Some TV series represent a whole generation because of their popularity and also because of their style. Here are some television characters that have created trends and influenced the way we dress.
Once upon a time, people from all over the world would sit in front of the television at 8 o’clock and enjoy a new episode of their favorite TV series. These TV shows became talking points over dinner with friends–people had their favorite characters, the series’ romances caused a huge stir, and everyone looked forward to wrap-up of each narrative.
Shows like Game of Thrones (2011) or Lost (2004) held a captive audience every season. But everything changed with the arrival of streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Now, people don’t have to wait a week to watch episodes of their favorite TV series. We’ve lost that feeling of everyone watching the same thing at once.
In addition to defining a generation with their content, there were many TV series whose influence went beyond the small screen. The 90s saw many television characters become style icons–women wondered if they were a Carrie or a Samantha, for example, and at the beginning of the millennium, men adopted the classic Don Draper style while young women crowned themselves with headbands in imitation of Blair Waldorf.
In these TV series, the costumes were not just an extension of the characters; they were characters in their own right. People talked about the styles of their favorite actors and the clothes they wore on the show. Fans were looking for ways to recreate the outfits, and anything one of these characters wore became a best seller for brands.
The Nanny (1993 – 1999)
For six years we laughed, cried, and got emotional with babysitter Fran Fine. This was a simply spectacular romantic comedy, and each episode was a breath of fresh air. We watched the romance between Fran and Mr. Sheffield blossom, the constant sarcastic fights between Niles and CeCe, and how Max’s children grew from boys to teenagers. It’s one of the most beloved TV series of the time and now has a cult following.
In addition to the stellar performances, something else we should celebrate about this sitcom is the clothing. Fran Fine was a character that many women could identify with; she loved fashion. Today, many of the looks that made up The Nanny’s wardrobe continue to be on trend. Courrèges, Moschino, Calvin Klein, Gaultier, and Alaïa are some of the designers we saw in Miss Fine’s wardrobe. Her irreverent, sexy style was a reflection of the fashion of the nineties, but it was adapted in such a way that any outfit from the series looks just as current now as when it first came out. Whether animal print, vinyl, miniskirts, and even sequins, we continue to see Fran Fine’s looks on the runway.
Sex and The City (1998 – 2004)
No other show has influenced the fashion industry quite as much as Sex and The City. The four leads kept viewers on the edge of their seats as they experienced love affairs, work problems, and fashion. This series is the reason why so many young people have moved to the New York City to date. This television show placed brands such as Manolo Blahnik or Fendi on a pedestal, making them synonymous not only with luxury and exclusivity, but also turning their shoes and bags, respectively, into objects of desire for women.
Patricia Field’s styling of the series has managed to survive the test of time. Some of her looks for Carrie continue to inspire thousands of people. How could we ever forget the tutu from the opening scene or Dior’s famous newspaper print dress? This series introduced its fans to the world of fashion and opened the doors to a universe that we‘d previously only seen in magazines. This was a moment that definitely changed the industry; it taught us the power and influence that a television series could have on the way people dress. And we learned that sometimes a look that flashes on the screen of people’s favorite series for just a few seconds can have more impact for brands than a magazine ad.
Mad Men (2007 – 2015)
This series introduced us to the multifaceted, busy, and fun world of advertising. Mad Men portrayed the evolution of society in the sixties and how the roles of men and women were changing. But in addition to the nostalgia of the series’ advertisements, one of the elements that attracted the most attention from viewers was the clothing. As the plot progressed across episodes, we saw the characters’ clothing change. Super ladylike A-line dresses with floral prints gave way to freer silhouettes like trapeze. The men in the show started to incorporate sportswear into their work wardrobes; the main characters always dressed in classic tuxedos and tailored suits, and young people mixed casual pieces such as knit sweaters or turtlenecks into their day-to-day looks.
Stylist Janie Bryant, who was in charge of the show’s wardrobe, helped tell each character’s story through clothing over 92 episodes. She did an exceptional job because despite the evolution of fashion, each character preserved their essence and personality in their looks. Beyond reflecting a significant moment in human history, this show generated a fascination with retro fashion. Whether with the work of designers like Miuccia Prada or Marc Jacobs or brands like Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers, people became fascinated by the silhouettes and trends of the seventies that were adapted to work in the show.
Gossip Girl (2007 – 2012)
A hit with younger generations, this series’ stories were full of scandal, melodrama, and secrets. Over 6 seasons, viewers were captivated by the lives of the Manhattan elite cap. One of the show’s greatest accomplishments was the impact it had on the way people dress. Menswear was revolutionized by Chuck Bass’ dandy style, such as his successful use of color in shoes, ties, and shirts. But one of the biggest achievements of this series was reviving headbands as a symbol of style and bringing tights back into the women’s wardrobe.
Eric Daman, the stylist in charge of creating each outfit on the show, turned Blair (Leighton Meester) and Serena (Blake Lively) into trendsetters on and off screen. For brands, being on the show became one of the best ways of advertising and marketing; the bags carried by the main characters quickly became “it” items. Brands like Anna Sui and Jennifer Behr saw their sales grow exponentially after the main characters wore their designs on the show. A whole generation learned to dress thanks to this series.
The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
Nowadays, it is very difficult for a series to inspire or affect the way all people dress. Trends are so varied and everyone has their own way of wearing them. But last year Netflix launched a series that caused a stir. Costume designer Gabriele Binder showed us how clothing can be more than just a garment; it can communicate and reflect the personality of the person who wears it. Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, captivated the world with every look that she wore in the episodes of the series.
It was a psychedelic print fantasy that clearly referenced the legendary Edie Sedgwick. The style of the series progressed and matured as we watched the main character evolve as a woman. In each of the outfits we saw a subtle reference to the game of chess, the board coming to life in the plaid pattern of her dresses or the combination of black and white of certain outfits. Despite being a series set in the sixties, the clothing didn’t fall into the cliché; the skirts, blouses and dresses seemed to come straight off the current catwalks of brands like Prada and Valentino. This series showed us that fashion is cyclical and that trends can be renewed.
Each of these TV series has earned a place in the history of television but also of fashion. Even now, their trends continue to be a reference for fashionistas. These show’s wardrobes have managed to change and influence the trends of the catwalks and the way people dress.