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Let’s be real: Television and movies don’t reflect real life. While on-screen teenagers such as Aria Montgomery (Pretty Little Liars), Cher Horowitz (Clueless), and Serena van der Woodsen (Gossip Girl) are out here dressing to the nines in high heels, designer skirts, and a smattering of accessories, we attended first period in high school in wrinkled clothes and barely brushed hair.
And though what we see on-screen isn’t an accurate representation of reality (let’s be honest, who has the time to hunt down a cyberstalker in between classes?), we can definitely look at these characters for fashion inspo. To give you nostalgia and inspire your back-to-school wardrobe, we’ve rounded up 13 stylish high school characters sure to be voted best dresses.
Riverdale‘s Veronica Lodge & Cheryl Blossom
Let’s be real, every character on Riverdale deserves a place on a best-dressed list. The noir setting of Riverdale High is a breeding ground for moody, dark outfits. And though we like everyone’s style (even Jughead’s signature beanie), it’s queen bees, Veronica Lodge and Cheryl Blossom, who have our attention. From peter-pan collars to lace sleeves, Veronica’s all-black style, with a hint of material-girl chic, is always interesting. Compared to Veronica’s all-black wardrobe, Cheryl plays with color—well, one color in particular, red, which compliments her crimson lips and actress Madelaine Petsch’s natural ginger hair. Check out her knee-high boots and pleated skirts, which make sure the audience knows that she means business.
The Carrie Diaries‘ Carrie Bradshaw
As the younger version of Sex and the City’s Manolo Blahnik-wearing heroine, AnnaSophia Robb’s teenage Carrie Bradshaw is never short on fabulous clothes. The short-lived series follows Carrie as she small-town life behind for a fashion internship in New York City. From full, colorful skirts to ’80s-era denim jackets, Carrie’s wardrobe is a love letter to Sex and the City fans who learn that, no matter where she lived or how old she was, fashion ran in Carrie’s blood.
Pretty Little Liars‘ Aria Montgomery
Each of the Pretty Little Liars has a style of her own: Emily was sporty. Hanna was glam. Spencer was nerdy. And Aria was eclectic. Though we would be happy with each of the liars’ wardrobes (we might pass on Emily’s swim cap collection), Aria was the clear frontrunner in terms of style. From the first episode, viewers fell in love with the teenager’s slightly punk, totally rebellious style. Sure, she might’ve worn too many accessories or layered to the point of no return, but it somehow always worked. She might not have busted A, but she knew how to slay in leather boots.
Glee‘s Rachel Berry
Rachel Berry might not be the first person you think of when you hear fashion icon, but hear us out. In the show’s six seasons, Rachel undeniably carved out a style of her own. From her affinity for argyle to her love of sweater vests and grandma-like cardigans, Rachel looked adorable as she belted the ’00s most popular hits. A bow in the middle of your crotch might not be for everyone, but we can’t imagine Rachel without it.
Clueless‘s Cher Horowitz
If you didn’t want Cher Horowitz, yellow plaid skirt suit, you’re lying. No high school movie fashion roundup would be complete without Beverly Hills’s blonde fashion-forward teen. (Hello! She has a computer that picks out her outfits.) Whether she’s in knee-high socks or cute berets, Cher turns heads in her high school’s halls. Plus, with a friend like Dionne, the two make one powerhouse fashion duo. As if you would catch Cher in anything less than chic.
Gilmore Girls‘ Rory Gilmore
Gilmore Girls really did Rory Gilmore a disservice in its first few seasons by primarily featuring her in a boring (albeit cute) schoolgirl outfit. And though not all of Rory’s outfits were Pinterest-worthy (to be honest, her mom had cooler style), when she was good, she was good. From her perfectly coiffed her to the way she styled wide-leg jeans and beat-up Converse, Rory was the journalist chic we aspired to be.
The Breakfast Club‘s Claire Standish
To be fair, Claire Standish spends most of The Breakfast Club in one outfit, but boy, is it a good one. As the ragtag group’s “princess,” Claire, played by ’80s favorite Molly Ringwald, undeniably made an impact in the fashion department. From the rolled-up sleeves on her pink T-shirt to the way her skirt hung over her knee-high boots, it was the details that made Claire a fashion icon. Plus, who could not love Ringwald’s red bob?
The Vampire Diaries‘ Elena Gilbert
Though The Vampire Diaries was filled with supernatural creatures, from werewolves to witches, what we love the most about the show was its down-to-earth style. No heels. No unnecessary accessories. Just simple, stylish high school clothes that would be appropriate for staking a vampier after class. Elena Gilbert, one of Mystic Falls High’s students and the heroine of the show, is our pick for best dressed. From her on-point leather jacket game to the smart way she layered her clothes, it’s hard not to envy Elena’s simple-yet-stylish wardrobe.
Gossip Girl‘s Serena van der Woodsen & Blair Waldorf
It’s hard to believe that Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, two of the Upper East Side’s most well-known, high-society teens are high school students, but they are. Even when they were skipping around in run-of-the-mill schoolgirl uniforms, the show’s heroines (and antiheroines) looked chic as hell. From the designer bags they toted around like backpacks to pretty prints and dresses they wore from episode to episode, the gossip girls were a parade of amazing style.
90210‘s Annie Wilson & Naomi Clark
The CW’s Beverly Hills: 90210 reboot, 90210, gave us the modern-day California style we always wanted in West Beverly Hills High’s queen bee, Naomi Clark, and new girl, Annie Wilson. The two teens often were foils to each other, with Naomi’s glam, expensive fashion contrasting with Annie’s small-town, Kansas wardrobe, but somehow, we love them both. In terms of southern California, 90210 knew what it was doing, with the characters’ over-the-top sunglasses and swimsuit-based outfits.