Every week, fashionistas all over the country tune into their TV not just for the drama and entertainment, but to see what their favorite characters are wearing. What started with “Sex and the City” and a shoe-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw developed into a stream of TV shows trying to make their mark on the fashion world.
Today, thousands of eager men and women vie for jobs at top fashion magazines. Elle magazine is one such publication showcasing 11 interns competing for one spot on a reality TV show on the CW network. “Stylista” is the newest of the more than 10 fashion-related shows on basic cable this year. The CW also features shows like “Gossip Girl,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “90210” and “Privileged,” while cable network Bravo produces hit shows like “Project Runway,” “The Rachel Zoe Project” and “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.”
Certainly “Sex and the City” is the most well-known and beloved fashion-related TV show. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte have made designers like Manolo Blahnik and Patricia Field, the show’s costume designer, into household names, while influencing magazine editorials, store windows and fashion trends. Sarah Jessica Parker is counted among the top celebrity trendsetters, and the movie version of the show was so popular, actress Kim Cattrall recently confirmed the possibility of a sequel.
“The clothes are like another character in the show. They help make it real,” actress Cynthia Nixon said in an interview with People magazine. However, the fashion-forward foursome of “Sex and the City” had a budget that allowed them to have a label-filled closet that most people cannot afford. To combat this, many Web sites began showing low-budget fashion enthusiasts how to “get the look for less.”
A similar phenomenon has occured with “Gossip Girl,” a show that some have declared fills the void left by “Sex and the City.” The teen drama, based on a popular book series, showcases “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite.” Like the women of “Sex and the City” girls, the characters on “Gossip Girl” have money and designer duds at their disposal. However, the show’s increasing popularity has forced the fashion world to make the looks shown on “Gossip Girl” accessible to those with lower budgets.
Blair Waldorf, one of the main characters on the show, single-handedly brought about the trend of chic headbands and multi-colored tights. Those looking to copy Blair’s look need not look further than Forever 21, whose fall/winter line includes more than 20 types of tights and leggings, and numerous styles of headbands.
The CW’s morning news now includes a segment showing viewers how to get Blair’s look for less, and features characters on other fashion-centric CW shows. Web sites like gossipgirlinsider.com and gossipgirlfashion.com also show how to achieve the character’s style on a limited budget.
Reality shows have also made their mark on the world of fashion by showcasing the “behind the scenes” moments of the fashion industry. The wildly popular “Project Runway” has become the springboard for new up-and-coming fashion designers, including season one winner Jay McCarroll, season three winner Jeffrey Sebelia and the “ferosha coutura” winner of season four, Christian Siriano, all of whom have showcased at New York or Los Angeles’ Fashion Week.
Siriano also designed gowns for the models at the Emmy Awards and appeared on ABC’s fashion-centric “Ugly Betty.” “Project Runway’s” host, model Heidi Klum, even wore one of Siriano’s designs to the Emmy Awards. The fashion elite have taken notice with guest appearances by Parker, Diane von Furstenburg, Victoria Beckham, Brooke Shields, Nicky Hilton and Catherine Malandrino.
The show even produced two spin-off series, “Project Jay,” following the struggles of McCaroll, and “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style,” a fashion makeover show.
Bravo’s “The Rachel Zoe Project” follows celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe as she works with designers and boutiques to style celebrities such as Debra Messing and Jennifer Garner. Having already established a successful career, Zoe is able to show viewers the glamorous but stressful life of a stylist as she attends fashion shows, meets with designers such as Erin Featherston, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, and spends thousands of dollars on designer and vintage clothes.
The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” and Bravo’s “Make Me a Supermodel” show wannabe models working the runways, doing photo shoots, commercials and going on go-sees with designers. Shows like these give aspiring models the chance to show the industry their talents. Winners from both shows have signed with agencies and walked the runways in major fashion shows.
Fashion-based television shows have created a marriage between the high fashion world and everyday people. By giving viewers access to high fashion designers and name brands, those watching at home have become more aware of the fashion world and what it really takes to be a part of it, as well as making viewers more conscious of their own personal style.