Season 2, episode 12: “Best Dressed for Much Less”

In addition to a myriad of other problems with it, Disney’s janky online video player often lists the episode titles wrong. I found this out the hard way when I recently looked up the Aarton Carter episode on IMDB and found out that it’s actually not called “Here Comes Aaron Carter,” as it’s named in the online player, but “Aaron Carter’s Coming to Town,” which makes so much more sense. This week is another example – it’s called “Best Dressed for Much Less” in IMDB, but it’s just “Best Dressed for Less” in the online player. I’ve probably made other mistakes without catching them so far. One can only devote so much energy into fully perfecting one’s Lizzie McGuire blog.

It’s the week to vote on class superlatives, which they call “class favorites” so as not to confuse kids, I guess, and which only have four categories for simplicity’s sake. Those categories are Best Looking (cruel but accurate – my high school had Biggest Heartthrob), Best Dressed, Most Likely to Succeed, and weirdly, Most Poised. Lizzie asks if she has a shot at that one and we get a two-clip montage of her taking tumbles when by my calculation that has happened on at least ten occasions. They all assume that either Kate or Claire will get Best Looking and the other will get Best Dressed, but they realize that Miranda might be a contender for Most Poised. Really?

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Gordo decides to try for an unofficial superlative: Most Photographed. He just plans on crashing all of the club photos being taken that week. This is an interesting development from the Gordo who scorned caring about yearbooks in “Picture Day,” but I guess it’s because Lizzie taught him The Importance of Being Superficial that episode. Gordo announces his goal with a real non sequitur of a reference joke. He says “I’m going to be everywhere -” *Elvis voice* “- thank you very much.” I can’t tell what the joke is supposed to be there, and it might be because the actor clearly can’t either. It feels like they could have justified it by having him say something like “I’m going to be the king of the yearbook” – or, better yet, they could’ve just not shoved an Elvis reference in there for no reason.

The next scene is pretty crazy from a screenwriting perspective because almost every sentence posits a completely unrealistic statement as if it’s an obvious accepted fact. Gordo says Kate wants everyone to think that she is a shoo-in for the best superlatives so they don’t campaign for it, as if superlatives were a thing you could actively campaign for. Lizzie concurs by saying that anyone could wear an “outrageously hip outfit” one day and win Best Dressed, as if superlatives are only based on the day of voting and not the entire year. Gordo suggests that Lizzie do it and Lizzie is confounded by this, and says she wouldn’t know what to wear, as if clothes weren’t her only interest. Miranda says she should buy the new pair of hiphuggers in the window of the Style Shack, as if a basic pair of jeans would provide the necessary flash for this task, and backs this up by saying that “all of the music video people get their clothes there,” as if celebrities are constantly flocking to their random town for their clothes and advertising it. Gordo says that if she could do this she will be Best Dressed in the yearbook forever and Lizzie is shocked by this, as if she didn’t already spend an episode hammering the eternity of yearbooks into Gordo’s head. It’s just a ten-car pile up of assumptions on which to predicate the entire episode’s plot.

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This continues in the next scene, where Jo has a giant Costco-sized barrel of mustard that isn’t mentioned at all but is clearly only there to prove that she is thrifty. Lizzie says she wants the outfit in the front window of the Style Shack and Jo is horrified when she hears that the whole thing will cost $110 because, in Jo’s words, “this household runs on a budget” and the McGuire family doesn’t have that kind of money. Do they…not…though? Their house is pretty big and money concerns have literally never come up before. I feel like I would believe this a lot more if they said something like Sam just had to take a pay cut at work or something to indicate that the family has fallen on hard times recently, and not that they are just constantly scraping by. Anyway, Lizzie reacts predictably, by screaming at her mother for denying her something.

Matt comes in and announces that he’s going to be a star and is a dick about it, which feels like a retread of his school play diva episode. You could assume that this is the long-awaited follow-up to the plot point that he’s going to be in a Jet Li movie, but Jo assumes he’s referring to a commercial he did and we get a flashback clip of that. For those of you keeping up, we definitely haven’t seen that yet. This is another episode aired out of order. However, it turns out that Matt isn’t referring to the blockbuster movie he did or the commercial he did, but a TV show he’s now on by some goofy happenstance. How are the McGuires so hard up for money if their kid is such an in-demand child actor?

Jo offers to help Lizzie go through her closet to put together some new outfits, but Lizzie complains that everyone at school has seen all of her outfits already. I want to call attention to that just because of the movie’s absurd “outfit repeater” insult. Lizzie is an outfit repeater way before graduation, because everyone is, because that’s how clothes work. Lizzie rejects her mom’s help and adds a big dollop of guilt for forcing her to lose to Kate.

Can we just take a moment to talk about Lizzie’s fashion sense versus Kate’s? We don’t have to actually discuss it, because I do it constantly, especially this season. This is yet another example of bad costume design undermining the actual story at hand. The costume team has gone to such lengths to make Lizzie’s outfits more desirable to kids that this episode is completely idiotic and nonsensical.

The next day, Matt wastes all of the paper and ink in the house printing out 500 head shots so he can give them out to the admirers he’s anticipating and Mrs. McGuire does not give him a lecture on how they can’t afford to run through that much paper and ink. She does, however, tell Lizzie that she was up all night stressing about Lizzie’s wardrobe and promises to take her bargain hunting that weekend to get her some new clothes. I feel bad for Jo this episode. Lizzie agrees, which is nice, but Cartoon Lizzie mocks the concept of bargain hunting as if it would only yield gross ugly clothes. This is another thing that makes me believe that the McGuires are totally fine in the money department. I don’t know if my mom ever bought anything for full price in my childhood, and as soon as I was old enough to know about money or to begin asking for things she started hammering into my head that everything always goes on sale. Lizzie has clearly never considered that concept.

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At school, Miranda raves that people keep telling her that they’re voting for her for Most Poised. Sure. I have so much to complain about in this episode that I’m not even going to devote space to trying to analyze that. Lizzie, in an outfit that is extremely flashy and trendy, complains that she won’t be Best Dressed because her mom wants to buy her a whole bunch of clothes, but, like, poor people clothes. Miranda suggests that she buy the outfit from the Style Shack and return it after the votes are in for Best Dressed. Man, they’re really leaning into Miranda being the bad influence friend. Everyone chips in money so Lizzie can buy the pants and they all say that it will be totally fine as long as nothing happens to ruin them. You know that something’s going to happen to ruin them, right? You should, because they called attention to how clumsy Lizzie is earlier in this very episode!

In one of the scenes with the McGuire parents and Matt that’s interspersed with Lizzie’s school scenes so as to make it seem like Matt is skipping school, Lizzie’s family goes to the mall so Jo can figure out what pants her daughter is lusting after. Because this is Lizzie McGuire, the pants are tacky as hell.

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Matt gets absolutely mobbed by fans who recognize him from his one appearance on a local TV show. They should charge money for autographs and buy Lizzie the pants! In a super weird moment, Sam gets the family away from the mob and Matt asks if he ever worked in the Secret Service. Sam looks super nervous and we get a flashback of him serving in the Secret Service before he says “I’m not at liberty to discuss that.” Who IS he??

Jo gathers a whole bunch of coupons so she can buy Lizzie lots of clothes. Cartoon Lizzie says she can’t lie to her mom, but she also doesn’t want to wear gross bargain clothes like a filthy plebeian, so she lies to her mom as she has in so many episodes where she worries about not being able to lie to her mom. She says she can’t go bargain-hunting because she forgot that she has to study for a huge test and Jo is sad but understanding. Storylines where people do the wrong thing and run the risk of getting caught have given me hives since I was a child. I once started a book and realized that this was its central plot point, so I put it back on the shelf and didn’t pick it up again for five years. Every time I would go to the bookshelf to select a new book, I would see that one with its bookmark stuck halfway through and get seized anew with anxiety and tell myself “not today.” Anyway, I hate Lizzie here and I hate her choices and I hate watching this episode even now.

We get a pretty goofy montage of Jo fighting off dozens of other women for good bargains, which is kind of funny except for the very weird choice to set up a tall black women as her main antagonist and to have that black woman never speak but frequently snarl with animal sound effects added in. It doesn’t look great!

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Lizzie buys the pants from the Style Shack and hide them under her bed so her mom won’t know. Jo comes home with bags of new clothes for Lizzie, including a similar but actually way nicer pair of pants. Lizzie’s mind is completely boggled by the idea that clothes you purchase on sale can be as nice as clothes you buy full price.

The next day, she brings the Style Shack pants to school with her and changes into her “outrageously hip outfit,” which Miranda and Gordo rave about. It’s…okay?

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It’s a T-shirt and jeans. I guess the jeans are maybe tighter than what she usually wears, but this season she’s been wearing some extremely trendy, extremely form-fitting outfits. This is why I complain about costume design on an almost weekly basis! It undermines the writing. This episode is written as if Lizzie has never worn anything cool or eye-catching in her life and posits that doing so will grab the attention of the entire school because it’s so crazy. But this is exactly on par with everything she wears, especially this season.

Our main trio links arms and walks off confidently to their destinies of being Best Dressed, Most Photographed, and Most Poised. This is one of those gifs that you see a lot if you spend your time researching things about Lizzie McGuire. This moment lasts about four seconds but people gif it all the time.

Immediately, they all wipe out in a real wacky chain of tumbles that results in a teacher with a slushy spilling it all over the new pants. Everyone notices and laughs and some asshole from the yearbook even takes a picture of it. 

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Gordo’s pleased about this, but Miranda realizes that this will cost her Most Poised. Okay, I wasn’t that invested in Miranda getting Most Poised because it doesn’t really suit her, but I’m not very happy that she just lost her chance of the superlative because she’s friends with the klutziest girl to ever walk the earth.

Lizzie changes back into the outfit she wore to school, composed of her mom’s bargain finds, and it’s really not that different from the outfit she chose herself or from anything else she wears all the time!

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This sort of Western/prairie look was extremely popular at the time – see Madonna’s outfit in the “Don’t Tell Me” video, which is basically the same thing. And as always, she’s accessorized to the hilt. I’ve said it before, but Lizzie and Miranda always dress like the tween version of rock stars. Compare their looks to the extra in the background. She would obviously be Best Dressed at this school!

As she walks down the halls, everyone compliments her on the pants. Lizzie doesn’t even care about that or the superlative anymore, because she just lost her friends’ money and is now belatedly guilty about lying to her mom.

At home, Jo tried to find places to fit the dozens of rolls of toilet paper she just bought in bulk. Because she’s thrifty, see? She’s always like this and you just never noticed in every episode! If Jo is at home she is dealing with Costco-sized home goods and that’s just the facts.

Matt comes home, despondent because his dumb TV show got canceled. As Jo comforts him, the doorbell rings and Sam discovers a shipment of three dozen T-shirts with Matt’s face on them to give out to fans, which costs $360. Oh. I’m beginning to see why “this household runs on a budget.” The budget is to compensate for Matt blowing all of the family’s money on stupid shit all the time.

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Lizzie comes home and reports that Claire won Best Dressed, which I’m actually okay with because she definitely dresses better than Kate, but Lizzie says it doesn’t matter to her because everyone in school loved her stylish new clothes. She apologizes to her mom for being a terrible daughter as per usual and asks if she can go bargain-hunting with her mom next time. Sad music plays and they hug. Hilary Duff is very good at selling these sweet moments, even if I never feel like they’re really earned.

And that’s it! Boy, I thought this one was dumb. You can’t costume Lizzie in outrageous outfits for two seasons and then set up a plot about her trying in vain for Best Dressed against the always-bland Kate. And why put a plot point about Matt getting a job and then blowing all the family’s money in an episode that tries to insist the McGuires are strapped for cash?

Unnecessary references: The Elvis one was extremely unnecessary. Cartoon Lizzie also riffs on the MasterCard “Priceless” campaign, which was huge at the time.

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Notable fashion moments: Miranda wears a full denim ensemble that features both her American flag headband and a British flag T-shirt. Her Trapper Keeper ties in the other Miranda Sanchez costume trope this season, camo.

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Lizzie wears that SUPER frosty lipgloss that was so popular at the time.

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Miranda wears a very casual sweatpants look, which made me wonder if they were trying to dress her down so as to not compete with Lizzie’s looks this episode.

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Lizzie wears another cowboy-themed outfit, a motif we’ve seen a lot for her this season. Weirdly, it’s paired with chopsticks in her hair.

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Remember how I said there was a lot of random Asian influence in the costuming this season? In this episode, even Gordo gets into it.

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Miranda rewears her Fish & Chips shirt from the last episode with plaid, another staple of her costuming.

Matt wears a really stupid vest that doesn’t go with his outfit at all. I don’t know why. I think it’s just so he can have a pen in his pocket to sign autographs? Also note how they don’t have the budget for locks on the lockers at Matt’s school location.

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Feel free to debate in the comments: is Lizzie’s Style Shack pants outfit the most “outrageously hip” thing she’s ever worn? I agree that it’s flashier than the bargain pants outfit, but that’s only because of the shirt.

I would submit the following looks for consideration:

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Other interesting tidbits: Sam reads Modern Gnome magazine in front of an artfully arranged tower of donuts. I might’ve gone with Better Gnomes and Gardens if I were props master here.

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Various members of the McGuire family drink the same sports drink this episode, and the joke should be that it’s the drink that Matt advertised in a commercial but we haven’t seen that episode yet.

11 thoughts on “Season 2, episode 12: “Best Dressed for Much Less”

  1. I don’t really think that the pants themselves are “outrageously hip” – I always thought they were blah. I assumed it’s more about the fact that she’s wearing an extremely sought after pair of jeans.. which are only sought after because they’re from a high-end store that “music video people” shop at!!1!1 and that would be impressive to other people, and help her win. I mean, people on Disney shows usually live in California by default. So, it’s possible the store is in the city and actually is where “famous” people shop.

    That first suggestion you put for the other hip outfit considerations though is from the episode where literally everyone was dressed outrageously in an attempt to get on camera, so I don’t think that counts lol.

    Interesting fact: The montage of Sam and Matt running away from all the fans at the mall was originally set to “Fame” by David Bowie. I’m assuming it was replaced with a stock song on the Disney site?

    ALSO, my elementary school didn’t have locks on the lockers haha.

    Like

  2. Based entirely on the photos I’ve seen here on the site, it seems to me that Miranda is typically more stylishly dressed than Lizzie is. Maybe that’s just my own taste talking.

    What exactly is up with the way the three of them are walking arm in arm? Gordo’s elbows are up really high and it looks crazy.

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  3. The trio skipping along with arms interlocked may be an homage to The Wizard of Oz: https://youtu.be/Mm3ypbAbLJ8?t=1m19s

    File that under unnecessary reference.

    I think Lizzie’s bargain outfit looks way better than her “cool” jeans outfit. The butterfly t-shirt she wears with the “cool” jeans is meh at best. The layers she has going on with the bargain outfit looks more stylish to me.

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    1. I think the butterfly shirt looks cheap! Granted, style at the time was pretty cheap-looking, but that outfit in particular definitely doesn’t seem extremely fashionable to me.

      Like

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