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Costume Contest, Part 2: The Best and Worst Dressed Teen Dramas

"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?



The Vampire Diaries


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.)



Gossip Girl


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?


RELATED STORIES:
Costume Contest: The Best and Worst Dressed Fantasy Series

Comments (21)
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Erica Dasher of Jane By Design is just plain cute..clothes and all.
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I love Gossip Girl clothing although they are not really teen fashions!
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I seriously do as well, but I can remember back in 08 when they were THE look to have, and seemed to go directly from the small screen to the red carpet, and now I feel like they don't set the trends the same way they did back then. Agree or disagree?
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I agree....back then you can see rich kids looking good in couture dresses, but somewhat age-appropriate...now it seems to me they are dressing as 40-years old fashionistas..The rich people that attend universities dress a lot different (at least in Italy...)
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Costumes are a large part of any show or movie, they set the mood and can really make or break it.
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teens still wear studded leather jackets speaking as an actual high school kid, a large number of both boys and girls do, but i do agree that his style doesn't quite scream "trouble" the way that it should given the show's premise. Vampire diaries wins, despite the occasional horrendous formal dress, teens who dress nicely but realistically are the best. Jane by design's effortlessness ruins its credibility/emotional involvement the audience has with the characters.
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Skins is pretty great...I've always liked Gossip Girl's clothes although they are not very realistic.
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You really should have included Skins (UK). I really think their costumes are very true to teenage style, plus they inspire me (a 25 year old) as each character's look is very individual and true to the budget of a teenager. Franky's threads in season 6 are my favourite.
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I wanted to, I really did (I gave them a shout out) but as they're not currently on air I they were kind of DQ'd. Because once you open up the field to ANY teen drama, well, My So-Called Life would have won hands down.
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Actually, that is a really good point - there are too many well-dressed teens in that entire spectrum haha!
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I always liked the floaty skirts that Cassie seemed to wear when she was being extra mental.
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TVD! Stefan dresses exactly like my gay college roomie, Elena like every girl from my high school (especially with them Chucks), and also I recognize a lot of their clothes from actual stores? Now THAT'S realism!
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The Vampire Diaries. The clothing always seems right for the character, I never find myself watching it and saying "Why the hell are they wearing that?" I appreciate the level of detail they achieve for the flashbacks too.



On the other hand, if Pretty Little Liars had been included I would have voted for that. Lucy Hale always look incredible, but they maybe falls outside the pervue of this vote.
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I really love the clothes of Pretty Little Liars because each of the main characters have their own unique looks, each of them fitting their personalities but still fun and gorgeous at the same time. But if I have to choose one of the above VD for sure they have beautiful costumes, especially in the flashback episodes!
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You know, I wanted to put Pretty Little Liars in, but they have an army of costume designers and stylists, and i wanted to showcase costume "visionaries" - shows with one or two designers. But agreed, the Liars look amazing, consistently.
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TVD, definitely
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Degrassi and Vampire Diaries. They're the most realistically dressed. IDK about the ABC family thing, I could see a lot of people from back in hs dressing the same way as some of the characters.
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Vampire Diaries because its the most realistic outfits and they make them look so good and stylish. Degrassi I guess is realistic in a sense and teens could emulate the more creative wardrobe choices but it can also look tacky.
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i think degrassi is the best dressed, because while i love gossip girl, one thing about it is that they always seem WAY overdressed to be just be walkin down the street (like have serena or blair ever worn jeans? dont they make super expensive snobby fancy jeans?)

and youre right about jane by design, no one in high school today wears the fonz leather jackets, since her school is in the burbs you think you would see some hoodies.

but degrassi the next generation has been on so long that it's kind of like two different generations within the show, like the emma/manny/spinner generation, and the clare/alli/kc generation. and while the emma/manny group didnt have the uniforms, the clare/alli bunch still dress in clothes that teenagers are more likely to wear around than they do on gossip girl or 90210.
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also (and i dont know if this counts cause this is about the clothes) but degrassi wins points for realism because all the kids are generally the same age as the characters theyre playing
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Jane! The best!

All the others just coz the shows suck!
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