Welcome to Pop Culture Week! While you can always find us waxing poetic about the hefty overlap between fashion and pop culture, we’re dedicating the next five days to the subject of our favorite music, movies, TV, celebrities, books and theater, and how that all intersects with the fashion industry.
If you asked me to define my personal style, I’d probably stammer on about how I usually wear black skinny jeans and a white T-shirt, but sometimes like to change it up with a bright color accent, a comfy sweater, a blouse or a skirt. But there’s not really a cohesive way to describe the way I dress, because I tend to dip a toe into a lot of different fashion camps: preppy, grungy, hipster-esque, or what have you.
At least, that’s what I thought, until I started noticing that there is a thread that ties many of my “looks” together: they’re influenced by some of my favorite television characters.
Yes, it’s true, the television I watch is not-so-secretly seeping its way into my aesthetic. Some mornings I’ll be getting ready for work, take a look in the mirror and think, “Huh, that’s so Aria,” or “Mindy would be proud.” I rarely look to fashion magazines or Instagram influencers for style inspiration, but apparently, if I watch enough “Scandal,” I’m ready to go out and buy as many structured winter coats as I can afford.
Sometimes it’s purposeful, sometimes it’s the work of my subconscious, sometimes it’s a direct outfit copy, and sometimes it’s more “inspired by” or “this outfit reminds me of so-and-so.” But any way you look at it, pop culture is clearly a powerful factor when it comes to deciding what we like to wear. Here’s a peek inside my closet — and my head — at eight of my favorite go-to ensembles that just so happen to leave me feeling like I’m ready for my Must-See-TV debut.
I binge-watched Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” soon after it came out, and in possibly the most overt outfit copy on this list, I adopted her “uniform” quickly and still channel her during the chillier months. Whenever I find myself in jeans, a T-shirt, my beat-up faux leather jacket with a zip-up hoodie underneath (a layer I try to stretch as far as I can into winter), and my black leather Redwing boots — which is often — I know I have to top it all off with my worn fingerless knit gloves to complete the look. Hey, our names are even the same, so I’m basically a superhero — or at least, I feel like I can take on the world when I’m clad in the signature Jessica Jones look.
Who better to emulate when it comes to outerwear than the stylish fixer we all know and love? Obviously, the most important piece of a “Scandal”-worthy outfit is a bold winter coat, and I have one that fits the bill. It’s a little brighter than Olivia would normally wear; mine’s gray and pale blue with splashes of neon yellow, while Olivia’s iconic coats tend to be white (I’m too afraid a white coat will get super-dirty in New York City). But the silhouette is classic and clean, and I always feel like Olivia Pope would be proud if she saw me wearing it. At least that’s what I tell myself when I put it on and immediately feel a) classy; b) fancy; and c) like I can handle whatever comes at me.
Occasionally I’ll look in the mirror and realize I’m dressed like Aria Montgomery, and when that happens, I simultaneously roll my eyes at myself and accept it as my fitting sartorial fate. In early seasons of “Pretty Little Liars,” Aria wore a lot of black-and-white stripes, dark-but-warm colors, mismatched and/or layered jewelry, wild patterns and prints, lace, and pop-punk touches (i.e. pink-streaked hair). I, too, am drawn to many of these elements and have been known to punkify myself every now and then. One particular outfit that screams “Aria!” at me whenever I put it on? A pair of maroon skinny pants, a black-and-white striped blouse with a black short-sleeved sweater over it, black leather over-the-knee boots and mismatched Betsey Johnson earrings — the latter I am willing to admit I purchased after seeing them on Aria in a PLL episode. Did I just admit that I’m an Aria cosplayer IRL? Maybe.
Pivoting completely from the Queen of the Underworld Aria, the next most-influential little liar in my wardrobe is Spencer Hastings. One of my fall outfit staples is an oversize charcoal gray blazer and black leather riding boots worn over black pants and a white top, and it feels ripped right from the Spencer Hastings closet. (For the record, I also feel Spencer-y when I wear a form-fitting sweater over a collared blouse.) I went horseback riding once and will never do it again, but when I sartorially channel Spencer, it’s almost like I could conquer the hobby if I wanted to do so. Not only because a Spencer outfit could double as a horseback riding outfit, but also because dressing like Spencer gives me the confidence of a gal who can get a perfect SAT score while fighting off an Adderall addiction and being cyber-stalked by a mysterious frenemy called “A.”
Between “Glee” lead Rachel Berry and Spencer Hastings, I think my subconscious is trying to tell me that I relate on a personal level to some seriously Type-A television characters. I have a leotard dress with a scoop back that I’ll pair with a skirt for work, and when I do, I’ll inevitably catch a glimpse of myself at some point during the day and think of her. (I doubt others would make the connection, especially since I’m typically not wearing knee-high socks with loafers, a Berry classic. This is one of my subtler TV-influenced outfits that may read only to me, myself, and I.) Now, if only I could sing like her…
My summer wardrobe is much more varied and bright than my winter one, and I have one specific outfit that seems beamed right from Mindy Lahiri’s closet on “The Mindy Project.” (Salvador Perez, please dress me!) Hot pink linen/cotton cropped pants? Check. White top? Check. Bold pink gem statement necklace? Check. I haven’t quite mastered the pairing of multiple bright colors the way Mindy has, but: baby steps. This outfit is my first step toward becoming a successful, hilarious, opinionated, and strong doctor — or at least, you know, feeling as cool and funny as Dr. Mindy.
When I think of ’90s fashion (which, in case you haven’t heard, is having a nostalgia-influenced resurgence), Ashley Banks of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” immediately comes to mind as one of the best representatives of the era’s trends. Babydoll dresses and knee-highs, crop tops, denim vests, flannels, overalls and suspenders — Ashley wore it all and wore it well. Plus, the show was as its peak around the time I was becoming aware of fashion and trying to figure out what I liked when it came to clothes. For those reasons, she’s the one I think of whenever I wear one of my go-to summer outfits: a pair of white short overalls over a cropped black T-shirt. Wearing overalls — like I did in middle school — could make me feel childish, but because the outfit brings Ashley Banks to mind, I feel pretty cool instead.
I wore black jeans, a white T-shirt, my black leather jacket and a pair of white heeled Chelsea boots to work one day, and one of my co-workers told me I looked exactly like Sid from “Hey Arnold” — and she wasn’t wrong. This is a look that clearly hung around in my subconscious for 20 years, just waiting for the day I’d buy some white boots to complete it. Go figure, but hey (Arnold), I’ll take it.
So, maybe my wardrobe doesn’t fit neatly into one of the already-established style descriptors, but aside from the Sid incident — which was some kind of weird fluke, I think — it seems I do have a defined personal look. It’s called “Channeling Cool Ladies from Television.”
Does the fact that some of my favorite outfits either immediately remind me of a television character or are directly and purposefully inspired by a television character mean that I watch too much TV? Does it mean that television costume designers are doing their job really, really well? Does it mean that I visit the website Worn on TV way too often? The answer to all of the above is most likely “yes,” but hey — at least I’ve finally figured out how to describe my look, disparate as it may be.
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