According to the calendar, September 22nd is the first day of fall. But for many people, myself included, fall doesn’t start until mid-October, when the temperature drops and the drugstores break out the fake cobwebs. For me, Halloween and the days leading up to it are peak fall. It’s a season ripe with nostalgia. Gift bags featuring cartoon bats, ghosts, and other various Halloween iconography make me wistful for elementary school, when wearing a costume in public was considered a privilege. Some of the best parties I’ve ever been to were grade school Halloween parties. I stand by this. In third grade, our entire class got to go trick-or-treating in a haunted corn maze. Last Halloween, a mime threw up on my shoes.
So, the sentimentality for Halloweens past remains fresh. To quelch my regressive yearning, I’ve turned to the cartoons and sitcoms of my youth. Well, it just so happens that shows from the '90s and early 2000s are a wealth of costume inspiration. So for any of you with a vague recollection of Kids' WB and One Saturday Morning, here are some costumes honoring strong female protagonists with strong style.
1. Carmen Sandiego (Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?)
Villians' International League of Evil (V.I.L.E.) leader Carmen Sandiego has graced our desktop and television screens since the mid-1980s. For many girls, Carmen Sandiego is the epitome of cool. She’s hyper-intelligent, always several steps ahead of everyone, and does it all in her iconic all-red ensemble. What many don’t know is that Carmen Sandiego is one of pop culture’s only Latina supervillains. Named after the Portuguese-Brazilian actress and singer Carmen Miranda, the original "Lady in Red" made her first appearance in the 1985 computer game Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? The games became inspiration for a '90s kid’s game show, and then an animated series with Rita Moreno providing the voice for Carmen. Carmen Sandiego’s fashion sense is inextricable to her character, making her a fabulous Halloween costume. Her overall look includes:
• An oversized, crimson trench coat and matching hat (based on the sombrero cordobés) that she wears cocked to the side, revealing a single, arched eyebrow.
• Black leather gloves
• A yellow scarf
• Tight black pants
Maxine Gibson (Batman Beyond)
The smartest student at Batman Beyond's Hamilton Hill High School, with a genius level intellect, Max Gibson creates computer software designed to uncover Batman’s true identity. When she discovers Terry, the second coming of Batman, she becomes his trusted ally. Max is an invaluable asset to Terry and Bruce Wayne, so it was a real bummer when she didn’t become the next Batgirl. That one needs a rewrite. Maxine’s style is reflective of futurist fashions of the early 2000s, à la The Matrix.
Pair some sleek black pants with a yellow and black sleeveless turtleneck (or your variation of such) and a black armband. A silver belt and matching sneakers are a nice contrast with Max's fuschia pixie cut and rust-colored lipstick. Finish the look with a swipe of black eyeliner and mascara.
Jane Lane (Daria)
Fantastically cynical with the same biting wit as her bestie Daria, Jane Lane is a lover of the arts, a painter, a sculptor, and a condemner of the conventional. Jane’s style and overall demeanor is more extroverted than Daria’s. Her look isn’t difficult to replicate, aside from the severe haircut and piercings. What’s great about this particular costume is that it consists of mainly separates that you can get more wear out of in your day to day. More bang for your buck. If you’re looking for more of a costume, you can play up Jane’s cartoon status à la Katy Perry with an oversize asymmetrical black wig. If you want to live like a cartoon, the brand JumpFromPaper makes amazing bags that appear 2 dimensional at first glance. But back to the basics of Jane’s lewk. You will need:
• Charcoal or black shorts
• Black tights
• Dark, heavy boots
• A black v-neck tee (bonus points if you can find one with gray or white lining the neckline)
• A red blazer (the more oversized, the more cartoonish)
Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)
Arguably the least animated of cartoon characters, Daria Morgendorffer was first introduced to us as a sarcastic voice of reason to Beavis and Butthead’s idiocy. Her dark humor and observations proved too funny for her not to have her own series. An intelligent high school student who hates the politics of high school, she keeps a low profile, which translates to her look. She can usually be found wearing an orange t-shirt with a forest green jacket, a black pleated tennis skirt, and combat boots. Her trademark round glasses, mop of brown hair, and disinterested smirk complete her look.
Shana Elmsford (Jem and the Holograms)
Backup vocalist, bass guitarist, former drummer and costume designer for her band Jem and the Holograms, the multi-talented Shana favors a purple color palette starting with her fashionably disheveled curls. She performs her many talents in a purple dress, white motorcycle jacket, and white, strappy heels. Orange eyeshadow, two pink streaks on her cheeks, and some heavy, gold statement earrings finish off this glam-rock ensemble.
Pepper Ann Pearson (Pepper Ann)
Who’s that girl? What’s her name? Is she cool? Is she lame? She’s Pepper Ann Pearson, lover of pizza, comics, video games, books, and soccer. Much too cool for seventh grade, she parades the halls of Hazelnut Middle School with her best friends Nicky and Milo. Bold and unique with a rich interior life, she’s her own biggest fan. Pepper Ann has a vivid animation in which her normal, adolescent challenges are transformed into fantastical feats of triumph. She’s marchin’ in her own parade. Alright, I’m done quoting the theme song. Pepper Ann favors the colorful, sporty athleisure of the late '90s. She holds her curly red mane back with a blue scrunchie that matches her leggings. Pair an oversize purple t-shirt with a groovy printed skirt. Complete the look with some Converse and wire frames.
Natasha Fatale (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends)
A spy from the fictional country of Pottsylvania, Natasha takes glee in her criminal misdeeds. Along with her partner Boris Badenov, they report to Fearless Leader and get into shenanigans with Rocky and Bulwinkle. A caricature of a "femme fatale," hence her last name, her look is severe. Turn up the volume with your hair and makeup, i.e. dark lips, dark eyeshadow, and brows arched up to your forehead. For a '40s-style 'do, sleep with foam rollers in over-night. Then, when you remove them the next day, tease the waves a bit, and then secure them with bobby pins. For clothing, a form-fitting dress and some stilettos are all you need.
Judy Funnie (Doug)
The older sister I’ve always wanted, Judy Funnie wears her sunglasses inside and doesn’t give a fuck if you think she’s being dramatic. She’s too focused on her artistic ambitions and spreading her poetic gospel. Decked out in a purple sweater dress with a matching beret atop her red undercut, this girl commits to what she wants and believes. Don’t forget a black turtleneck and Birkenstocks to bring it on home.
Fran Fine (The Nanny)
She has style, she has flair in a world of vanity fair. She’s the lady is red when everybody else is wearing tan. Fran Fine, that flashy girl from Flushing, has a wardrobe that has since achieved icon status, thanks to costume designer, stylist, and color expert Brenda Cooper, who set the tone for the Nanny's first four seasons. Always treading the line between cutting-edge chic and over-the-top, Fran wore some colorful looks by Moschino, Thierry Mugler, and Todd Oldham, eliciting waves of '90s nostalgia. The Instagram account @whatfranwore is an incredible source of inspiration. Dedicated to the icon herself, it’s a massive catalogue of all of Fran’s best looks throughout the series. With so many looks to choose from, you’ll have just as much fun putting this costume together as you will sporting it. There’s so much creative freedom with this costume, because Fran’s style is more about attitude. She wears those clothes, not vice versa. Yet some classic attributes of her overall look include:
• A mountain of curly, dark hair. Seriously, the bigger, the better. Fran usually styles it half-up, half-down, with an emphasis on height and volume. Bring out the curling irons and any heat protective products and tease away. Bonus points if you have a "bump-it."
• Blazers with mini skirts and black stockings. The classic cut of her outfits was a chic way of contrasting the outrageous colors and patterns.
• Any bright colors with bold patterns. Bonus points if you can find a matching set. Fran loved matching her blazers to her mini skirts.
• Animal print: because nothing says "they’ll still be talking about me years from now!" more than a leopard-print suit.
• Red lipstick and a wide range of facial expressions. You’ve got a personality to match your fuzzy orange coat.
Header photo Daria, MTV
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Hi there! I’m a comedian, writer and actress living in New York City. I’m the only person to have a subscription to Nickelodeon Magazine without access to the Nickelodeon channel. My favorite movie is George Of The Jungle. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @stonecoldvolpe and check out my website francescavolpe.com for more of my writing and silly videos!