at things with people with odd faces, who are also very talented.
    I’m also pining for some kind of B-Movies feature on your site because Faster Pussycat Kill Kill is required viewing for humans.

  • stroll-n-skate February 5th, 2013 10:47 PM

    This movie made me fall in love with Shelley Duvall.

  • Domenic February 5th, 2013 11:15 PM

    sorry but easy cheese looks disgusting. Neat that each character has a specific colour, like all the yellows are so complimentary to her tanned skin.

    xx Domenic

    • stroll-n-skate February 6th, 2013 12:14 PM

      Millie made “fancy” appetizers with easy cheese in the movie. Easy cheese is pretty gross, but the scene is adorable.

  • Emma February 5th, 2013 11:15 PM

    I’ve always wanted to see a Style Icon article on Cassie from Skins. She has the cutest outfits (knee socks, anyone?)

  • airplanes.books February 6th, 2013 1:17 AM

    I LOVE THIS MOVIE. shelly and sissy have the most beautifully weird faces and this movie is so nightmarish and eery.

  • Lemons February 6th, 2013 5:33 AM

    Great synopsis.. thats it…my afternoon of studying has been wiped off, I have to see this!
    Also I need to wear more yellow, she looks amazing!

  • enface February 6th, 2013 10:02 AM

    I just HAVE to watch this. Never even heard of it before, but it looks really great.

  • Pearl February 6th, 2013 1:51 PM

    OMG I need to have Millie/Shelley Duvall’s wardrobe! And Sissy Spacek was so adorable in the Help. Even at this age. *dramatic sigh*

  • enwarhola February 6th, 2013 2:33 PM

    ugh, rookie, you have done it again. I love this movie. So glad others appreciate its aesthetics. Going to watch it before work now! : )

  • tammytrasho February 6th, 2013 9:34 PM

    Guh I swear you know all my favorite movies! So much love and devotion to Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek!

  • pocketmouse February 8th, 2013 6:40 PM

    I’m glad somebody else is loving this Archie collection :) The pearlmattes are so gorgeous omg

    • pocketmouse February 8th, 2013 6:42 PM

      also I used to get a pair of those sandals every summer growing up (I’d get a new color each time) why’d that tradition end? damn.

  • alyup86 February 9th, 2013 2:20 PM

    Loved the Millie Collage! Reminded me of pictures of my mom! Great!

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica June 5th, 2013 3:46 PM

    OH MY GOD THIS SOUNDS LIKE SUCH AN AMAZING MOVIE OF WONDERFULNESS AND PERFECTION. I’ve never heard of it but I am going to watch it as soon as humanly possible. It sounds a m a z i n g.

    Also these outfits are pretty amazing themselves! Those pink sandals… *dies*

  • Sally Apolinsky June 16th, 2013 10:00 AM

    This is one of my favorite movies! I love the odd storyline, but I especially love watching Pinky and Millie interact. My favorite scene is when Millie is introduced to Pinky, she shows her around the job and Pinky is in a sort of trance. Really nice article!