Few would say Spice World — the distinctly British musical comedy made by the Spice Girls at the height of their fame in 1997 — is, well, good. It is, however, a unique film in the landscape of scripted comedies made by famous musical acts. With just a little more plot, it could have reached the heights achieved by The Beatles’ Help!, which is to say: Spice World could be Monty Python levels of zany, not to mention far more surreal. As it stands, it’s more A Hard Day’s Night than Magical Mystery Tour, which is undoubtedly a positive.
Spice World has its moments, from the beefy back-up dancers wearing assless purple suits, through Meat Loaf as the Spice Girls’ tour bus driver to Alan Cumming and his documentary crew tailing the group in a high-speed boat chase. For American viewers, it’s not a perfect time capsule of the late ’90s because it is so British, but there is one aspect Spice World totally nails: the fashion. The clothes did in fact make the girls when it came to all things Spice. Their assigned personas were captured in each and every belly shirt, mini-skirt, and platform boot worn by Sporty (Mel C), Scary (Mel B), Baby (Emma), Ginger (Geri), and Posh (Victoria, later to be known as Mrs. David Beckham), and Spice World featured some of their finest. So we decided we’d revisit and rank the 20 iconic group looks from the film, under the eye of costume designer Kate Carin (who also worked on Evita, Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, and more).
Of course, we can’t account for the obvious: like Sex and the City viewers, Spice Girls fans had their favorite member, typically the one they relate to the most (full disclosure: mine was Baby at the time of Spice World‘s release, now it’s a tie between Scary and Ginger). The quintet aren’t unique in that way, but their personalities were caricatured to levels rarely seen among all-girl pop groups. Boy bands were known more for these kinds of marketing shenanigans. Maybe it was their Britishness that allowed them to be funny and over-the-top and yes, sort of predictable in their behavior and looks, but the Spice Girls were believable — and empowering — for a second there. Above all, their fashion choices — often tight, girly, revealing, and wide-varying from member to member — supported their girl power message: it showed young girls that looking super feminine (in their own ways, of course) and caring about women’s rights (albeit a watered-down version) were not mutually exclusive ideas.
20. Training gear at their choreographers’ boot camp
19. A flash-forward to their mum days
18. A flashback to their pre-fame days
17. Loungewear that’s only mildly spicy
16. The boat chase; Geri’s sailor look is too subtle, and the lifejackets kill the vibe all around
15. OK, now this is spicier loungewear
14. Meeting with a bonkers screenwriter
13. Trying to leave the bus for home
12. Reminiscing about the old days
11. Nicola’s baby’s birth
10. Emma goes off on Clifford, their manager; a refreshing pop of color for her, while Geri’ Angus Young look is far from her best
9. What the Spice Girls think they’re going to wear to work on their choreography; Scary FTW
8. Top of the Pops outfits; subtle, except Geri’s awesome word dress
7. Cheesy photo shoot, before the girls dress up like Bowie and Bond girls
6. Rehearsal wear; MAJOR points for Scary wearing an Astronaut suit like a hoodie, NBD
5. Awesome press conference looks
4. This is what Spice Girls wear to pee in the woods (and accidentally meet aliens); more importantly, Posh changed out of a little Gucci dress
3. A terrible idea for a movie that, admittedly, I would watch for the clothes
2. Italian TV performance; beefy dudes in assless purple suits may have factored in
1. THE SPICE GIRLS DRESSED UP AS ONE ANOTHER