With the seventh season of PLL right around the corner and the six-year anniversary of the pilot, the time feels right to revisit the four main traumatized women at the center of TV’s most labyrinthine series of conspiracies.
First up is Emily Fields who is like – you know how in every funny movie there’s the straight-laced person who the funny person tells all their jokes to? Basically, Emily is the fashion version of this as her styles are almost always subdued so as to let her friends cray take center stage. But real talk: her looks are fresh as hell and in the real world, she’d stand out as an amazingly stylish person. It’s just she’s always in scenes opposite Aria’s constant anime character cosplay so by contrast, her lewks seem sort of bland. Out of all the liars, though, she’s always been the most consistent in her characterization so the fact her style changed only incrementally really speaks to her strength of character. So let’s take a look at the style evolution of this pretty little liar.
Season one: Good girl gone goody-goody
When we first meet Emily, her outward appearance is that of an A student who also happens to be a super athlete and oh yeah, is totally dating a guy. She’s working hard to look like your average, untroubled teenage girl — assisted greatly by her super wholesome clothes, like this sweet cardi, striped tee, and jean skirt ensemble. Pretty sure the hem on this is the longest skirt she wears for the entirety of the show’s run. I will also note that the frayed, cut-off trim does give the slightest of hints that this girlie girl has a bit of a punk rebel hiding somewhere deep inside.
Then, as we all remember, her connection with new girl in town Maya (played by famously 30-something Bianca Lawson aka Beyonce’s stepsister!) reignites the lesbian feelings Em’s been repressing since Ali went missing. Her style story remains consistent, though, a lot of tees, minis, and jeans – along with this one gigantic military-style bag she lugs around everywhere.
Sidenote: we have FEELINGS about Hanna’s cropped denim jacket here but that’ll have to wait until she gets her style retrospective later on. Also? #SaveHanna
It’s right away in season one that we get the first hint of Emily’s predisposition to wearing Flashdance off-the-shoulder tees and sweatshirts. Girlfriend likes to flaunt a single shoulder and bra strap.
Her romance with Maya also seemingly introduces her to a love of scarves, like this one Maya gave her which slightly matches her fussy tee but not really. Still, whenever she wears scarves later on I suspect it’s her way of honoring her first real girlfriend.
Shitty things that happened to Emily this season: body of missing BFF/crush is found buried and totally dead*, coming out to her mother does not go well, mother does not like girlfriend, girlfriend shipped off to reprogramming rehab camp, being cyberbullied constantly, new love interest Paige tries to drown her, has two break-ups with Paige.
Season two: Girlie with an edge
Emily starts season two a bit more hardened but still the same sweet, kind girl we got to know. Her style reflects this slight shift with the addition of more necklaces, usually a single huge pendent, and more flashy trim on her standard-issue tanks and tees.
She’s still Pam Fields’s daughter, though, as evidenced by this country club ready formalwear look. Memorably, this was what she was wearing that time the Liars were thrown in jail by the police for the crime of possessing a shovel on a rainy night.
This was also the first season where she really leaned into her love of random cutouts, the strangest variety being this sweater with slits all over the shoulders (always the shoulders with this one). Season one Emily would NEVER with this sweater, but season two Emily was started to lean into her rocker edge.
Shitty things that happened to Emily this season: still being terrorized by a murderous cyberbully, almost has to move to Texas, father redeployed overseas with the military, makes a deal with A, thrown in jail for being seen with a shovel, human growth hormone is found in her system after A snuck it into her cream so she’s kicked off the swim team, realizes she possibly has repressed memories of murdering Ali, first real girlfriend Maya’s body is found dead.
Season three: Dem shoulders tho
Even for a girl with two supremely supportive parents (because of course Pam swiftly course-corrected and loves Emily no matter who she’s dating), the events of the past two seasons are pushing Emily to the brink. Season three brings her first real punk-inspired looks. The slouchy tee and exposed shoulder look below seems standard issue, until you notice the studded leather bracelet. Girl is starting to dress tougher, possibly as a form of armor against the world that’s clearly trying to break her.
But yet again, a formal event occurs and she’s dressed up in a Pam Fields-approved sweet number. I will say that the neckline is a bit more daring and the straps are skimpier than she would have worn before. And because I haven’t said it in three minutes: Emily is SO pretty and her hair is like that of an Equestrian Princess.
She’s getting way less girlie in her day to day. Yes, we’ve got the exposed shoulder so we know it’s still her, but the layered necklace and even somehow that bag strap are way tougher than her OG look. Her hair’s even almost spiky here, instead of the standard issue Rosewood flatiron curls. The dude with her is Maya’s Not-Cousin Crazy “Nate” who… we’ll get to that in a bit.
It’s starting to feel like she’s actively ripping the shoulders out of her shirts, most notably with this cardigan. Something about an exposed shoulder seems to help her feel calmer so: you do you, Ems.
By season’s end, she’s more or less completed her transformation to full-on rocker chick. From here on out, she’s all about sleeveless black tees, layers upon layers of necklaces, and a somehow harsher vibe to her mermaid locks. That’s her true self shining through, though, and the more comfortable she gets with herself, the happier she becomes.
Shitty things that happen to Emily this season: is drugged and found at Ali’s grave which is now empty, is sent a necklace made out of human teeth in English class, still being cyberbullied on a daily basis, kidnapped by a dude she thought was her friend who then threatens to kill her sort-of GF in front of her but instead Emily murders said kidnapper in self-defence.
Season four: So vesty!
While never the sort of gal to turn down a good vest, her love for these not-quite-jackets reaches its pinnacle this season. Continued trauma perhaps leaves her less time to throw on rocker jewellery so she lets these tough pieces do the talking for her… sort of. For instance, this green denim number is more cute than threatening.
Assuming her increasing love of camo print is a sort of tribute to her military Dad? This one seems like she could have bought it from the local hunting supply store but, as per ever with Emily, she’s so sweet and so pretty I almost want to sya it’s working for her.
Emily can be shy, but she’s never afraid to let her logo tees to the talking for her. For instance, this one reveals her enjoyment of WILD KISSES. The exposed zippers on her black jeggings, combines with the cut of this tank, show she’s having one of her punk rock “don’t mess with me” days.
But just like that, we’re getting a remix of her season one outfit, but this time with a cooler mini and, mystifyingly, a hockey jersey rather than a simple tee. From the waist up, she’s ready for a pick-up game; from the waist down, she’s headed for a late night set at Coachella.
This is, I think, the only time she wears this zip-up sleeveless sweatshirt vest with drawstring detail, which is good for all of our retinas. I especially wanted to include this scene because it’s that time Ezra was like, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT REAL PROBLEMS ARE!!!!” to a girl who (*see above and below for list of shitty things, many of which she’s going through at the exact same time he yells at her).
Aaaaand exposed bras becomes another of her go-to looks, possibly after getting a sweet discount on bulk purchasing from American Apparel. This is one of the most notable looks, as we get sidebra as well as (I’m pretty sure) considerable front bra because this is the rare tank that has no sides AND no front. Girl is truly being her true self and owning her sexuality and why not? Out of all the Liars, I’m pretty sure she gets to smooch the widest variety of guest stars.
Just when we got used to Emily’s regular rotation of punk-infused shoulder-exposing, vest-wearing, and bra-exposing we get this unexpected business cazh. Give the girl some credit for being able to legit surprise us with this blazer and jersey dress style. Like any style icon knows, once in a while you’ve got to throw your audience a curveball to keep them interested and Em’s curves are looking pretty insane in this ruched number.
Another aspect of her fashion I could write a whole essay about is her expert deployment of gold lame, here giving Rue McClanahan a run for her money (#RIP) while exposing that trademark shoulder.
Shitty things that happened to Emily this season: A causes a shoulder injury that ends her swimming career (again), almost removed from her parents’ custody by Family Services, causes her mother to be put on leave from her job due to Emily stealing a key from the police station, is trapped inside of the school in basically a horror movie montage, learns her father has a heart condition, A CAR DRIVES INTO THEIR HOUSE SO SHE’S HOMELESS, breaks up with Paige again after Paige betrays her to the cops, is victim of stalking/cyberbullying.
Season five: Tie a shirt on it
PLL may take place in a black hole where time does not exist and high school lasts six seasons, but 2016 is somewhere up in here because Emily’s fully on board the grunge revival. Just about every episode includes one lewk where she’s channeling Rayanne Graff vis-a-vis a plaid shirt tied around her hips. Also? Her experiments into cutouts reaches a new level with this supercute top that’s like 80% top 20% cutouts. Also, this is the year her hair reaches its blondest ever.
Plaid shirts are truly her new go-to, when not tied around her waist, she’s wearing them like a normal plebe. This pink plaid is a great manifestation of Emily Fields: tough as hell on the outside, but a sweet marshmallow on the inside. Also, one should not attempt this ankle-cut jegging with ankle boots unless one has the leg length of Shay Mitchell.
Finding myself at a loss at to how to even describe this next ensemble, I’ll just fall back on the commentary we gave when this first aired: “Emily turns it up a notch with a form-fitting Topshop dress, leather jacket, thigh highs, and wedge sneakers. Although I’m not fond of the neckline, this look is really great alternative for Em’s usually dull style. She meshes Sporty Spice circa 1990s with modern day American Apparel ads.”
To which I can only add: she also has a denim shirt tied around her waist. Because clearly this wasn’t enough look yet without that extra touch.
Emily helps Hanna with a dance competition which leads to the greatest dance rehearsal outfit this side of SYTYCD. Yes friends, to a dance recital Emily wears: cutoff jean shorts, plaid shirt around her waist, sidebra-exposing sleeveless logo tee and American Apparel knee socks. Like when you’re with Hanna Marin and she’s the one more appropriately dressed? You may need to step back from your passion for My So-Called Life style inspo.
Not that it needs to be said yet again, but Shay Mitchell is HOT AS HELL during this dance number.
Perhaps learning that denim is not the best fabric to wrap around your lady bits when working up a sweat, next time she hits the studio Emily is in full Capezio realness. This lewk makes me want to visit my local dance apparel boutique and sign up for some beginner ballet or some shizz.
Shitty things that happened to Emily this season: reunites with the long-thought-dead Ali but their burgeoning relationship ends when she suspects Ali is A, breaks up with Paige AGAIN when Paige moves to California, falls for an older woman but breaks things off when she learns said woman is married, arrested as an accomplice to Mona’s murder, kidnapped, trapped in A’s Dollhouse with her friends.
Season Six: Lace and leather, leather and lace
Having spent a full month in A’s Dollhouse being psychologically tormented (to a larger extent than usual), Emily emerges both tougher and more vulnerable than before. During this traumatic time, when anyone else would retreat to sweats and pajamas, Emily turns to… full-length camo print jumpsuits. I do not recommend even attempting this varsity level look unless you have the face, hair, and legs of Shay Mitchell.
This next number is like, where to even… I can’t… it’s a skirt with built-in plaid shirt waist action? Is it? Or did she buy a matching shirt and skirt and then wore the shirt around her waist at the same time as the matching skirt? Also, we finally see the end result of her indecision between jean jackets and leather jackets: a jean jacket with leather sleeves.
And leather, it seems, is another new theme for our Ems as evidenced by these leather shortalls. So practical for bike riding, assuming you’re the sort of person who doesn’t worry about flashing your macaron at passers-by.
Following the #5YearsForward time jump, we catch up with Emily… in a sleeveless tee with sassy writing on the front. I mean, “If you like piña coladas” isn’t the most subtle text for a woman working as a bartender, but giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe it’s her uniform?
This new, post-high-school-aged Emily looks an awful lot like her teenage version, though this ensemble is ever so slightly more adult with the midi hemmed dress. The grey leather jacket is also more expensive looking, which you’d think makes sense for someone who’s an adult with her own income now, but since her entire plotline is EMILY IS BROKE I have no answers as to how she acquired or has not yet pawned this gorgeous piece.
New Adult Emily also has stick-straight hair, which may be what happens when you’re so broke you’re selling your eggs for cash money: no money for thermal hair products or curling wands. I mean, not when you’re stockpiling leather vets and jackets. Now, this terrycloth romper is oh-so-2001 Juicy Couture but full disclosz? I would 100% wear myself today too. This roller disco look never goes out of style.
This final look in our retrospective really pairs up all of the Emilys in one (apart from the shoulder-baring Emily) with a ladyike skirt, visible bra through white tissue tee, hard rock necklace AND plaid shirt as belt. Emily Fields: she’s every woman, it’s all in her.
Shitty things that happened to Emily this season: now has PTSD from the Dollhouse experience, is yet again burned by a new romance when new boo Sara Harvey turns out to be Red Coat/Black Widow/Charlotte’s accomplice, her father dies, she flunks out of university, is again suspected of a murder she did not commit, is again being stalked and cyberbullied.
YOU GUYS. On a per capita basis, I’m pretty sure Emily Fields is the unluckiest of this quartet, I mean, right? The fact that she’s still able to get up in the morning and apply a full face of no-makeup makeup speaks volumes as to her inner resiliency.