From Screen to Street: The Impact of TV Fashion on Real-Life Style Trends

Ella Pilson

Everything we wear is based on something; we each hold our own styles and aesthetics. From this fashion statements, which in hindsight, we wished had stayed out of the family photo albums. To the everyday pieces we wear again and again. This can be an unconscious pull to certain colours, fabrics or designs. But our fashion choices also take inspiration from others; emulating our favourite bands, celebrity icons or a particular decade. We are also massively influenced by both film and TV.

Sometimes they just have a good style, an allure and ‘coolness’. But they also create certain meanings, both in their fantasy worlds but also in ways we identify with their characters. This is displayed in tropes used such as the cliques within an American high school, as shown in ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘Pretty Little Liars’. These encasing the ‘popular’, ‘nerdy’ or ‘sporty’ types. In Pretty Little Liars, Aria in particular stood out for her quirky outfits and overlapping archetypes.

the use of fashion to create a character’s identity and feelings, but also their mental state

This starts from a young age, dressing up as our favourite Disney characters and heroes. Therefore, showing the importance of popular culture on our fashion choices and going much deeper than the characters they inhabit. They serve to both create and reinforce current fashion trends, inspire new looks and ways to express ourselves.

The Fashion of ‘Friends’: The Desire to Recreate
I know there’s definitely a few outfits I’d like to pinch from Friends. For many this has become an embodiment of 90s fashion and caused a resurgence of Y2K. With a grand white puffy wedding dress in its opening scene and airing over ten years, we see these characters grow and develop. We see them figure out life in their 20s; this maturation being reflected in their dress and the phases they go through. We also see the distinct fashion within each figure. And whilst Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, is often upheld as the fashion icon. All five display a unique style sometimes somewhat understated fashion identity. From Phoebe’s urban chic hippie style to Joey’s leather jackets. But of course, some equally dodgy, such as Chandler’s vest tops or Ross’ leather trousers. And we can see this revitalisation in our favourite shops- the baggy jeans, chunky platforms, leather jackets and denim skirts all nodding to these trends. This showcasing the cycles of not only fashion trends but also through generations, each one of us going through these wardrobe revisions.

The fashion in ‘Gossip Girl’: Snapshots of a Moment in Time
A series in the early 2000s, this too reflects an influence on the fashion industry. To producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, this show was meant to be a trendsetter, a ‘love song’ to the current trends, not just in fashion but music, people and places. And many see this show as the first coming of age and ‘teen’ drama that really dramatized its fashion side. It both reflected and hyperbolised the Upper East Side in New York. It encapsulated a world that was electrifying to the everyday audience, capturing their imagination in its scandal, luxury and expense. However, it also showed the frivolity and exuberance of this lifestyle in its high consumerism and superficiality. In nearly every episode, another million dollar dress needed for that day’s party or social event. One particular stand out moment being Blair’s ‘Oscar de La Renta’ red dress, running to meet Chuck at the train-station.

It also reflects the time as a developing media age, increasingly having unlimited access to trends and influences everywhere. Particularly an explosion in designer fashion as well as other styles like the preppy look within Blair’s character. And as within ‘Friends’, each character having their own signature look, from Blair’s headbands to Chuck’s neckerchiefs. Their opulence and richly textured lives offering a window into their social status, aspirations and a visual language which conveyed certain power dynamics and societal norms.

movie-stars have the ability to endorse certain looks as well as cast old ones aside

And indeed, this legacy continues in the wake of a Gossip Girl spin-off released in 2021. Many of its original members going on to become models like Leighton Meester. She especially spoke about the importance of the fashion of ‘Blair’ in getting into the mindset of her character and to transition into this fantasy world. This series too becoming an inspiration on the runway, Anna Sui released a ‘Gossip girl-inspired’ line with Target in 2009.

The fashion in ‘Euphoria’: The Meanings Behind Fashion
Most recently too, the series ‘Euphoria’ (2019) has caused fashion waves; searches on TikTok for its style reaching 28.3 million views. Particularly important here, was the use of fashion to create a character’s identity and feelings, but also their mental state. And behind-the-scenes insight has been provided in Heidi Bivens new book, ‘Euphoria Fashion’. As the shows designer, she speaks of the process of constructing these characters being much the same way we shop for our own wardrobes. Taking inspiration from the everyday. And like ‘Friends’, creating outfits which reflected the characters personality and their development over time.

This also seeing the resurrection of vintage fashion and silhouettes. And as another teen drama, the way in which we experiment and try out new versions of ourselves. But also, the self-consciousness and vulnerability of fashion, as we compare ourselves with others and discover new parts of ourselves through our sexuality and gender. Moreover, the ways in which particular items of clothing can be symbolic and used as props. For the protagonist Rue, her grandfather’s clothing was important, keeping and wearing his cardigan after his death. Thus, representing this cardigan as giving her a sense of security and link to her childhood. There’s also symbolism in the pieces created for the show. Some of the tops and dresses worn by Jules, such as her ‘Gogo Graham’ dress at the end of season two, being created by trans-gender designer Hunter Schafer.

Therefore, this shows the way in which fashion can be stitched with meanings. But also, the ways in which we as audiences resonate with these characters and seek to emulate their looks for ourselves. This in turn having the ability to build a cult-like status and shared associations of these particular looks, such as Rachel’s layered bob hairstyle from season one of ‘Friends’. And indeed, this has much longer historical precedent, over its 124 years Hollywood has inspired generations, with celebrities like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn. This showing the ways in which these movie-stars have the ability to endorse certain looks as well as cast old ones aside. The newest player in this being reality TV, shows like ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ or ‘Project Runway’ eliciting their own cultural responses within people’s fashion choices.

Ella Pilson

Featured image courtesy of Armen Aydinyan via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @friends via No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @gossipgirl via No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @euphoria via No changes were made to this image. 

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