"Costume Contest" is our spin on the Best and Worst Dressed Lists that are seemingly everywhere during this awards season; you can read Part 1 here.
No, it's not time for yearbook superlatives, it's time to round up some of our favorite high school drama series, put aside the stories, the casts, and the trendy music, and ask ourselves: "Does ANYONE dress like that? Would anyone WANT to dress like that? CAN I find those HOOPS at H&M;?"
Let's compare four teen dramas and you tell me: Who is looking fresh and who is trying to pass off their big sister's hand-me-downs?
Jane By Design
Jane is a talented-but-poor DIY fashionista who makes a lot of her own clothes. When she lands a very Devil Wears Prada job to help her brother pay the mortgage, she impresses the internationally renowned fashion label she works for with her original designs. Yikes! That means the show's costume designer, Olivia Miles (who previously dressed Entourage), not only has to come up with designs that are passably avant garde for the fashion house itself, but she has to top them with edgy creations that a teen could plausibly sew on her Singer.
The solution so far has been to throw realism out the window. Jane made that pink gown in about eight hours, and even before she got her first paycheck, she was strutting around in outfits that could have easily cost a mortgage payment. Also, why is Billy head-to-toe Hot Topic?
Do teens still wear studded leather jackets? All the kids from the high school next door who end up smoking behind my garage are just in hoodies and skinny jeans. Thus, Jane by Design loses some points for having NO realism, but I don't think realism is exactly its goal. So the real question is: Are Jane's designs good enough to justify the premise of the show?
This powerhouse teen drama actually gets high marks for wardrobe realism. Designer Leigh Leverett also costumed Dawson's Creek (AND Titanic, that's real cred!), and she must have learned that teens are best dressed as teens. When they're not going to fancy events, the humans of Mystic Falls sport looks you could find at a high end JCPenneys, and that fits with a typical teen's price point.
Along with having multiples of costumes because of all the fake blood stains, former costumer Jennifer Bryan also mentioned in an interview with EW last year that the T-shirt cut and material for the hunks is a big issue. "[The shirt] has to fit a certain way so if he’s pulling it off on-camera, it’s not awkward. It doesn’t look like a three-year-old trying to get out of a snowsuit. It’s done with a lot of grace."
While the realism isn't perfect (not nearly enough skinny jeans and hoodies, and a LOT of maroon on this show), ironically the vampire drama skews closest to how teens actually dress. But is that a value? Do teens want to see teens dressed the way THEY dress or dressed the way they WANT to dress?
Degrassi High: The Next Generation
Degrassi High is the longest running high school drama franchise (especially if you include Degrassi Junior High, which I do), and it has remained fearless about getting into the taboo teenage issues other shows mask with vampires or fashion or musical numbers.
But with that said, it's certainly gotten a lot glossier in terms of costume. Melanie Jennings, who put together the Avril Lavigne-ish looks of CCTV's brilliant Instant Star , has wrangled together some very ABC Family-quality ensembles for the successors of the original cast. Kind of miss the old fashion sense of the original Jr. High crew.
While the show's diversity of storylines and issues is to be commended, all the costumes seem to come out of the same closet. Should we nominate them for worst or just nominate their predecessor for best? (I am a big fan of muscle shirts paired with fedoras.)
When Gossip Girl first came on the scene—styled by Eric Daman, the legendary labels wizard behind Sex in the City—it was immediately hailed for its trendsetting powers among 13- to 34-year-old women. A recession later, Gossip Girl is still dressing its actors in threads that the very wealthiest of the wealthy would consider fashionable, no small feat. Is that a good thing?
Gossip Girl is a fever dream of outfits that real teens could wear nowhere... which has not stopped its sensibility for leaking into the window displays and collections of clothiers for men and women alike. Is that a good thing? Would silk rompers have happened to us in 2011 if Gossip Girl hadn't existed?
Does the show's past influence make it the best dressed list, or was it enough of a 2008 zeitgeist that it looks kind of fussy next to a more recent series like the departed Skins?
You have until the bell rings to fill out your votes and place them in the shoebox on Ms. Mortenson's desk. Which teen drama is the best dressed? Which is the worst? And why?
– Costume Contest: The Best and Worst Dressed Fantasy Series