Style Thief: Meg Ryan from the 1990s

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Friends, here’s a hot take: Every single character that Meg Ryan played in a romantic comedy between 1989 and 2002 was a lesbian. Every. Single. One. Don’t believe me? Check out each and every one of these looks of hers you can steal and try to tell me they aren’t all the gayest things in the world. Disclaimer: each and every one of the plots to these movies are, sadly, made up by yours truly.

French Kiss

In French Kiss, Meg Ryan is giving us casual mid-thirties lesbian goes on a solo vacation to the south of France. Her striped white shirt and white pants show us that she doesn’t have a care in the world, other than living her life to the fullest. She’s brave enough to wear these and drink red wine at the same time because she is strong, independent, and full of joie de vivre.  You can probably find her sitting on a lounge chair in front of beautiful sparkling seas reading a biography of Patricia Highsmith.

Here we get Meg’s character as a seasoned Women’s Studies professor. She read The Second Sex in her sophomore year at Mt. Holyoke and from then on was hooked. She’s also been wearing the same exact pair of Doc Martens since then.  Since most of her time is probably spent in a library, she layers up like any good lesbian would. She wears a dark blazer (to look professional), a tan vest (only because her wacky patterned sweater vest is at the dry cleaners), and her only clean long sleeved white button-down shirt. But she’s a cool professor, not one of those stuck up professors. So every day, she wears her favorite pair of jeans that she happened to find in the free box walking home one day.


Meg Ryan in Hurlyburly plays a super hot lesbian who’s been smoking cigarettes since she was fifteen. She’s a little jaded, but also secretly a big softie who loves to spend nights in snuggled up next to you. But to get to know that side of her, you have to be able to push past her tough exterior. She dresses to intimidate: an oversized red jacket, leggings, and a tank top. That plus her perfected resting bitch face keeps away most men away from her out of fear, but every once in awhile, she’ll flash a cute girl on the street a smile, and everything but Meg in that girl’s entire world will cease to exist for a few short seconds.

Addicted To Love

I’m getting hard-femme dyke-on-bike from this look. Whether or not she actually rides a bike is debatable, but I bet she looks really, really amazing drinking a beer and standing next to one, you know? This look is simple: a well loved leather jacket that’s covered in patches, a grey tank top that maybe shows off a little midriff, black leggings so tight they look painted on, and a classic pair of motorcycle boots, preferably thrifted. Once you get the look, all you’ve got to do is perfect an intimidating snarl and someone will definitely invite you to join their Grrrls Only Motorcycle Club.


In I.Q., Meg Ryan plays Albert Einstein’s niece who falls in love with a butch mechanic, leaving her nerdy psychiatrist husband behind; or something like that. She’s so overwhelmingly gorgeous in this movie that I’m not sure if she’s wife goals or life goals, you know? She’s got this perfect little short haircut, and I spent my entire July 4th being completely overwhelmed by her. She’s giving us high-femme librarian in this film with a modest black dress with simple accessories. It’s her charm that really shines through though. There are tons of options for making this dress work. This one’s my favorite, but honestly, pair any of these with a pair of black heels and your favorite red lipstick and you too can make a butch mechanic fall in love. And isn’t that everyone’s dream?

Flesh and Bone

Meg’s character is all of us in Flesh and Bone and we are all her. Who amongst us hasn’t lounged around in a pair of comfortable flowy pants and a simple tank top? It’s not her outfit her so much as her hair that really gets me in this scene. How in the world does anyone have hair that perfect? Do you think she just wakes up looking that gay? Is that possible??? Look at her bangs!!! Okay, I’m calm. But honestly, you don’t even have to work at this one. Just wake up, look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am as hot as Meg Ryan!” We all win.

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally is probably Meg Ryan’s most iconic film (and the best romantic comedy ever, period) and this is her most iconic look. And honestly, how anyone thought Sally was a heterosexual after seeing her wear a bowler hat and black oxford shoes, I will never know. She even wore a black button-up shirt and buttoned the top button y’all! That’s peak lesbianism!! Finish the look off with a pair of black pants that show off just a touch of ankle, and a sleek grey blazer, and you too can look at Billy Crystal with contempt.

This look is forever burned into my brain. What is more queer than a too-large turtleneck sweater with an oversized tan blazer on top, just for fun? Those glasses, that’s what. Listen, I believe in you. I bet you even have this outfit in your closet right now. Wear it this fall and bring a little bit of Sally with you when you’re perusing your locally owned feminist bookshop.

I saved the best look for last. Sally, fresh out of college, bossing around an idiot guy who thinks she’s silly for calculating her portion of the bill and tip. She’s perfect. She’s wearing a navy cardigan and knee highs even though it’s the summer, because she wants to. Her hair is effortless. She’s not only wearing pleated shorts and a yellow button up shirt, she’s making us all wonder why we aren’t wearing pleated shorts and a yellow button up shirt! Her sneakers are purely for comfort, not fashion, and yet somehow they just bring the whole thing together in the most perfectly fashionable way ever. This was the moment I fell in love with Meg Ryan. This was the moment I knew, through her character choices and wardrobe that she wanted to be the next lesbian icon of the 1990s; “our generation’s Annie Hall,” to quote Autostraddle CEO Riese Bernard. And Meg, you did great sweetie. I see you. We all see you. Keep it up.

Which outfit are you gonna recreate? If you copy any of them, please tag me (and Autostraddle!) on Instagram so I can fawn over how great and gay you look!

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


      • Truth. Like all nostalgia, 90s nostalgia glosses over the shitty parts (like DOMA and bi-erasure)


  1. This article was very instructive as to just how many Meg Ryan ’90’s movies I have NOT seen. So thank you for this – I have a lot of catching up to do!

  2. May I please add Sleepless In Seattle. What was that no-nonsense french braid-twist hybrid? Her comf-wear, layered coats, and scarves…

  3. Oh my GOD I needed this article. I have a 3/4 sleeve black turtleneck that I sometimes wear under a tan jumper dress and I call it my Meg-Ryan-in-You’ve-Got-Mail outfit.

  4. I’ve never seen a single one of these movies so these are the actual plots of all of them as far as I’m concerned now.

  5. Ah-maze-ing. Thank you for this!

    (I read this to my wife. I’ve seen a handful of these, but she clearly knew her Meg Ryans: she was saying just about everything before I read it. She also lamented the fact that You’ve Got Mail wasn’t included… “She runs a freaking independent bookstore!” was, I believe, her exact phrasing.)

  6. Oh dear!!! I’m gunna have to update my look. You’ve pretty much just put up my whole wardrobe, minus the dresses.
    Still, maybe it’s aged well?

  7. I’m flashing back to my small liberal arts college library. Where I layered up, wore boots, and read The Second Sex.

  8. I feel like Meg Ryan as Sally in When Harry Met Sally… borrowed heavily from Diane Keaton who rocks Menocore like no other.

  9. oh so that explains why when I was young (way before I knew I was gay) I had such an infatuation with Meg Ryan

  10. Alaina, thank you for this fun look at the 90’s.
    But I have one correction; Arthur (with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli–because the remake does not exist) is the best romantic comedy. :-)

  11. I’m rereading this piece five years later because i suddenly remembered that yes, meg ryan’s characters at this time were all lesbians;

    and then i suddenly realize that meg ryan may have been my root;

    and then i realize that i have gone through all of these exact style phases.

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