The 1975 science fiction movie “The Stepford Wives” is, of course, a classic. While it received a lukewarm reception during its initial release, the film has gained a cult status and the concept of the “Stepford wife” has become culturally ubiquitous. In the film, Joanna (played by Katherine Ross) is uprooted from her life in Manhattan when her husband decides to relocate to the suburb of Stepford, Connecticut. Joanna is an impassioned woman who is trying to establish herself as a photographer and has very au courant opinions on feminism and women’s liberation. Her more cosmopolitan and rebellious sensibilities clash with the very old-school style of life in Stepford––old boys club-like chauvinist husbands and their pretty, vacant wives. This would-be 1950s sitcom is made eerie by the robotic behaviour of the women and the secretive nature of the men. Joanna meets Bobbie (Paula Prentiss), a former city-dweller and newcomer to Stepford who shares her sentiments about the town’s archaic gender relations. Together the two of them try to organize a feminist consciousness raising session to entice their neighbours to more intellectual interests outside the domestic realm. However, the malady is much more d!eep seated than Joanna’s attempts at imbuing Stepford with a feminist sensibility can cure.
The wardrobe styling is essential to the plot of “The Stepford Wives.” Joanna and Bobbie’s modern and liberated attitudes are reflected through their clothes. Hot pants, crop tops, and high waisted trousers abound between the two of them; Bobbie has more of a penchant for overalls and Joanna sports a few slinky column dresses. This serves in sharp contrast to the women of Stepford who wear frilly housefrau dresses with Victorian-like modesty. The transition of certain characters from the individualistic, liberated woman into the creepy Stepford wife is marked by a transition in their wardrobe. Most of the housewive’s dresses are rather horrifying (with some exceptions) but Joanna and Bobby’s clothes are quite enviable in their 70s casual kind of way. Cheesy feminist plot aside, the movie is a cult classic for a reason and definitely w!orth a watch, even if only for the styling.