For the love of Harriet the Spy.

Harriet M. Welsch.




While anything “-ista” may not belong in Harriet’s lexicon, her undeniable flair for mixing basic nineties pieces with a mean middle part, spying accessories, and a penchant for primary colours made her one of my childhood style icons.

Now, let’s get one thing straight… I am referring mainly to the film adaptation of Louise Fitzhugh’s famous novel Harriet the Spy, starring a young and untainted Michelle Trachtenberg as the titular character and Rosie O’Donnell as Ole Golly. Harriet the Spy was one of those movies that made you kindred spirits with other kids who liked it. Not only did it come on a neon orange VHS tape(!!), but it was filmed in Toronto, making aspirations of similar sleuthing adventures seem fully plausible. Normally I am a total book over movie girl, but Harriet the movie was just… better. Feel free to contest this, but I have met several folks who agree and I think part of this owes to the spectacular styling in the film. The character of Harriet remains childlike but mature and she never becomes a caricature as is the case in so many children’s films.

So with this in mind, my pal and fellow Harriet fan Geneva and I set out to explore the alleyways of Bloor West Village Harriet-styles, taking photos as we went! (Of course we began our night with a viewing of the movie to get us into Harriet mode.)

Although Geneva and I didn’t end up on any roofs or trapped in rich ladies’ dumbwaiters, we did get kicked out of a laundromat and had a generally hilarious night.

For all other Harriet fans, here’s a list of top Harriet trends we noticed and tried to mimic; we were pleasantly surprised by how many of the pieces we already had in our closets:

1. Primary colours! (This contrasts interestingly with Harriet’s pals Sport and Janie, who tend to wear more purples and greens.)

2. Stripes, stripes, and more stripes!

3. The classic layered tee over long sleeves look (capitalize on this by mixing stripes and solid primary colours).

4. Converse.

5. Bulky hoodies.

6. Wide-legged red trousers. Sadly we couldn’t source any, but the real Harriet aficionado knows they are a key element to her look!

7. All sorts of spying accessories… think safety goggles, a classic black or black and white notebook, flashlight, compact, rope, binoculars, you name it!

8. A long yellow coat (see Geneva in my knee-length yellow mackintosh).

9. Wide black headbands.

10. Hair always parted in the middle and styled either in one long braid, a ponytail, or straight and down.

But the most important tip of all: maintain curiosity and poise under pressure! Like Harriet’s hero Mata Hari — circa the film with Greta Garbo, of course — Harriet proves any girl can be elegant under pressure.

Esmé Hogeveen

17 thoughts on “For the love of Harriet the Spy.

  1. I think we should bring back middle parts. Esme, I’m looking at you stylish hair trailblazer.

    Turns out that’s actually a tongue twister too. Zing!

  2. Between Hariett and Nancy drew, is this young kickass stylish female sleuth week? I think next we need some Velma and Daphne from Scooby Doo.

    I like the movie more than the book because Buffy’s sister is in it.

  3. Haha, I know it seems my lifelong ambition to be a teenage sleuth has been exposed!

    And Carmen, definitely. I keep experimenting with the middle part…but it’s so darn tricky! And to make matters worse, often when I THINK I have wrangled one, my sister will tell me its moved a little bit of to one side. But alas – let us attempt the unattemptable! (I expect to see you with one when we next we meet!:D)

    (On that note, I am proud to say Geneva has been wearing a middle part quite a bit since our Harriet escapade and lookin great. Let her be a mentor to us all..)


  4. I can’t believe that showed up as an emoticon… definitely just expecting the standard hyphen capital P. Oh how cool am I?

  5. Dawn is in this movie?! Argh, I needs to get my hands on it. This feel like how Ramona was to my childhood, exacpt I don’t think Ramona had any particularly inspired fashion selections…

  6. I never saw the movie (I was in high school when it came out; thanks for making me feel old, Esme), but I loved the book as a kid and, no lie, somewhere I actually have a notebook full of Harriet-style entries I made while “spying” on people from my yard — e.g. “Guy with long hair walking by, looks weird.” I really really wish I knew where that notebook was now.

  7. I love Harriet the Spy! (Kate – I kept a Harriet notebook, too.) Reading this makes me want a long yellow coat.

    As for Ramona – for some reason, I remember there being a book where she got a pixie cut, and then spent the whole time feeling really special about it – because she thought the words “pixie cut” sounded nice or something. I remember the haircut being a really big deal for her. And there was Susan, with those ringlets Ramona always wanted to get her hands on. I don’t remember much about clothing in those books, but there was some talk of hair for sure.

  8. Recent googling brings to my attention they are currently filming a Ramona movie! Though in my heart, no one can possibly be Ramona except Sarah Polley.

  9. Didn’t Ramona always covet red rain boots? But she always got yellow ones from that boy (her friend, watshisname?) instead.

    Alas…you have reminded me now of The Road to Avonlea….oh Sarah Polley, she’s just the coolest. (by the way that was totally sincere!:D)

  10. this post is too cute! i loooooved harriet the spy growing up, and i remember keeping a journal like hers too! your outfits are spot on! i really love the shorts with stripes and plaid look.

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