Look of the Week: Hailee Steinfeld's '80s rocker Bumblebee styling

Contributed by
Jan 6, 2019

Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

It has been a great end to 2018 for Hailee Steinfeld, as both Bumblebee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse have been critically lauded. Finding a fresh angle is not an easy task when a number of adaptations of these beloved characters have graced screens over the last 15 years or so — some more successful than others.

Part of the charm of Bumblebee and Into the Spider-Verse is how they tap into the essence of what makes these characters great, while also putting a different spin (no pun intended) on each universe. Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) is one of several characters who offer something we have not previously seen in a Spider-Man movie; meanwhile, Bumblebee injects a whole lot of heart into a bloated franchise. Both offer up some serious style goal inspiration for the start of 2019.

While I am going to focus on Steinfeld as Charlie in Bumblebee, it would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I wanted to shave off half my hair immediately after exiting Into the Spider-Verse. This was also my reaction to seeing Gina Rodriguez’s Annihilation hair styling; 2018 was a good year for side buzzcuts.

The lack of male gaze when Charlie is introduced immediately sets Bumblebee apart from its Michael Bay-helmed Transformers predecessors. Instead of a leering shot, bent over a car in the shortest of short shorts, Charlie’s early morning wake-up is all baggy bed tees and an emphasis on the music she is into. The yellow and black Walkman is a nod to the character she will befriend, while the band posters on her wall feature the likes of The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello & the Attractions is on the shirt she slept in, the same one she will later wear out of the house. The line between bedwear and daytime attire sometimes blurs into one.

Jorts and a denim romper are a major part of Charlie’s wardrobe, but at no point is underbutt the focus. Instead, she sometimes pairs them with cycling shorts peeking through, including fabulous purple zebra-print.

Bumblebee is set in 1987, but animal print never truly goes out of style which is why it is perfect for Charlie’s rocker look including mismatched Nike Hightop Blazers — one zebra, one leopard — and zebra leggings paired with a Damned tee and a rabbit print robe.

Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld Instagram Stories 

Charlie is a bit of an outsider and her DGAF wardrobe sets her apart from the mean girls that mock her while she works at the amusement park — they also happen to wear the faddiest ‘80 attire.

There is a timelessness to a lot of Charlie’s costumes, which wouldn’t look out of place in 2019. Band T-shirts are a staple in H&M, Topshop and Urban Outfitters; jorts are always in season. The Damned and Elvis Costello aren’t the only bands featuring in Charlie’s rotation of shirts. The Smiths, The Rolling Stones and Motorhead all make an appearance.

Music is how she learns to talk to Bee, as Charlie affectionately refers to her new friend, but it also helps her feel connected to her father. In the same way, an item of clothing makes can make you feel closer to someone who is no longer here. Bumblebee fuses these two ideas together, which mirrors how Charlie alters some of her clothing.

Topshop has recently been leaning into garments that look like two different tops sewn together; Charlie’s half-and-half plaid shirt is partaking in this trend. As costume designer Dayna Pink explained, “She’s the girl who’s in her bedroom and taking apart her clothes and putting them back together. She transforms all her stuff.” Accessories also act as a link between Charlie’s mechanic and music interests, as black guitar string bracelets cover her wrist and a bolt necklace hangs around her neck.

During the Bumblebee action climax, Charlie’s ensemble brings these elements together. The teal and black leather jacket she wears has the appearance of two separate garments. The “Nevermind” graphic tee mixes mesh and cotton materials — I spent so long wondering if this was a Sex Pistols shirt or an early nod to Nirvana, but it was actually custom-made by Pink. Nike and Reebok sneakers have been switched for tougher (and more durable) leather boots complete with black and yellow laces.

There is a lot to love about this movie, including Steinfeld’s performance at its heart, but these small costume details dotted throughout also add to the visual pleasure. No longer am I rolling my eyes at the barely there tanks and Daisy Duke jorts or the angle at which these costumes are being shot. These outfits look lived in, practical and stylish, suiting both the period the movie is set in and offering up inspiration for 2019.

If Spider-Gwen has me longing for a razor, then Charlie is making a case for heavy bangs and even heavier eyeliner. The clumpy black mascara is a pure ‘80s makeup touch. This is definitely not waterproof, and again Bumblebee endears itself by not pretending that makeup will look perfect after a dramatic water rescue. Smeared eyeliner it is, which also gives the impression that Charlie has been to a sweaty rock gig.

Hailee Steinfeld


While promoting Bumblebee, Steinfeld has been taking a number of different approaches to recent trends, including a play at menswear in a white windowpane check Zeynep Arçay spring 2018 suit for the London photocall. At the Beijing press conference, she chose a dress suggesting what a Transformer would look like if it was made out of sequins.

Hailee Steinfeld


Meanwhile, at the Los Angeles premiere, this Balmain mini frock has a solid Tron aesthetic. In New York, Steinfeld is leaning into a strong military vibe, opting for every shade of olive green. Steinfeld’s red carpet choices are always bold; even if some of them don’t quite hit the mark. She is a master of sartorial transformations on and off screen.  

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