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Our favourite cult TV to watch for style inspiration (and how to get the looks)

There’s no shortage of really addictive, brand new TV shows and boxsets to get stuck into right now – all you need is a Netflix account and a weekend to spare. But heads-up: we’ve found that for the best style inspiration, quirky storylines and instant cool factor, some of the cult hits from the past 20 years are really worth trying out first.

That’s right; just like vintage dresses and fancy cheese, we think TV can get better with age. And we’re not the only ones. This past month was the 20th anniversary of the first ever Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode – a TV show with a female lead quite literally kicking ass – and tributes to the show, to Buffy and to all the awesome things it did for women (and leather jackets) were rolling in left, right and centre.

Sure ‘cult’ TV isn’t always the most popular (although some of these shows really are and were) but it stands out from the crowd for those in need of fashion inspiration, with plenty of stylish vintage and bold new looks that extend way beyond your usual Instagram style icons. Try these on for size.

Twin Peaks

David Lynch’s cult early 90s crime drama revolves around the death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. Sure it sounds morbid – and at times it really is – but the story is a highly addictive mix of high school drama, soap opera-style plot lines and a bit of creepy horror thrown in for good measure.

Why should I be watching it?

Because we’re going to bet it’s really different to what you’re usually used to. And if you’re keen to get into film or media studies then you’re really doing yourself a favour by watching Twin Peaks now and getting to know director David Lynch’s quirky and distinctive style. Sure, he’s a little like Marmite in that way, but you’ll earn extra points if you already know about him before you begin finding more about the world of film and TV.

How is it style inspiration?

Twin Peaks is a funny one, because it was made in the early 90s but takes style inspiration from the 50s all the way up to the 80s. So if you like 80s prints and all-American fashion, it really is a treat for the eyes.

We particularly love the way the female cast pair oversized cardigans with pleated midi skirts – which are really big this season, FYI – or for a more formal look they tuck their cute, fitted sweaters into their skirts instead. One of the main characters, Donna Hayward, as well as the police station receptionist, Lucy Moran, wear some of the best, oversized jumpers and cardies we’ve ever seen. Just take a look.

Whereas the more polished-looking Audrey always teams her longer skirts up with fitted poloneck sweaters instead. Swit-swoo.

To get this look, choose a midi skirt that’s pleated and an oversized sweater or jumper in a different shade.

 

Pleated skirt, £17.49, H&M

Oh, and you get bonus points for short, curly hair. Might remind you of your Grandma, but Donna and Audrey wear it so well.

Stranger Things 

The newest on the list, within hours of arriving on Netflix last year Stranger Things had become a hit among all generations, partly because the story is so relatable. Well, in the sense that it’s about school-kids on adventures. Less so that it’s about sci-fi and, well, really strange things.

Why should I be watching it?

Because it does everything. It reminds you of being a kid and going on adventures. It’ll make your parents feel all nostalgic. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and the bits about teen romance and friendship will be super relatable. Oh and there’s supernatural stuff thrown in for good measure.

How is it style inspiration?

Well it’s set in the 80s, which means it’s bang on trend right now. You can pick up all kinds of lookalike pieces from high street favourites, like New Look and Urban Outfitters. Go with fancy blouses to channel Barb, or fitted, simple striped tops and shirts to get more of a Nancy look.

Or if you’re keen to look like Eleven instead – who has a very distinctive look – then you’ll need to hunt out some specific items. Like a pale pink dress with a collar and a simple navy bomber jacket.

Peter Pan Smock Dress, £24, ASOS

Bomber Jacket, £9.99, H&M

Buffy

It’s about Buffy. She’s a “slayer”, which means she’s kinda like the chosen one on the planet for killing vampires. Yes it sounds totally crazy, but amongst the demon ass-kicking, there’s a lot of drama, love stories and humour thrown in for good measure.

Why should I be watching it?

Where do we begin? It’s amazing for female role models. Buffy is strong, smart and also vulnerable. Her story is really touching, because she doesn’t choose to be the slayer, she just is one. It sounds great to have superhuman strength and spend your days beating the bad guys, but really it’s a sad and confusing journey she’s on a lot of the time. Add to that she’s trying to navigate high school, fall in love and all of the other icky stuff that can happen to you as a teen. Oh, and not only is it great for a strong female lead, but it’s one of the first TV shows we can think of that showed and celebrated a lesbian relationship evolve on screen.

How is it style inspiration?

A pure slice of the 90s, as Buffy progressed (there are 144 episodes for you to catch up on, eek) the fashion changed to reflect the times. But the clothes also changed to reflect the characters growing up, too. Buffy’s style became more sensible and relaxed, whereas Willow became more grown up and ditched her colourful, clashing ensembles (so bad at times there’s even a whole Twitter account dedicated to them – enjoy).

But the best thing about Buffy’s clothes? You can tell she’s always thinking about what will allow her to kick ass.

There’s so much to choose from when it comes to Buffy and style inspiration, but Buffy and Willow’s dungarees are some of our favourite picks.


Half the high street is selling dungarees at the moment, but add your own spin to the look with a bold colour (hey Willow) or cropped legs to keep you cooler as we move into summer. Breezy.

Dungarees, £21.99, ASOS

Or if dungas aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty of style inspo to glean from the Buffy and her crew. We particularly love the parade of leather jackets that feature on Buffy. And that’s because they’re rarely your run-of-the-mill biker-style but instead come in all shades and styles.

To get the look yourself, hunt out leather jackets that are a bit different, with unusual necklines or longer lengths instead.

Waterfall leather jacket, £34.99, New Look

Alice & You Floral Embroidered Faux Leather, £59.50, ASOS

The Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling’s TV alter ego is gynecologist Mindy Lahiri, who lives in New York and has all kinds of personal and professional stuff to contend with – from getting ahead in her job to navigating her love life.

Why should I be watching it?

Because it’s always great to watch great comedy written by a great woman. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Fiercely funny, The Mindy Project is often a much lighter watch than say Twin Peaks or Stranger Things (we like weird, creepy shows, but not after a long day, ok?).

How is it style inspiration?

A lot of the show is set at Mindy’s place of work – a hospital and doctor’s surgery. But that doesn’t stop some of the fashion being really eye-wateringly awesome. And the main reason? Mindy chooses – or should we say the costume designer chooses – bold patterns and colours that on paper you’d think would clash, but on the small screen just look bloody brilliant.

Mindy wears every colour in the paintbox, but we particularly love the way she rocks yellow better than we could ever have dreamed. You can wear yellow like Mindy by picking a really bright shade, putting it on with confidence and, most importantly, not being afraid to pair it with other bold shades and patterns. You’ve got to have guts to wear really bright shades, but the more you get used to it, the higher you’ll hold your head when you’re dressed up like a rainbow.

Yellow polka dot skirt, £35, New Look

Curve wrap dress, £28, ASOS

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Huge 20 years ago but still has a big following nowadays, you can always test a true 90s kid or superfan by whether they know all of the lyrics from the opening credits… “this is a story all about how…”. It stars Will Smith, who pretty much just plays himself, as a teenager who has to move in with his rich relatives in Bel-Air.

Why should I be watching it?

Because it’s funny. So funny. Plus big Will Smith fans will be happy to see where he started out – this is the role that made him such a favourite of the big and small screens.

How is it style inspiration?

The show kicks off in 1990, which was a great time for style. There are still lots of 80s-inspired clothes – the bolder the better – and it’s set in wealthy Bel-Air, Los Angeles, so we’ve got power suits, designer labels and lavish materials to boot.

To rock the Fresh Prince look, you need colours. And lots of them. Then mash them all together with bold prints, sports brands and a baseball cap for good measure, just like Will’s cousin Ashley does when she’s younger.

Nike Tee, £27, ASOS

Plain baseball cap, £8, ASOS

If the sporty look isn’t for you, then copy Will’s older cousin Hilary instead. She’s queen of the structured dresses, blazers and power padded shoulders. But if you want to bring the look bang up to date, pair a structured blazer with slouchy trousers or a swishy midi skirt. Fresh.

Longline Blazer, £28, Forever 21

Freaks and Geeks 

Lindsay – whose friends are the “freaks” – and her brother Sam, whose friends are the “geeks”… because hey, we all know your teenage years are aaall about cliques! Freaks and Geeks earned cult status by being cancelled after only 12 episodes. But don’t worry, fans didn’t like that and a campaign persuaded NBC to broadcast a few more episodes. Phew.

Why should I be watching it?

It’s funny. And even if you don’t have any experience in a US high school, it’ll ring some familiar bells. From being a misfit, to making friends with new groups and growing up with all the pressures from your family, friends and the world around you, the freak/geek feeling is pretty universal.

How is it style inspiration?

If you’re anything like us, you imagine high schools in America to be all pastel prints and little skirts, like Grease – but this is much more real, and much, much more 80s. And the good news is, it’s instantly achievable. It’s set in a regular ol’ high school, which means to get the Freaks and Geeks look, you just need baggy clothes in dark, grungy colours.

Layer stripy tees, preferably in a range of colours, underneath a dark green, over-sized parka or utility jacket. And there you have it. Cult cool = unlocked.

Utility jacket, £23, Forever 21

 

Striped turtleneck, £14.99, H&M

@BeccaCaddy

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