By now, you will have been acquainted with M3gan, the creepy robot girl who weirdly dances while dressed impeccably in the movie M3gan. She runs on all fours and does her best improv dancing under a creepy light, all while dressed in a “Blair Waldorf meets New Girl’s Jessica Day” preppy aesthetic. From the moment I saw the weirdly human-looking doll, I could not stop thinking about her clothes. After all, how did a robot get such good style? And why is she even dressed so well?
After debuting last weekend, it’s clear M3gan is a hit. The movie follows 8-year-old Cady (Violet McGraw), a young girl who recently lost her mum and ends up navigating moving in with her aunt (Allison Williams), a robotics engineer at a toy company. The horror film made $30 million (£24.5 million) during its US opening weekend and currently sits at an impressive 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making us all doubt if we judged the weird dancing before we got to know the reason behind it.
And while I usually stay away from horror movies, there’s just something about M3gan I haven’t able to shake off. The movie’s promo has centered the robot’s A-line dress and pussy-bow combo as its main image, sending a bunch of M3gan look-alikes dressed in the same outfit to the top of the Empire State Building earlier this month, accompanying Williams as she does her press tour, and even appearing at the movie’s premiere.
The robot doll’s style comes from costume designer Daniel Cruden, who has also worked on Avatar: The Way Of Water and The Hobbit franchise, and has already set a new precedent for what we come to expect from terrifying on-screen dolls, becoming one of 2022’s top Halloween costumes. So what keeps us all glued to her fashion?
The thing about M3gan’s style is that we’ve all worn it at some point, or at least some version of it. The A-line dress with ballet flats combination has become a signature outfit of girlhood, highlighting all the constructed femininity wrapped in that experience. Yet, the outfit is the total opposite of what Cady wears, contrasting the doll’s grown up-looking outfits with puffer jackets, casual dresses and colourful combos that look actually childish instead of polished.
It’s also an outfit that’s reminiscent of the 2010s proliferation of twee and preppy styles that emerged thanks to shows like Gossip Girl and New Girl, much of which is making a comeback as the trend cycle transitions out of the Y2K era. Last year, thanks to brands like Miu Miu, ballet flats — one of M3gan’s go-to items — became one of the year’s must-have shoes, while Peter Pan collars and bows increased in popularity, making the doll a fashionable figure for 2023.
And this is where M3gan differs entirely from the usual host of haunting horror dolls – at least sartorially. Contrary to the likes of Chucky, which is often portrayed in colourful long-sleeves, denim overalls and fiery red hair, M3gan’s polished look plays at our society’s respectability politics, tricking us into thinking that she’s just another Barbie doll safe to take to class (spoiler: she’s not). Sure, she dresses like another member of the mean girls at Gossip Girl’s Constance Billard (something tells me Blair Waldorf would love M3gan’s knack for schemes), but otherwise, nothing else screams “Beware!”
To me, that’s the real horror of M3gan, a robot so stylish and posh that we might quickly forget that she’s essentially dressed to kill. But behind the rimless glasses and double-breasted coats, there’s a real menace.