The best-dressed TV casts of all time: A definitive list

An ode to all the small screen stars that have supplied us with serious style inspo.

An ode to all the small screen stars that have supplied us with serious style inspo.

(Lionsgate Television)

This article was originally published September 6th, 2017.

While captivating storylines, heart-wrenching romances and loveable characters and are all part of the tease of television, so too is fashion, especially when it's done well. Surely you can recall certain trends — some good, some terrible — that found their way into the wardrobes of your favourite TV stars, and perhaps you even remember a character just by his or her signature look (Blossom's hats, anyone?).

As the decades pass, so does what we see and wear. We draw influence from culture, and since television is a big part of that, it's no surprise that those ever-aspirational, as-seen-on-TV styles end up in department stores or even on catwalks, luring audiences to buy, wear and love these looks to the max.

To honour those that have provided us with serious fashion inspo throughout the years, here's our selection of the best TV ensembles from past to present who've brought unforgettable (and influential) style to the small screen.

Gossip Girl

(CBS Paramount Network Television)

If we had to describe the looks from this cast, we'd immediately scream "beautiful and sexy," while pointing to the trendsetting designs sported by the show's two female leads, Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen. And even if you weren't a fan of the show, you can still thank them for making bright tights rad again, reinstating headbands and pushing guys to embrace dandy suits (um, Chuck Bass wears them so it's cool). Costume designer Eric Daman was so gifted in handpicking and designing looks for the stars, often playing with bubble skirts, sweetheart bodices and floral prints. Plus, he had a knack for spotting just the right croc bag to make a winning outfit pop on screen. Much of the looks were taken from notable designers (okay, all of them were) like Zuhir Murad, Moschino, Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta.

Pretty Little Liars

(Warner Horizon Television)

The final season of this eerie teen drama just wrapped this summer, but we still have years upon years of quality fashions to remember.  Whether it was the sporty-suave Emily, the sometimes wild, sometimes feminine dresses Aria wore, the rocker-chic aesthetic of Hannah, the fitted blazers Alison loved or Spencer's modest cashmere sweaters and skinny jean getups — it was fun watching each character's style evolve in front of our eyes. Regardless of your favourite (Hannah all the way), each of the women had a signature look that fit their character's personality, but also their individual body type. Aeropostale even carried a Pretty Little Liars Collection because there was such a demand. Girls and women imitated the stars' outfits for Halloween, too, further proving the influence these ladies had on pop culture.


(Imagine Television)

Let's face it, when your names are Cookie and Lucious Lyon, your outfits better standout. Over the past three seasons (season four starts this September, if you're interested), Empire has become a touchstone for fashion and the style queen of the show is undeniably Cookie Lyon.  Each episode finds her wearing ultra lavish outfits— a Givenchy vintage dress, Roberto Cavalli or Lanvin jackets, Manolo Blahnik pumps, Jennifer Fisher rings, Balmain boots — and Cookie doesn't mess around when it comes to looking expensive and showing off head-to-toe extravagance. But, don't forget about Lucious now, the man loves bold prints, velvet loafers and he's not afraid to wear floral or pink. Even his pajamas, designed by Carolina Herrera, are killer.  Oh, and they both love gold. So much gold. While Cookie and Lucious lead the Lyon pack, their three sons Andre, Jamal and Hakeem are pretty daring too. If you've never seen this show, watch this and be in awe like the rest of us. 

Schitt's Creek

(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

They're snobby, hilarious and always dress to impress: enter the Rose family. Thanks to Dan Levy (who plays the son, David Rose, and has also acted as one of the show's wardrobe stylists) and costume designer Debra Hanson you'll see a mix of fashion-forward selections from Pink Tartan, Jeremy Laing, Topshop and Jil Sander in this cheeky comedy. Johnny Rose (a.k.a. the dad) often sports Hugo Boss suits while Alexis (the daughter) is big into hats that go well with her dainty, "cool LA chic" wardrobe. Both David and his mother Moira wear a lot of black, and if you're a fan of broaches, statement necklaces or neckties, then Moira is your gal to watch. They're unquestionably the best-dressed Canadian ensemble on television right now.

Beverly Hills 90210

(Spelling Television)

We'd be crazy not to mention these LA heartthrobs — after all they lived in Beverly Hills, right? And while the shoulder pads they often sported haven't made a real comeback, we can't help but appreciate what this squad did for '90s fashion in general. The boyfriend blazer was a favourite of Kelly Taylor, baby doll dresses were Donna Martin's obsession and you know the whole dress shirt with a loose tie around the neck fad? That was a staple in Brenda Walsh's wardrobe before Britney Spears got into it. If you're a fan of chokers, watch this show, as you'll see the women wearing them all the time. All the time.

Degrassi Junior High

(Playing with Time Productions)

While the gang from Schitt's Creek are on-trend these days, let's not forget about our favourite Canadian teenagers from decades past: the original Degrassi crew. One of the lead characters, Joey Jeremiah, pulled off the t-shirt-vest overlay so well and he was rarely caught without a signature fedora on his head. Him and his crew (made up of Snake and Wheels) were all about the Hawaiian shirts too, which still pop up on the regular. Another standout character was Spike (not just because of her spiky hair) who could wear plaid skirts, oversized sweaters or ruffled blouses, effortlessly. Then there were the '80's headbands, scarves and leggings—they wore so many leggings! Last but not least were the quintessential thick-rimmed glasses, which are still trendy today. You probably have a pair on now. 

Mad Men

(Lionsgate Television)

Costume designer Janie Bryant was wonder woman behind the scenes, dressing the stars on this prolific show for ten years. Set in the '60s and '70s, Bryant made sure the style on Mad Men reflected that and, similar to Pretty Little Liars, each of the female leads had a different sartorial vibe. Remember Peggy's plaid pantsuit or Joan's tweed dresses? Then there's the leading man, the epitome of class, the skinny tie and plaid jacket lover, the sleek bespoke suit guy, THE Don Draper. According to an interview in Vanity Fair, Bryant especially liked dressing Joan (played by Cristina Hendricks) and she even designed outfits for her, adding feathers and Joan's signature pencil necklace whenever she could. Rompers, crisp white t-shirts, feminine, form-fitted dresses—these were all part of the mix too and we're still wearing them.

Sex and the City 

(Darren Starr Productions)

Sex and the City was so much more than a show; it was a playbook of how to deal with life told through its cast of eccentric, complicated, hilarious and fashionable women. And on it, there was more talk of Manolo Blahnik and Louis Vuitton than we'd ever heard on a TV show before. Arguably, Manolo Blahnik wouldn't be half as popular as it is today if it wasn't for Carrie's undeniable love of the brand.  This idling of luxurious fashion brands was all thanks to costume designer Patricia Field, who won an Emmy in 2002 for her work on the show, and was responsible for so many of its iconic looks.

Remember when Carrie paraded that slip dress, making the lingerie look even more sexy? Stars like Rihanna, Selena Gomez and the entire Kardashian clan are still on that trend. Don't forget the nameplate necklace, which everyone and their mother ended up getting. Sex and the City also made it fine to wear sweatpants and heels. The show even freely featured fanny packs because they were cool (and, apparently, they still are). Almost 20 years later, the fashions seen on Sex and the City are daringly memorable and unquestionably relevant.

Kathryn Kyte is an arts, culture and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. She has previously contributed stories to the Huffington Post, ET Canada and Yahoo.