Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered in 1997, which means we are all a kabillion years old, and also that the show was far ahead of its time in terms of fashion. I don’t know anybody in the 90s who did not want to dress like someone on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think even my mother wanted Buffy’s clothes, and my little sister loved Sarah Michelle Gellar so much that she went through a years-long phase when she insisted that her middle name was Michelle and used all three names at all times. (My sister’s middle name is not Michelle.)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an important show for many reasons, not least of which was its fashion legacy. Here are just six things Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me about fashion.
1. Don’t underestimate people because of how they look
A person’s look says a lot about who they are, but that is never the whole story. Buffy is trendy and blonde and looks like a stereotypical popular mean girl cheerleader, but really she’s a vampire-slaying powerhouse. A person who looks like a stereotypical sorority girl might have a complicated extracurricular life that involves physical combat and a lot of broken nails. In fact, most people have very complicated personal lives. Never dismiss someone because you don’t like the way they dress; everyone has something worthwhile going on in their lives.
2. It’s OK to change your personal style whenever you want
Your personal style tells the world who you are, or who you want to be, but there’s no reason that has to be the same person from eighth grade to 80. If you start out wanting to wear kicky skirts and big hair, and then Faith shows up and you think, “Ooh! Maybe I want to wear leather now,” that is fabulous. Leather you and pleated skirt you are both you, they’re just different yous for different times. When you are older, maybe you’ll find a more permanent version of your ideal self. When you’re young, it’s good to experiment as much as possible. Not everything will fit, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
3. High school kids on TV are not real high school kids
I was never sure why my friends and I never looked quite like the high school kids on movies and in TV shows. We certainly tried hard enough, but we all lacked the slick polish of our on-screen counterparts. Then one day my mother walked through while I was watching Buffy command a scene about being underdogs while wearing a shiny patent leather trench coat, and I heard her snort and say, “Says the teenager in the Diane Von Furstenberg trench coat!”
That’s when I realized that no matter how much Seventeen or Sassy I read, or how many DIY manicures I gave myself, I was never going to actually look like Buffy Summers, because Buffy Summers was a 24-year-old in expensive designer clothes, not a gawky teenager who spent way too much time thinking about vampires.
4. Nerds are where it is at
Buffy Summers occupied a glossy, exalted, high-fashion oeuvre that seemed inaccessible to me, or at least inaccessible to me if I were not willing to wake up a little earlier in the morning, but her friends did not necessarily shop at the same stores. One day I was watching Buffy, and I realized that Willow and I were wearing the same exact shirt. At first I thought it was funny, but it happened several times after that. Willow and I both had a thing for late-90s bell-sleeved T-shirts by Custo Barcelona–like the one she is wearing in this GIF, which I also owned. At a certain point, I realized that the reason the Buffy look was so hard and unnatural for me was that I was not the Buffy, I was the bookish, red-haired nerd in the weird shirts.
I thought about changing and trying to be more of a Buffy type, but it just seemed like too much effort. I can’t run a mile. I cry when I stub my toe. But I can find a book in a library without having to consult the card catalog. (Though I do know how to use a card catalog, obviously.) Besides, I really liked those shirts! I liked being the Willow, so it made sense that I liked dressing like her. In fact, I had a good couple shopping years in which I would ask myself, “What would Willow wear?” and always look adorable.
5. Fan gear is like a flag to signal other people who are into your same stuff
If you ever move to a new place, or a new school, and you are feeling a little anxious about meeting people, all you need is a T-shirt from your favorite book, show, band, or whatever. I was feeling very lonely in my first couple weeks of college, and so bummed out that one day I decided I gave no fucks and I actually went to the dining hall in my pajamas. Luckily for me, those happened to be Buffy’s famous “Yummy Sushi Pajams” by The Cat’s PJs. I was just sitting by myself, mournfully eating a corn muffin in my pajamas, when another freshman ran over in an absolute panic crying, “Yummy sushi pajamas! … um, I mean … do you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”
“I do! I do!” I said. Then we became frat siblings (co-ed fraternity), I found my tribe, and I don’t think I had to go to the dining hall by myself for the next four years.
6. I have a thing for tweedy guys