Emily Gagne
July 10, 2015 7:00 am

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the 1996 film Harriet the Spy, based on the classic 1964 children’s book. In honor of the amazing, mystery-solving heroine, we’re publishing one contributor’s ode to Harriet, fashion icon. 

Recently, I prepped to play a very Harriet the Spy role: the one who observes and writes notes from afar. I realized the only way to look good and feel comfortable during a friend’s chilly, rainy late night short film shoot was to channel the queen of the purposefully unseen. We’re talking a roomy coat, a comfy sweatshirt, a playfully striped shirt, slightly oversized and worn-in jeans, and black Chuck Taylors. Ya know, a combo of Harriet’s signature uniform in the book and the amazing Nickelodeon film adaptation (Michelle Trachtenberg’s best role IMHO and a reason to not hate Dawn on Buffy).

At first I felt kinda felt like a fraud, the furthest thing from 25 years old in this outfit. I flashed back to that time I rocked my yellow raincoat (akin to Harriet’s from the movie) for Dress Up as Your Favorite Fictional Character Day at school and some other girl wore a similar and—I’ll admit it now—even better outfit. But after that initial wave of stupidity washed away, I felt totally badass, just like I did when I would carry that big notebook around back in middle school, not caring what people thought it was or what it meant.

That super empowering feeling flowed through me the rest of the night as I transformed from Assistant Director and Keeper of Snacks (like Harriet at the start of the book and movie) to Girl Who Jump Starts the Car for the Shoot ( like Harriet from the end of the book and movie). This seemingly silly outfit suddenly brought out a part of me that sometimes I forget is in there, the part of me that needs to be out there.

If you’d told me when I was back in elementary school that I’d still be rocking the Harriet the Spy look into mid-twenties, I’d probably have … not been surprised. I mean, let’s face in: much like most girls who had access to a library or movie theatre in 1996 (that’s when Harriet the Spy the movie, which is, yes, slightly different from the original book, was released), I was obsessed with Harriet in all her iterations. She was, after all, not only unique in her part-time spy game, but also in her style. She owned the brightly-colored, sometimes striped, layered, casual look that J.Crew later had the rest of world shopping for a decade or so later.

Still, given the fact that Adult Emily is pretty much heels, dresses and skirts, kind of gal, it was weird for me to suddenly be into this type of get-up. But ever since that night, I have seriously reconsidered the sneakers, jeans, casual top and jacket thing. Not only is it mega comfortable on a chilly, kinda fall, kinda spring day, but it’s also freeing. It says, “Hey, I care what people think a little, but also I’ve got more important things to do and see before I go home and eat a tomato and mayo sandwich!” (Side note: how did Harriet eat those every single day? I tried that for a bit and I got real tired, real fast.) And isn’t that how we should project ourselves to the world at large?

As I’m going on my 26th year as a eternally young adult human person and actual real-life journalist, Harriet’s striking, yet secretive style still draws me in. I’m not going to stop wearing my regular uniform of a pseudo retro dress with a modern mini heel and a jacket (jean or blazer styles) — I’m a professional who can’t always wear jeans and that worn-out hoodie my boyfriend lent me in work situations. But when I get the chance to go Harriet, you better believe I will. And I won’t be ashamed of it, like some secret written in a so-called private book, either.

Today might be the day I start carrying a black and white composition book with the word “PRIVATE” scrawled across it, just like I did back in fifth grade (much to my mother’s chagrin). Whatever the case, I’ll just say that my yellow Gap raincoat from fifth grade still kinda fits. And if that’s not a sign I’m meant to mimic Harriet the Spy/fearless, sensible fashionista on a part-time basis, I don’t know what is.

Plus: Has anyone else considered getting *that* foot tattoo? Because I am.

[Images via here, myself, here, and here]

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