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.
Following our recap of Emily’s surprisingly interesting fashion transformation is Mz Spencer “If You’re Nasty” Hastings. Kinda sorta like Emily, Spencer’s looks are generally less flashy than whatever Aria and Hanna bring to the yard. In a scene with either of these two, it’s easy not to notice Spencer’s looks at all. Isolated from the others, though, this preppie’s nonstop Audrey Hepburn flavored fashion parade has its own intriguing twists and turns. So let’s take a look at the style evolution of this pretty little liar.
Season one: The Preppie Handbook
Much like with Emily, the pilot and first season worked hard to establish Spencer’s fashion brand. She wore some of her preppiest ever looks this season to make sure we all knew SHE IS THE PREPPY ONE… apart from the flashbacks. Whenever that yellow filter reared its head Spencer was suddenly almost entirely in teeny bikinis. So. Many. Teeny bikinis.
This is actually a really interesting aspect of her costuming. She’s got two modes: buttoned-up prepster and free-spirited sexy gal. As we’ll see through her fashion evolution, with age she learns to mesh these two aspects of her personality.
How buttoned-up is post-flashback Spencer? So much that, even lounging around her bedroom with no other human contact, she’s serving us Serena van der Woodsen deconstructed school uniform realness (despite not going to a school with uniforms). Not to mention that when you’re home alone? You can do more than just loosen your decorative tie such as: put on some damn sweats.
Another Spencer trademark I’d forgotten about is her devotion to hi-lo hems, maybe the only trendy look in her rotation of timeless sportswear. Also? Always a brown leather belt. And? Never without a blazer or highly structured jacket.
When a teenage girl tries this hard to look like a grown-up, you know she’s got something to prove. This high-waisted skirt and blousy top is straight out of Working Girl like, she looks more like a Librarian than a high schooler. (Hey, Jenna! Miss you boo!)
She’s also got some sort of sublimated desire to be in a marching band, as evidenced by the amount of majorette jackets in her closet. Not sure if down below is slouchy trousers or an especially oddly fitting skirt but either way: get your shit together, lady.
Lovinggg that this staircase is never not used for Spencer as a step-and-repeat to showcase her lewks. This equestrian ensemble is maybe peak Spence. Bear in mind she’s not off to the country club for an equestrian lesson right now, but rather is headed for her daily 6am fully dressed and aware pre-school post-breakfast gossip sesh with her besties.
Hair-wise, she’s all about the loose waves, with an occasional curled pony. The one time they attempted a sort of Brigitte Bardot updo it pushed her business cazh look to the next level that I assume her fellow students started mistaking her for the new French teacher. Still, this floaty ensemble combines three of her trademarks: shirtdresses, brown belts, and bizarrely placed incongrous ruffles.
Season two: Prep School Confidential
Season two solidifies her signature style, showing her looking somehow even more tailored and put-together. She’s the sort of girl at this point where, when her life falls apart, she leans harder into making sure her appearance is perfect. Oh also she’s obsessed with animal prints, as evidenced by the twee owl print on this tee (worn with yet another of her marching band jackets, because: Spencer)
Her infatuation with randomly placed ruffles continues, as does her indecision between straight, wavy, and curly hair. It seems like this curl is her natural texture, so why fight it?
I blame this ill-conceived venture into Western wear on spending too much time with Emily, which could make anyone start to think that shoulder-baring is where it’s at. Girl: step away from the cutouts.
This next look is one of my all-time fav Spencer lewks. At first I was squinting and trying to figure out what sort of animal is on the front of her sweater. A horse knit a la Picasso? A rabbit with disloacted limbs? Or…
… a Medieval tapestry unicorn?? #PeakSpencer
She is not without her fashion stumbles, such as this incomprehensibly fitted skirt and layered tee situation. When you’re in a two shot with Emily and her clothes are more flattering than yours? You need to look at your life. I’m like 90% sure Mandi Line was too busy to dress her for this scene and Troian just grabbed whatever was closest in the wardrobe dept.
More Emily influence here with the Flashdance sweater and single exposed shoulder. But snaps for actually veering ever so slightly towards actual lounging-around-in-your-room-by-yourself wear. Like, ok, she’s still wearing knee high boots while on her bed but babysteps, people.
Season three: The Sweatering
Season three brought her first complete nervous breakdown. And the clues were there all along. Again, Spencer does Western wear (Note: this isn’t from the episode where they went to a literal hoedown btdubs) and again, this is just not working on her. She’s doing her best to Spencerize it though, with the belt and the necklace and the omnipresent ladylike watch that all teens wear these days.
She steps up her animal print this season with a foray into birds…
I want to say… big cats?…
And finally dogs. Never without a belt. Still with her carefully styled WASP hair and jewelry on point. Her watch words are LADYLIKE and BELTED and COUNTRY CLUB and YOU KNOW SHE’S GOING TO UNRAVEL AT SOME POINT.
She may have slight psychic powers as she wore this an entire season prior to the Ravenswood Downton Abbey cemetery extravaganza, where this would have fit in just fine. As a super cazh day look for just chilling with her friends though? Like, this dress is GORGEOUS and she’s throwing down major Lady Mary vibes but this is a straight-up Halloween costume. At least throw a blazer on it like, come on Spence.
And then… #Sweatermageddon2K13. She stops visiting Dry Bar on the reg. Her hair is curly but not Rosewood shiny. The sweater is slouchy without being belted. Makeup? Nonexistent. I am concerned.
Girl is coming UNHINGED like she’s straight-up not even brushing anymore. That said, this trench with Michelin Man leather arms? Never not in fashion.
Her downward spiral, as represented by her hair care regimen, reches its nadir with this messy pony. She hasn’t showered in apparently years and I think her wardrobe at this point consists entirely of oversized sweaters. NOT GREAT, BOB.
Sidenote: this sweater IS still animal print so you know our girl is in there somewhere.
She spends the next several episodes committed at Radley, the best place for anyone with mental illness obviously, emerging finally on her stairs-and-repeat back to form but with a new edge. I don’t think she’d brought b&w to this extent before and her hair’s doing a new thing – a sort of soft wave with volume. Our girl is back, and better than ever.
Season Four: Buttons and bows
Season four Spence was all. about. button. downs. and. cardigans. (NOT, I repeat NOT, shapeless sweaters of despair). Here’s a fairly standard ensemble for this season: a button-down with some interesting visual zing, a matching cardi, tidy hair, teeny earrings, rinse, repeat.
Girlfriend is more into belting than the Lead Actress in a Musical category at the Tony Awards. She’s got a shirt and a sweater AND a belt on top like she’s the girl from the yellow ribbon ghost story where you take off the ribbon and her head falls off. I’m liking the addition of an alice band here, helping her impersonate a human teenager with a touch of whimsy. Spencer is like WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT I AM TOTALLY CHILL ALL THE TIME.
At least once per season we see Spencer’s unrequited desire to go to Constance Billard as she throws on a fake school uniform. Suuuuper interesting to see her here, stomping the halls with a guy who was then her BFF’s BF but who would in future become her BF like: what a tangled web we weave. Hey, Caleb! I like you with long hair.
Do not adjust the color on your screen: this is what this episode looked like because we spent the hour in Rosewood Instagram Filter back when ABC Fam was trying to make sexy Scooby Doo happen. Spencer is going full Betty Draper with this sailor collar and I’m gagging over the skinny yellow belt (with its own bow). The attention to detail like this is what’s made PLL such a modern classic of TV fashion.
If you can divert your attention from Aria’s DJ Jazzy Jeff jacket to focus on Spencer’s amazing business lady office non-casual, you know Spence is currently at the top of her game. She’s got a shirt dress, she’s got animal print, she’s got over-the-knee socks, we presume the dress is belted inside of that blazer: #PeakSpencer
Loungewear update: still unable to refrain from wearing footwear even when indoors alone pulling an all-nighter, but we’ve progressed to slightly less tailored jeans and a messy pony. One day soon maybe she’ll be a real girl!
This one I can’t get over how the boob foxes are kissing right where her ribs meet in front. Hanna’s behind her like, “Yes, I know she’s a Type A occasional drug addict with daddy issues and a compulsion to wear animal print, but she’s also my bestie so you’d best step off.”
How am I still always confused and surprised when she pops up in Western wear? There is a country gal somewhere deep inside she’s just yearning to set free, sort of like how it took a few seasons for Emily’s inner rock chick to make an appearance. I almost feel like this is Spencer’s long-lost twin Wynonna who lives in Nashville and is an overly intense country music producer or something.
Season Five: I’m Every Woman
While Emily’s stye transformation developed into a single cohesive look, Spencer seems to have solidified her wardrobe into three basic settings: Prepster/Socialite, Future Veterinarians of America, Deconstructed School Uniform and Western Wear, Then season five comes along to add: Formal Grunge. We first see it in this corduroy overall dress with slouchy beanie, worn, naturally, with a button-down inside…
…AND over-the-knee socks, perfect for those days when your head and torso are cold but your upper thighs are overheating.
Her second real grunge look was here when for once, she’s the standout in a four person PLL strut. Hannah’s bringing us a more conventional 90s throwback look while Spencer has crafted a fascinating prep/punk/grunge hybrid serving up SHOULDER STUDS, PLAID JEGGINGS, MOTO BOOTS, and a FRESHLY IRONED BUTTON DOWN inside.
Then she’s briefly in disguise as a WW2 Nazi aviator spy in this necktie and leather vest:
Then she goes to the opposite extreme, super-soft and feminine in white lace with loose curls (to Hanna’s apparent revulsion):
And then a slouchy sweater OH NO but with tidy hair and jewels so I think we’re safe.
And just when you think she’s moved on, we get yet another fake school uniform lewk: this time, not even on school property. She is taking her collection of kilts and hitting the town, people.
Season Six: House Of Cards, Jr
I’m VERY into this fit and flare situation, even not being entirely sure if this is a shirt over dress or a dress with built-in shirt. This is a new silhouette for her and I like how it really leans into her Audrey Hepburn vibe.
WE NEED NOT DISCUSS THIS FLORAL JUMPSUIT. MOVING ON.
Post #5YearsForward we catch up with Spencer who’s dressing, as one might expect, like a more sophisticated version of her teen self. Also? Grown up lady bangs with super cute face-framing layers. Between the ‘do and the oh-so-Hitchcock trench-cape-top(?), I feel like I’m looking at a still from some super fashionable 1960s film about super smart lady spies.
Again with the circle skirt silhouette here. I am HERE FOR THIS. Girlfriend spent far too many years in belted tunics, it’s time to give her a chance to twirl. And is this the third outfit in a row without a brown belt?? Spencer Hastings, I’m proud of you.
Regrettably, season six also brought several ill-advised pant situations, starting with these “Hello, fellow youths” striped trousers worn while campaigning on university campus. I mean, girl looks fresh to death but these pants are varsity level fashion. Amateurs: don’t even attempt this one.
And this regrettable pantsuit situation best known to us as “that time Spencer went full Heathers.” Plaid jacket OR plaid pants, hon. Not both. Never both.
Of course, we can’t talk about season six Spence without getting into her highly controversial love life. All I’m going to say about it is that when she’s into Caleb, she goes to visit her ex Toby and this is what she wears: full “nobody puts” Baby “in the corner” Dirty Dancing cospaly.
What can I say? The heart what the heart wants, boo.