Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have premiered 20 years ago today, but the show’s style remains just as powerful as Willow’s love for bucket hats. From Hot Topic re-creations of Willow’s painfully horrendous sweater collection (hipsters might call it kitsch now) to a Twitter account detailing every single bad outfit worn during the show’s seven seasons, Buffy fashion is eternal. Still, its enduring legacy doesn’t mean it has aged particularly well, quite like a vampire partying at The Bronze with teens. Each Buffy outfit has its place in television history, but they would look hopelessly out of place on a current CW show (except for The Vampire Diaries, where Nina Dobrev’s character still believe it’s acceptable to wear Abercrombie & Fitch inspired denim minis).
In the late ’90s, the Scooby Gang seemed impossibly cool, despite Willow Rosenberg’s penchant for bucket hats and Xander’s love of Hawaiian button downs, that really should only be worn by a dad at a Jimmy Buffett concert.
Whether you read the first iterations of TV style blogs, to find out where Buffy bought her colorful coats or who designed Willow’s mismatched animal prints, the show made all high school outsiders feel like they had their own personal style icon. Even Cordelia’s leopard mini skirts and PTA mom sweater sets were influential, spotted in plenty of suburban boutiques. Dressing like a Buffy character gave self-proclaimed misfits the chance to feel like they, too, were living on the Hellmouth, even if their high school classmates were hopelessly unaware of lurking dangers.
Outfits worn on The W.B. in the late ’90s ranged from Joey Potter’s golf sweaters on Dawson’s Creek to the 1998 equivalent of a basic on Felicity. Buffy was worth emulating because she didn’t dress like a typical high school student. After all, few California residents wore leather pants and dusters to match their hundred-year-old boyfriends. In fact, most teens didn’t wear leather pants at all—honestly, how did Joyce Summers afford them? Now, it’s far more likely she’d be wearing athleisure instead. Even jeans would be a better option for late night cemetery runs.
Buffy didn’t seem to care about how she dressed, despite caring deeply about everything else. Sure, she wanted to look her best for a first date at The Bronze, but she was more focused on making sure her date didn’t end up dead. Buffy was never shown shopping, unlike her movie counterpart, although she managed to wear a new outfit weekly.
Both Buffy and Faith’s penchant for chokers and leather jackets is the same ’90s style embraced by current cool teens, including Charli XCX (although she’s a fan of Charmed, a show that couldn’t exist without Buffy), the entirety of The Regrettes and your niece who had more followers than you on Instagram. Said teens, and their older fans, still want to channel their inner slayer. Hot Topic sells their own punk rock pleather version of Buffy’s maroon trench coat. Box Lunch offers “I slay” shirts tees alongside Sunnydale High Slayers Club 1999 v-necks. And of course, DIY options for Halloween costumes abound.
For a show that aired long before Instagram or Twitter existed, it has quite a strong social media presence, particularly when it comes to style. On Twitter, Rebecca Pahle runs “Bad Buffy Outfits,” where she poses the question “Is everyone here very stoned?” about life at Sunnydale High. Pahle points out that most television shows don’t have a villain who wears his T-shirt tucked into belted jeans (sorry, Spike). The Instagram account Buffy the Style Star is equally savage, calling out Buffy’s tiny bangs and Willow’s love of embroidery. Every Outfit Buffy Slayed documents the show’s embrace of distinctively ’90s trends, including bedazzled sunglasses and babydoll dresses.
To celebrate the 20 years since Buffy aired, put on your best choker, leather pants and slayer T-shirt. Just make sure to set aside the bucket hat. And don’t forget your claddagh ring.