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Seven important things John Waters taught us about style

Miriam Bouteba

As the city braces itself for the arrival of the back catalogue of the filthiest man alive at the BFI this September, we look to his flicks to get some fashion inspiration. 

1. Nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels

This was yelled to Dawn Davenport in 'Female Trouble' by her disapproving father on Christmas morning. Play it safe with flats or be prepared for a life of notoriety and crime.

2. Dressing like a 'square' might just get you the cutest boys

Take 'Hairspray'’s Penny Pingleton - the girl has bunches and is forced to wear a sweater with a big red ‘P’, so everyone will know that she’s been ‘positively punished’ by her one-sandwich-short-of-a-picnic mother. And she gets the unsung hottie of the film, Seaweed. Score. Same goes for 'Cry Baby', where the boring goody-two-shoes Allison ends up in the arms of the swoontastic rebel Johnny Depp. 

3. Youth does not necessarily equate to beauty

As epitomised by what must be one of the greatest lines in cinematic history, Dawn Davenport says to her long-suffering daughter Taffy, ‘Look in the mirror Taffy. For 14, you don’t look so good.’ Go forth and age disgracefully.

4. Stay the hell away from Rayon

And that goes for all highly flammable fabrics. You just never know when you might find yourself embroiled in a battle, vying for the title of ‘The Filthiest People Alive’, only to find your trailer set alight by rivals. 'Pink Flamingos' teaches us that this can happen. 

5. Always match your cuffs and collars

Follow the example of filthmongers Connie and Raymond Marble in 'Pink Flamingos' and make sure your drapes match the curtains, so to speak. We've seen colourful armpit hair as a recent trend, it's only a matter of time before pubes get in on the dying action. 

6. Your eyebrows should be as proportionately high as your heels

One of the most sartorially memorable scenes from the John Waters' catalogue of filth has to be Divine in her red fishtail dress in 'Pink Flamingos'. These days Cara Delavigne’s brows may be considered lofty, but to us, Divine’s arches will always reign supreme.

7. And from the mouth of the man himself, there is an art to bad taste:

Greg Gorman

'My “look” for the last 20 years or so has been “disaster at the dry cleaners.” I shop in reverse. When I can afford to buy a new outfit, something has to be wrong with it. Purposely wrong.'

The John Waters season starts at the BFI on September 1.

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