Although Mandy Moore is seven years my senior, I feel like I grew up with the performer. I listened closely as her music evolved from flirty hits like "Candy" and "Walk Me Home" (those euphemisms for sexy time went way over my head as an elementary school kid) into the lyrical poetry that is "Cry" and "Top Of The World." I watched her bully Anne Hathaway as the mean cheerleader, Lana Thomas, in The Princess Diaries, sympathized with her character Milly's struggle to find love in Because I Said So, and, of course, shipped her and Milo Ventimiglia's sweet romance in NBC's This Is Us.
No matter what you associate as Moore's claim to fame, though, Moore will forever be A Walk To Remember's Jamie Sullivan to me; the girl who turned bad-boy Landon Carter (Shane West) good, whose unwavering Catholic faith and cancer diagnosis made her live mindfully and gratefully, and whose favorite knit sweater deserved better. Much better.
The first time you're introduced to Jamie's character in the film, you don't know who she is or her significance to the plot. She's just a nameless church choir member whose voice is so heavenly that it's the only thing about the service that catches Landon's undivided attention. You don't exactly get a feel for Jamie's fashion sense until her second scene, in which she's wearing a highly conservative maxi dress with the collar buttoned up to the neck, and a light green, knit sweater. She accessorizes with a brooch pin, black flats, and white socks pulled up just above the ankle.
The outfit is certainly an interesting choice for a high school senior, especially one in the early 2000s, when low rise jeans, tube tops, and halters encouraged showing skin rather than covering it up. But, honestly, more power to Jamie for wearing what makes her feel comfortable, seeing as high school is the epitome of uncomfortable. If wearing an oversized dress that swallows her 5'9" stature in its entirety gets her through it, awesome. I'm all for wearing whatever makes you feel your best.
That being said, I can also acknowledge when an outfit is a little unusual in a certain set of circumstances — which is exactly what confuses me when it comes to the aversions Jamie's classmates have to her style. It's not Jamie's floral, grandma-like dress they make fun of. It's her sweater. The one element of her entire outfit that, in my opinion, wasn't unusual for a 17-year-old — or anyone, at any age, for that matter — to own or wear.
Cardigans have been a wardrobe staple of mine for pretty much my whole life. When I was a kid, my mom would have me pick out dresses and matching cardigans for holiday parties. As a teenager, a cardigan and tank top was my go-to look when I "had nothing to wear" for school. And now, in my late 20s, I live for a knit cardigan with chunky button clasps. It's simple, stylish, and one of those outfits where I never feel like I'm sacrificing comfort for style.
Yet, for some reason, Belinda (played by Lauren German) makes fun of Jamie for wearing one of the most basic clothing items you could own. "Nice sweater," she says dryly as Jamie, who was just minding her own business trying to get to wherever she was going with a box full of astronomy equipment, walks by. Jamie, naive angel that she is, says thank you, to which Belinda, and the rest of Landon's crappy friends snicker about as she walks away.
The irony of this scene is that Belinda pulls a Regina George, while wearing — wait for it — a sweater. The comment is obviously uncalled for, and even more obviously comes from a place of jealousy, seeing as how Belinda is Landon's ex-girlfriend, and caught him making eyes with Jamie during mass. Landon doesn't seem to mind Jamie's signature look, though, and that's made clear when he buys her a second sweater, in a similar style, later on in the film.
Sure, there are a lot of problematic elements to Jamie and Landon's love story, but it's this minute detail in the script that sets a majorly important example on the topic of fashion: First, you should wear whatever you want, because fashion is ever-evolving and trends are just a guideline, anyway. And, second, the person who loves you for who you are inside won't care what you wear, as long as it makes you happy.
Also, that sweater was not bad! Cardigans are cool, and in 2021, some might even call them sexy.
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