Fashionistas to the front, please.
Skipping through the streets of the Upper East Side in Manolo Blahniks. Catering to children in checkered mini-skirts and fire engine red turtle necks. Charming men in form-fitting silhouettes with exaggerated shoulder pads. Demanding the respect you deserve in cheetah print and five-inch stilettos. Do you know all the best fashion icons of TV — past and present?
From Carrie Bradshaw to Cookie Lyon, we’re breaking down the most stylish TV characters of all time. The ones who boasted haircuts so impactful they popped up on the streets of Connecticut suburbia. The ones who managed to breed life into brands that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks. The ones who showed fans that bold is not bad; it’s glamorous. Mis-matched patterns are not a faux pas, but a blow to uptight formality.
Blanche Devereaux | ‘The Golden Girls’
Florals, animal prints, sequins, and glitter. Blanche Devereaux was the epitome of 1980s fashion. Bold and colorful. From hot pink to electric blue, she was undaunted when it came to throwing on a sparkly dress that hugged her hips just so — that spotlighted her “perky bosoms” (as she would say) to draw the attention of some refined upper-crust man. And, of course, she sported that short yet voluminous bouffant to add a degree of trendy sophistication. With statement jewelry — earrings that dangled to the collar bone and chunky necklaces — as well as exaggerated shoulder pads, she oozed confidence. The pads and eye-catching jewels only added to her empowered and intrepid disposition.
Denise Huxtable | ‘The Cosby Show’
Denise’s style in The Cosby Show is best characterized as Bohemian Chic — reflecting the counter-culture influences of the era. She often sported loose-fitting clothing: oversized sweaters, flowy skirts, vests, and an occasional splash of well-paired layers.
She also combined elements of ‘60s and ‘70s fashion — bell bottom pants, vintage prints and patterns, hippie/flower-child dresses — but added a contemporary ‘80s flair by combining multiple textures and accessorizing with ‘80s belts, jewelry, and footwear. Denise’s eclectic style perfectly complemented her free-spirited and creative nature. Just like she did, her style embraced non-conformity.
Hilary Banks | ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
Nothing but high-end designer fashion for Hilary. Her chic, tailored business suits were characteristic of the ‘90s professional woman. Yet, her outfits were colorful and bold, and always sported statement jewelry. Even in professional attire, she had to stand out in the crowd. Boring black from head-to-toe…over her Chanel-clad dead body. Try hot pink. Mustard yellow. Plaid. And the hats. The glorious hats.
Her ensembles were always perfectly coordinated — spotlighting her fierce attention to detail concerning fashion. In geometric patterns, crop tops, and high-waisted bottoms, she captured the ‘90s with exhaustive precision, complementing her on-trend and confident persona.
Fran Fine | ‘The Nanny’
Fran Fine’s wardrobe famously blended street style with high fashion. She would wear a form-fitting mini-skirt but pair it with a shoulder-padded, oversized blazer to create a look that was at once edgy and sophisticated. Provocative yet polished.
Customary of the ‘90s, she also wore many a crop top and wasn’t afraid to expose her mid-drift while sporting form-fitting, wacky-patterned trousers or skirts — from piano keys and clouds in the sky to, of course, her signature leopard print. She always had a hint of leopard somewhere — from shoes to jackets, it became a characteristic part of her aesthetic. Fran’s offbeat and whimsical personality came through in her wardrobe because she would pair a designer label with quirky sunglasses or funky earrings. The unconventional combos made her a style icon who was unabashed concerning the dos and don’ts of style, and simply adhered to “works” and “doesn’t work.”
Carrie Bradshaw | ‘Sex and the City’
What sort of style list would this be without mentioning the one and only Carrie Bradshaw? With the most unpredictable wardrobe — ranging from elegant and trendy to avante-garde and daring — Carrie’s closet in Sex and the City was a character unto itself. In each episode, viewers tuned in to see what would happen with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda…and what Carrie would be wearing (alongside her classic Manolo Blahniks) as she narrated their shenanigans. One week it was a boho dress and button-up, the next it was a retro bikini top and surfer shorts. And then there were those groundbreaking l0oks — the earth-shattering get-ups like the iconic newsprint dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior or the flowy white tutu and tight pink tank top.
Carrie also combined high-end designer fashion with vintage thrift store finds, showcasing her unique fashion sensibilities and style fearlessness. She didn’t buy the item and imitate the catalog; she bought the item and did exactly the opposite of what the marketing team behind it would have advocated. Carrie’s fashion journey — changing across time — was also a road to self-discovery, empowerment, and expression.
Rachel Green | ‘Friends’
In slip dresses, plaid skirts, and crop tops, Rachel Green was yet another emblem of ‘90s fashion. Yet, more than her clothing choices, her haircut defined a generation. Now affectionately called “The Rachel,” it featured face-framing layers and feathered bangs with soft highlights and clean, blunt ends. If you weren’t rocking this haircut at the time, you were so irredeemably out of the loop.
Rachel’s style also memorably evolved throughout the show, as she became more financially independent and self-assured. From the waitress look to the transition to corporate to the little black dress and, ultimately, more trend-setting looks (as she climbed the ladder at Ralph Lauren), Rachel’s style perfectly relayed her character’s development.
Cookie Lyon | ‘Empire’
Cookie Lyon’s style sense in Empire relayed contemporary fashion while highlighting Cookie’s strong and dynamic personality. Cookie’s wardrobe was edgy, as she often sported bold and elaborate colors and textures. From leopard and cheetah prints to sequins and feather boas, her looks were attention-grabbing. She strutted her way down the hall, knowing everyone along her path was staring right at her. She rocked the flashy and extravagant side of 2010’s fashion.
She knew how to carry streetwear but she also had elegant evening gowns and power suits hanging up in her divine closet. The versatility and diversity in her wardrobe perfectly captured her own multifaceted personality — wise, but at times reckless and daring. And who could forget all those bright lipstick shades, smokey eye makeup, and perfectly sculpted brows? From the fit to the face and the hair, she was always on point.
- Serena van der Woodsen | Gossip Girl: Set trends with a mix of boho-chic, glamour, and elegance
- Olivia Pope | Scandal: Sophisticated power suits with bold statement jewelry created the perfect mix of badassery and refinement.
- Betty Draper | Mad Men: Classic 1960s style characterized by elegant A-line dresses and tailored suits.
- Alexis Colby | Dynasty: Fur ensembles, shoulder-padded power suits, and eye-catching evening gowns made Alexis quite the queen of flair — which perfectly complemented her dramatic persona.
- Kelly Kapowski | Saved By the Bell: Vibrant prints, scrunchy socks, high-waisted jeans, and fanny packs made Kelly a memorable figure when it came to teenage-aimed ‘90s looks.
- Diane Lockhart | The Good Wife: With elegant blouses and modernized tailored suits featuring intricate floral blazers, Lockhart brought a whole new meaning to workplace attire. Professional meets pizazz.