Whether it is the corsets in Bridgerton, Carrie Bradshaw’s Fendi baguette in And Just Like That, Elizabeth Debicki’s turn as Princess Diana in The Crown or the eccentric style of our favourite Euphoria stars, the influence of TV on our shopping habits seems to have hit fever pitch. While of course movies and TV have always had some sway in deciding what we wear, the last few years – which were dominated by lockdowns and saw most of us confined to our homes for months on end – has seen the small screen’s influence on style grow and grow.
Searches featuring the word ‘Euphoria’ on Depop increased by over 345 per cent month on month when season two was released in January, as shoppers rushed to emulate the on-screen style, while it was also up 275 per cent on Vestiaire Collective. Meanwhile, Emily in Paris caused a surge in searches for items such as ‘red berets’, while sales of secondhand Chanel pieces rose dramatically when the new season dropped on Netflix. Back in the early lockdown days, the silver chain worn by Normal People’s Connell Waldron went viral, influencing both men and women to adopt the jewellery item into their wardrobes. Similar stats could be pulled about And Just Like That, Bridgerton, the Friends revival, The White Lotus, The Crown, Pam & Tommy and Killing Eve.
“Ever since the pandemic started, there has been a growing interest in screen style,” explains Morgane Le Caer, the content lead at platform Lyst. “Shoppers have spent more time at home in their own company, so they inevitably turn to movies and TV shows as their fashion inspiration.”
We are often influenced by what surrounds us – and so it makes perfect sense that, as we were all spending more time in front of the TV and less time socialising with friends, we found ourselves being inspired by what we saw on screen. We also didn’t have the same degree of fashion inspiration on offer in terms of showbiz news or on social media, so our usual reference points for style did not exist to the same extent.
It was more than this though – we all wanted a distraction from what we were experiencing, and television offered an outlet. “Shows such as Emily in Paris or Bridgerton offer a form of escapism, which is reflected in and expressed through fashion,” explains Le Caer.
However, we have been out of strict lockdowns for well over a year now, and the trend doesn’t seem to be dying down. In fact, it seems to be gathering pace. Although we perhaps could use a distraction from the news cycle more than ever at the moment, the world is back on its feet in terms of fashion influence – catwalk shows, red-carpet glamour and street style looks are filling our Instagram feeds, but TV still seems to be leading the pack.
Someone who knows this better than anyone is Euphoria’s costume designer Heidi Bivens, who feels that the pandemic is not the reason behind this change of behaviour; instead, she believes it’s a result of how the television industry has changed and grown in recent years.
“I definitely think TV is more influential in terms of style than ever – but I think this is down to the TV boom, which started to happen before the pandemic. There is just so much more to watch on television – we are seeing so many more different types of stories told than we’ve ever seen before. We are moving beyond that generic look of TV, and I think this is resulting in costume designers taking a larger role in driving the trends.”
Having more diversity in terms of the stories told on screen of course opens us up to so many more characters, and we are much more likely to find someone we want to emulate. TV stories are also told over longer periods – in episodes and seasons – allowing us to explore and enjoy a character’s wardrobe over time. What television can also offer, that perhaps seeing a model on the catwalk cannot, is relatability, while the encouragement to buy something may also feel less forced or contrived when you subtly see it on screen, compared with when an influencer is directly trying to sell you something.
“Style on television can feel more relatable because we often feel that we know the characters on a personal level, which helps us to connect with their whole aesthetic,” explains Rachel Ingram, editor-in-chief at personal styling service Threads. “TV characters can become like friends or allies who we want to emulate.”
Ingram has seen clients embrace the wardrobes of those they’ve been watching on TV, for example, wanting to channel Lily Collins’ character’s positive energy by wearing the bright, bold colours she is known for on Emily in Paris, or perhaps wanting to inject some Regency glamour into their wardrobe because of their favourite character on Bridgerton. If you’re drawn to a character on one of these impactful shows, it’s no surprise that you’d head straight to Google to try and find out what they’re wearing.
But, perhaps even more significantly, television can also offer us a way of tapping into a particular moment – it helps us to feel part of something, which is powerful. “TV can become embedded in our collective consciousness, and can define a moment or period of time,” Ingram adds.
This can be particularly true when you consider different eras, and how TV shows, both new and old, continue to influence how we dress. It explains why so many shoppers still want to tap into Rachel’s Green’s Nineties’ wardrobe or why Pamela Anderson’s distinctive style has become such a point of reference – even getting its own nickname, ‘Pamcore’ – since Pam & Tommy hit our screens. The same can be said for the enduring appeal of Princess Diana’s wardrobe, which grew in popularity once again when season five of The Crown was released in November. According to Lyst’s round-up of 2022, Debicki in Diana’s “revenge dress” was the most influential on-screen style moment of the year. According to the shopping app, there were 101.7 million views on videos with the tag #revengedress on TikTok, and searches for ‘black off-the-shoulder dresses’ and ‘sweetheart necklines’ skyrocketed.
Television offers us an opportunity to step into another world and, when this is done well, we relate to these characters and want to be or to own a part of it – and fashion is an excellent way to do this. Although we might now be – hopefully – moving further and further away from lockdown life, and therefore spending less time in our homes watching TV, it feels as if the power of fashion on the small screen is here to stay.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK