This week at Fashionista, we're celebrating all things at the intersection of fashion and pop culture — including the nostalgic sartorial moments that were formative to our style growth. In our series, Fashionista's Pop Culture Style Icons, we obsess over the characters who have influenced our wardrobes the most, even to this day.
When "Daria" premiered on MTV in 1997, I, like much of my generation, was immediately hooked. Sure, I was too young then to truly understand the title character's teenage angst — her unrequited crush on her artsy best friend Jane's brooding, guitar-playing older brother; her outsider status as "the brain" at Lawndale High; her experiences with racism and privilege among her classmates; her general ennui and disillusionment with the "Sick Sad World" around her — but there were plenty of themes that even pre-teen me could latch onto.
For instance, there is zero shame in being smart, because attractive cheerleaders and football players named Brittany and Kevin, respectively, might admire you or look to you for guidance. While you may not be the most popular person in school (or at work, or online), having one or two true friends who deeply understand you is all that matters. Your parents may get on your case about a lot of annoying shit, but they only want what's best for you — and for you to have a better life than they did. And, perhaps most importantly, that "dressing in black is a fashion statement. It's deep, it's meaningful, and it's slenderizing."
This gem of a lesson is straight from the mouth of Quinn Morgendorffer, Daria's perky, pretty and dimwitted younger sister, who represented everything the elder Morgendorffer loathed about high school. Quinn had a stable of adoring suitors (Joey, Jeffy, Jamie) and was the envy of Lawndale's female population. She rolled around with a squad of three pals named Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany, and together they made up The Fashion Club. When I was in middle school, I, too, had a group of three friends with whom I formed a Fashion Club. And because I was the most brunette, most interested in style and, apparently, the bossiest, I was chosen to be president — just like Sandi Griffin.
Fast forward 20 years and here I am, working as the editor-in-chief of Fashionista — something that's not too dissimilar to a real world Fashion Club. I take the minutes, help dictate the trends, spread words of sartorial wisdom inside the office and across the internet and generally really love clothes. Have we had an internal "are leggings pants?" debate here at Fashionista? Absolutely. Did Sandi once scold Stacy for wearing "stretch pants" in public? Of course she did. I like to think that I'm much deeper and less cruel than Sandi was to her "friends," especially her number-one competitor Quinn, on the series, but it truly tickles me that a bit character on my favorite show as a tween managed to guide me into the position I'm in today.
Style-wise, Sandi kept things relatively simple — as do I — with cropped baby tees (sometimes striped), low-slung pants in a super-'90s shade of eggplant, and either casual sneakers or lace-up boots. She took the occasional risk, like wearing all black and a berry lip during an ill-advised trip to the "Alternapalooza" music festival, or a turtleneck and beret combo when hoping to appear intellectual. But above all, fashion was her raison d'être, going so far as to order a fellow club member to "take a fashion sabbatical until [she got her] priorities straight" when she neglected her duties. This fashion-first philosophy extended to her philanthropy as well, refusing to donate cotton/poly blend items to the homeless because "they may be poor, but that doesn't mean they should be unfashionable."
Look, this is obviously all in fun, but in terms of the fictional character in pop culture that (surprisingly) managed to predict where I'd land in life, I have to give credit to Ms. Griffin. And as unapologetically dumb and shallow as she comes off, she would never throw a fellow fashion lover under the bus — except maybe for Quinn, but we're only human, and we all have a nemesis — and neither would I. As Sandi solemnly promised before a school paintball outing: "If I fire at a fellow Fashion Club member, may I wear brown pants with an elastic waist for a whole week." Now that's one hell of a style sacrifice.