instyle– Raising Helen is, in my opinion, one of Kate Hudson’s greatest films. Like many of the actress’ iconic roles, it’s a rom-com, and it centers around Helen Harris (Hudson), an executive assistant to the CEO of one of Manhattan’s most elite modeling agencies. Her world ends up getting completely flipped upside down when her sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident, and in their will, entrust Helen with their three kids — Audrey (Hayden Panitierre), Henry (Spencer Breslin) and Sarah (Abigail Breslin).
Overnight, “tra-la-la Helen,” as her other sister Jenny (Joan Cusack) calls her, goes from the stereotypical free-spirited, career-focused singleton to a guardian of three. As much as this movie tells the love story of Helen’s budding romance with the oh-so charming Pastor Dan (aka John Corbett, aka Aiden from Sex & the City), it also tells the story of unconditional familial love. Almost 17 years since it’s release, and I still laugh at every joke and ugly-cry at its bittersweet ending. And, despite the fact that it’s not well-known in the fashion world, the outfits remain some of my favorites.
I think about Raising Helen a lot, but when I’m not wondering why Cusack’s iconic line,”you’re not a bad person, but this is very bad behavior” isn’t a viral meme yet, I’m mostly pining over a fuzzy white sweater Helen wears during an adorable montage of day-dates with Pastor Dan. The sweater only gets, like, .5 seconds of screen time out of the entire two-hour movie, but I’ve never forgotten it. If that doesn’t say something about how impactful fashion can be, I don’t know what does.
Raising Helen released to theaters in 2004, an era of some really questionable fashion trends, so, naturally, there were bound to be a few hideous wardrobe choices in the mix. Jenny, for example, wore a pink shirt under an overwhelming floral dress for Mother’s Day, which was something that captured the character’s persona — the woman who never really had a childhood because she was too busy taking care of everyone else. The film’s costume designer, Gary Jones (who is also responsible for the unforgettable looks from The Princess Diaries) also made sure Audrey’s wardrobe reflected that of a 15-year-old mourning the death of her parents while simultaneously trying to fit in with the cool crowd. It involved a lot of low-rise jeans and skirts, which are basically the bread and butter for a ‘rebellious’ ’00s teen.
Then, there was Helen.
Helen’s character had to learn some pretty hard-hitting life lessons throughout the film, but the rest of the cast could learn a thing or two from her when it comes to fashion. From the micro mini tube-top dress she wears to go clubbing, to her stylish neckties and predominantly neutral color palette, I was a fan of it all. But I especially loved that fuzzy white sweater.
It’s true that the initial sighting is brief — the clip where it pops up is over before it really has the chance to begin — but basically, we see Helen and Pastor Dan perusing a farmer’s market, where he buys an apple for them to share. If you watch carefully (or pause the movie like I have time and again), you’ll catch a glimpse of Helen’s full outfit before she hops on Pastor Dan’s back for a piggyback ride across the street. She’s wearing the fluffiest snow-white sweater, and its coloring could probably blind you under direct sunlight. The oversized top is paired with bootcut jeans, brown shoes, and a caramel shoulder bag. It’s cute, it’s comfortable, and it’s ultimately my quintessential autumn date outfit. I’ve been searching for a dupe ever since the movie came out.
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a fluffy white sweater that’s just as fluffy and just as white. I once came close to discovering the exact designer during an interview with Hudson, where we discussed her supplement line, InBloom. I admittedly fan-girled over the film and expressed my love for this now-timeless outfit, and while Hudson said she knew exactly which sweater I was referring to (success!), she couldn’t put her finger on its maker (darn!).
Nevertheless, I plan to continue my search for a cozy layer that meets the same cinematic standards. Considering we’re seemingly at the peak of throwback fashion, I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before a Raising Helen sweater of my own makes its way into my closet.
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.