Truly a fashion-over-function moment.

By Mekita Rivas
Dec 23, 2020 @ 8:45 am
Credit: Alamy/InStyle

If there’s one holiday tradition I’ll never outgrow, it’s cozying up with a cup of hot cocoa, a furry blanket, and a queue of holiday rom-coms. There are the staples, of course: The Holiday, Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, all of which I watch every December with so much zeal and enthusiasm, you’d think I haven’t previously seen each movie dozens of times.  

One of the genre’s most underappreciated titles is Serendipity, starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack in all their early 2000s glory. Beckinsale plays Sarah, a whimsical British expat, and Cusack plays Jonathan, a mopey-but-endearing New Yorker. The two have a meet-cute in a bustling Bloomingdale’s five days before Christmas when they both reach for the same pair of black cashmere gloves at the same time. (For this reason alone, by the way, I will forever argue that Serendipity is also a fashion movie.) 

After fighting off another last-minute shopper for the gloves, Jonathan says Sarah can have them. As a thank you, she treats him to one of those over-the-top frozen hot chocolates from the iconic NYC restaurant Serendipity 3. While there, she shares that “serendipity” is one of her favorite words, and proceeds to wax poetic about how everything is predestined and fate is really the driving force behind, well, everything. 

Jonathan is skeptical but smitten, so he agrees to play along when Sarah subjects him to a truly bonkers parade of experiments that are meant to test fate and determine whether they’re destined to be together. They initially part ways, only to realize they both left items back at the restaurant. And what do you know? They run into each other yet again. See? Fate! 

Eager to keep the evening going, Jonathan suggests that they do something. “What do you want to do?” Sarah asks. “I don’t care,” he responds, which sounds a bit jerk-ish but in the movie it’s actually kind of romantic. 

Cut to Central Park, where the star-crossed lovers are ice skating and quizzing each other on personal factoids. It’s snowing. The city skyline is illuminated in the background. It’s a perfectly lovely scene. But there’s just one element that I can never quite shake every time I watch it: Isn’t Sarah freezing

Credit: Serendipity/Facebook

For some reason, she ditches the boyishly chic oversized coat she was wearing earlier in the night and steps out on the ice in a decidedly very cold-looking ensemble: a micro mini skirt with sheer tights, a lightweight multicolored cardigan, and a thin red scarf. Upon closer examination, she does have a blue tank top underneath the cardigan — so she’s technically wearing layers — but still. While this look is quite stylish and I would indeed wear it today, its impracticality has always frustrated me. 

Let’s talk through this: Why does Sarah remove the perfectly suitable coat she was wearing, especially while ice skating? It’s obviously cold enough to be snowing, so it’s got to be, what, at least 30 degrees? Why doesn’t Jonathan — who is clearly desperately in love with this woman he just met — ever do the gentlemanly thing and offer her his coat? And why doesn’t she wear her new cashmere gloves to keep warm, considering how hard she fought for them? So many questions.

You can imagine how much my confusion compounds when Sarah proceeds to fall backwards on the ice, giving herself a pretty nasty gash on her arm. If only you’d worn your coat, Sarah! But then if she hadn’t taken a dive on the ice, Jonathan wouldn’t have had the opportunity to draw a constellation on her forearm with a marker (it’s a whole thing). And then Sarah wouldn’t have fallen for him. And then they wouldn’t have had much of a movie. And then, well, you can see where this is going. 

Although Sarah’s ice skating look is totally nonsensical, it’s fitting for her equally nonsensical character. We’re talking about a person who relies on fate/destiny/the cosmos to make virtually all of her life choices. She’s drawn to the idea of leaving everything up to chance, so, naturally, her wardrobe is going to be more about creating ~vibes~ than it is about serving any kind of functional purpose (like, for instance, staying warm in below freezing temperatures). 

In attempting to define fate, she tells Jonathan, “It’s not an exact science, it’s a feeling.” Perhaps she felt that way about clothes, too.

Sometimes, outfits from movies and TV shows stay on our mind long after we’ve stopped watching. Made a Scene celebrates specific on-screen looks and explores why they’re (still) worth obsessing over.