25 Years Later, the Makers of ‘Party Girl’ Reflect on the Film’s Enduring Fashion Legacy (2024)

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Many movies have tried to tell the story of the ’90s underground New York club scene, but few have done so with the charm and authenticity of Party Girl. It’s partly due to the film springing directly from that moment; yet, when it was first released, 25 years ago this week, Party Girl was seen as something of an oddity. Contemporary reviewers weren’t quite sure what to make of this strange fairy tale featuring a wild-living, uber-fashionable downtown club kid gone good, trading her vintage designer fashion pieces to study the Dewey Decimal System and become a librarian. (Adding to its unique place in the pop culture canon, it was the first film ever to be released and shown in full on a then-novel piece of technology called the internet.)

What has made the film so timeless is, of course, the titular party girl herself—the whip-smart, hilariously self-obsessed, loose-living firecracker that is Mary. It was a character crafted by many hands. Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer may have interviewed one of her sister’s hard-partying friends from college who ended up becoming a librarian as part of her meticulous research, but the character was equally informed by the glamorous, free-spirited women cowriter Harry Birckmayer and costume designer Michael Clancy had come to know in the gay clubs of ’90s New York. The magic ingredient that doused the spark of Mary’s character in gasoline and brought her to fiery, vivid life, however, was undeniably Parker Posey, whose knowingly OTT performance managed to make all of the character’s oddities strangely endearing.

Then a rising actress, within a few years, Posey would be crowned “Queen of the Indies” for her willingness to embrace leading roles in small-budget films operating at the weird and wonderful margins of the U.S. film scene—but for many (this writer included), Party Girl remains the jewel in her crown.

It isn’t just Mary’s lovable contradictions, or the iconic soundtrack featuring ’90s classics by the likes of Deee-Lite and Run-DMC that have ensured Party Girl’s ongoing relevance, though, but also her offbeat style. Mixing vintage Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier with pieces picked up at the local thrift store, or an eye-popping ensemble of layered Comme des Garçons tees in every color of the rainbow with hotpants, heels, and black tights, Mary has become an unlikely style icon for generations of outsiders since. Even when she wore those outfits to cartwheel through her library at night.

Here, Posey, Von Scherler Mayer, and Clancy reminisce on the film that spawned a thousand catchphrases—He-he-hello!—and still enchants fashion fans to this day.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Clancy

Photo: Courtesy of First Look Pictures

I. The Original Party Girl and Her Downtown Scene

Daisy von Scherler Mayer, director and cowriter: “Showing that scene on film wasn’t part of our agenda, but it was how we lived, and it was nice for it to be accurately depicted for once. Harry [Birckmayer, cowriter] and I would say, ‘We want to make a movie that stars all the people that are the side characters in other movies.’ Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks go up and get a falafel from a stand—well, forget about Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, why not have a movie about the falafel vendor?”

Michael Clancy, costume designer: “At that time, I was going out to clubs a lot. I was working as a costume designer, but years before I had worked at a pretty famous nightclub called Area, which was a very trendy, scene-y place. Somebody who used to come there was a friend of Daisy’s, and they recommended me. All of the characters in the film were people that were very familiar to me. I knew the person that Parker Posey was playing, I knew the person that Guillermo Díaz was playing. I knew all of these people. They were my friends.”

Parker Posey, actor: “People still say it’s a movie they like to turn on when they’re about to go out. At that time in the ’90s there was so much going out, and thinking about what you were gonna wear. Plus, of course, just laughing with your friends and dancing. It was a little after voguing came onto the scene, and there was so much self-expression. It was all a lot of fun.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “I did my share of gay clubbing, but Harry knew the scene better than me, as did Bill Coleman, who did the music. There were a bunch of cameos which are so funny in hindsight, because I now have to point out to people that the It Twins with the green hair really were a big get for us. They were real nightlife characters and we were so excited to have them. Then we got Natasha Twist, who does the voguing with Mary. It was big to get Natasha, and of course Lady Bunny who we did know and Harry was friends with.”

Posey: “There was so much energy back then, it was so vibrant. I remember seeing RuPaul at the Love Machine in 1991, watching drag queens perform and going to Wigstock, and this real sense of acceptance for queer people of color and their community. It felt like a moment.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “There was even a time where Debbie Harry was going to be in the film, but she couldn’t do it in the end. It definitely wasn’t people from Hollywood going in to make a movie about that scene, then doing a really bastardized version of it. Our tentacles were deep in the actual world we were depicting.”

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Clancy

Photo: Courtesy of First Look Pictures

II. Finding Parker Posey, and Finding Mary’s Style

Von Scherler Mayer: “Parker wasn’t a household name, but she was well-known among casting directors because she was that crazy girl who would come in dressed in the most amazing outfits—a lot like Mary, really. When Laura Rosenthal, the casting director, read the script she said, ‘Oh my god, I know exactly who this part is.’ Parker was out of town so I gave her a call before she came in to audition, and she was like, ‘I have 80 pairs of shoes, I have to play this part!’ ”

Posey: “I’m really bad at auditioning, but I auditioned and I got cast. It’s one of the few films I’ve auditioned for where I got cast. [laughs] We had this two-week rehearsal period where we all just hung out. The theater and independent film scenes at that time were so close-knit. It’s very different in the digital age. I’m sure there are different communities now for young people starting out. But there’s something so special about your early years, when you’re just so excited to work on these little gems. These movies where you don’t know how they got financed and put together, but suddenly they did. It was a really fun time.”

Clancy: “One of the things about costuming Parker was that she was game for anything. You could give her any mad costume, and she would get on board and make it work. It was very character-driven in that sense, it wasn’t regimented in the way that other costuming I’ve done has been, where it’s very strategic or based on a specific color palette. We just threw things together that seemed to work. We’d come up with our own versions of those high fashion looks we couldn’t afford and combine them with vintage clothes, or something we’d bought from Century 21. That’s how the film was costumed. We had no money.”

Posey: “It was the perfect collaboration. I remember this vintage ’70s brocade cream suit I wore that I owned myself, I think I got in Austin when I was working there on something. I still have it, and I wish it still fit me. [laughs] There was a Vivienne Westwood top also that was a big deal, we had to have that bustier. Michael was so connected to designers and the fashion scene, which helped. I remember we borrowed a pair of Todd Oldham rhinestone pants that we could only have for a day.”

Clancy: “There were a lot of clothes that were bought in from my closet, my assistant’s closet, Parker’s closet, Daisy’s cousin’s closet. When she takes that Chanel jacket out, that is an actual Chanel couture jacket which was borrowed from the collection of a friend of mine who works at Vogue, Hamish Bowles—it’s in a scene where they’re at a party and she opens the closet and she’s like, ‘Hello Chanel!’ Whatever was available, we took.”

Posey: “It was about the freedom to have your own style, and not fit into some high fashion mould, where Mary was only wearing Halston, for example. It was about being yourself. Mary was almost out of time, I think. It’s not really the typical leading lady, but it’s a very New York kind of character, who’s just on fire. People you didn’t know existed but you’re glad to meet and they’re witty and funny.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “It wasn’t like people were wearing crazy leggings and hotpants in ’90s New York on the regular. If anything, there was a lot of grunge going on and long layered skirts, things like that. What I loved about what Michael did, and I think the reason the clothing feels so timeless, is that it was created all around the character, and then with pieces that were from Parker’s own wardrobe. Her flair for putting it together in these outrageous combinations was very much its own creation.”

Posey: “That madcap, eclectic thing was about Mary’s ability to change. It was about her being that kind of woman who is able to be funny and sad and angry all at the same time. Carole Lombard was the biggest influence for Mary, and I’d never really been turned on to her until Daisy introduced me. And so Mr. & Mrs. Smith was one of the movies that we watched and she’s just, like, everything all at once. I loved the way you know that she’s privileged, and the characters know that too—it’s about how they play it, and it becomes absurd, but loveable.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “There’s a good clothing in-joke when Mary is sobbing to the immigrant falafel vendor in the garage with his cart, and she is wearing that incredibly expensive Gaultier sweater. She looks kind of like Joan of Arc. The fact she’s saying, ‘Oh, my life is so terrible!’ and she’s in this couture, is not at all lost on us. We’re laughing at her as much as we love her. To me, she’s this very ambiguous character. She is lazy and she is selfish and she does need to learn a lesson, but things get so earnest sometimes, and I find that boring. We wanted it to be light-hearted, too.”

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Clancy

Photo: Courtesy of First Look Pictures

III. How Mary Became the Eternal Party Girl

Clancy: “I’ve done a lot of films, and people sometimes say to me, ‘What have you done that I may have seen?’ It’s always a tough question to answer, because you don’t want to just start reeling off your resumé. But if everything else fails, when I’ve listed a few and they haven’t seen them, I say Party Girl, and they say, ‘Oh my god, I love Party Girl!’ It still seems to hit a chord.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “It’s not like it had a huge influence at one particular moment, but it’s become this weird zeitgeist-y cult film that has bled into people’s heads over time.”

Posey: “I remember sitting in the West Village a year or so ago and this woman in her twenties walked past in this floppy hat and these wide-legged ’70s sailor pants, with heels and a nice crispy shirt, carrying a Joan Didion book. It felt like performance art in a way. I wanted to ask, ‘Are you reading that? What is your story?’ I just love that kind of self-invention through clothing. I think style isn’t always about wanting to stand out, but simply what gets you out of the door. If I’m not having a great day, I wear certain things to really meet that day in a positive way. Throw caution to the wind and wear a scarf if it makes you feel like Isadora Duncan, whatever helps you get through it all. I like the fact millennials have a certain affinity for Party Girl and that time in New York—they’re living that dream and struggling and freelancing, but they still love style. It’s nice to see that instead of just yoga pants. I hope that kind of expression continues to be popular. Right now, these are dark days in America, and I like to see young people who are happy to be who they are.”

Von Scherler Mayer: “One of the main things about the screwball comedy heroines we were referencing is their resourcefulness, even during difficult times. For millennials and people who are entering into the world of the gig economy, it’s about expressing yourself but also having to do it on a budget or within a set of constraints. I’d love to see what Mary would’ve done with social media. Would she have become a billionaire? I don’t know.”

Posey: “I still have a lot of librarians who come up to me and say like, ‘Oh my god, you made librarians cool!’ This type of woman that does like to have fun, but also does like to read! They’re around, I promise you. [laughs]”

Von Scherler Mayer: “I’ve had the experience many times where kids have sent letters or come up to me after panels, who must’ve been 10 when the movie came out, and they’re like, ‘My name is George and I grew up gay in North Carolina, but I saw Party Girl and it changed my life.’ It’s very sweet, and maybe that’s because it was representing gay culture in a positive way without it being a ‘gay movie,’ or about Stonewall or something. It’s just a pro-misfit movie for kids who feel like outsiders.”

Posey: “It was an unusual film when it came out, and a lot of people looked at it and just thought, this is zany, this is weird. But it’s really an uplifting movie. It’s got great style, it’s got great music. But most of all, it just contains a lot of joy.”

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25 Years Later, the Makers of ‘Party Girl’ Reflect on the Film’s Enduring Fashion Legacy (2024)


Who is the Mary in party girl? ›

Party Girl (1995) - Parker Posey as Mary - IMDb.

Who is the Mustafa in party girl? ›

Mustafa: Omar Townsend.

Who is the Leo in party girl? ›

Party Girl (1995) - Guillermo Diaz as Leo - IMDb.

When was party girl popular? ›

"Party Girl" is a song by American rapper StaySolidRocky, originally self-released on September 12, 2019, and then re-released by Columbia Records on April 21, 2020, as his third career-single. The song went viral on video-sharing app TikTok and became StaySolidRocky's first charting single.

What is the movie girl based on? ›

Production. Victor Polster and Lukas Dhont at a Paris premiere of Girl. The film was inspired by Nora Monsecour, a professional dancer and trans woman from Belgium.

How old is Mary in party girl? ›

Mary (Parker Posey) is a 23 year old party girl in NYC.

Where did they film party girl? ›


The film features a laundry list of notable actors, including Liev Schreiber, Guillermo Diaz, and John Ventimiglia, and is brilliantly shot on location in pre-gentrification Lower Manhattan.

Who plays the mean girl in life of the party? ›

Debby Ryan as Jennifer, a "mean girl" and Deanna's enemy.

Is Leo a daddy? ›

The Lion is the king of the jungle, or the father of the jungle. With a strong mind and a loyal, loving heart, Leo men make great fathers who are endowed with qualities of generosity, consciousness, drive and a natural sense of self-assurance which promotes healthy self-love in them and those around them.

Who does Leo crush on? ›

Leos tend to gravitate towards fellow fixed signs, Scorpio and Aquarius. Scorpios understand Leo's need for loyalty, and they both crave a lot of intensity when they're dating someone. Scorpio is very black and white about who they want to get to know and let into their life, and Leo usually feels the same.

Who married Leos? ›

Generally, the most compatible signs for Leo friendships and romantic relationships are fellow fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) as they'll match their passion and heat. Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) also have dynamic, fast-paced energy and could work well for a Leo.

Is Party Girl a good movie? ›

It just swerves right enough to not really fall to a boring and typical route of films of this kind. It could be a bit oddly hard on our titular Party Girl at times, but I felt that how her relationships ended were ultimately nicely handled. Parker Posey is good in this role.

Why won t the party girl move in? ›

In addition to the required number of NPCs, players must also have an empty, valid house for the Party Girl to live in, and no other NPCs can be waiting to move in.

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