We all remember Clarissa Darling – the witty tween who was determined to be anything but what her last name suggests. The teen sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart was a hit in the early 90s and still resonates with our generation today. From her personality to her fashion sense, Clarissa is everything we aspired to be when we were younger – and in many ways, still do.
1) Clarissa’s a girl… and a go-getter.
As hard as it is to believe, Clarissa Explains it All was the first Nickelodeon series to feature a female lead. The show shocked TV execs by appealing to both girls and boys, disproving the long-held notion that only male leads could attract viewers of both sexes. But they didn’t stop there. Clarissa challenged the frilly goody-goody image that girls her age had always been given by thinking for – and expressing – herself.
Clarissa loves videogames, not dolls. She even creates them. She often shares her eccentric dreams and her belief that UFOs are constantly touching down on earth. She’s interested in photography, journalism, and rock music. She even fantasizes about being the first female rapper – in space. A girl with an imagination and aspirations – revolutionary, huh?
2) She pushes boundaries.
Unlike sickeningly sweet dramedies like Full House (don’t get me wrong – it’s one of my all-time favorites, but those fake tears and the constant hugging??), Clarissa taught us valuable lessons without the cheese-ball emotion. Clarissa tackled subjects like school, boys, training bras, and even drinking in a lighthearted, sarcastic manner. The sitcom was the first Nick show to use the words “hell” and “sex.” It seems like we’re living on another planet these days with the raunchy stuff they show on TV, but at a time when sitcoms were squeaky clean, Clarissa was groundbreaking.
Apparently, even the topic of sibling rivalry was taboo in the early 90s. In typical Clarissa fashion, she (and the producers) didn’t care. The pilot episode focused on her attempts to kill her annoying little brother, Ferguson, with helium balloons. In another episode, Clarissa stands up against a popular jock to defend said brother. The bully ends up falling in love with her, showing girls that being assertive and staying true to your values can actually be attractive. Pause to swallow the fact that this was news at the time…
3) Her best friend is a boy – and they are strictly friends.
If you’re anything like me, you probably asked your parents for a ladder for Christmas after watching Clarissa’s friend Sam use one to climb into her window every day. The ladder served as a way to show that their friendship was just that. Sam’s a boy, but their relationship is relaxed and casual. It’s not a formal play-date type situation where Sam needs to ring the doorbell with a parent by his side, and they’re certainly not crushing on each other. Sam is Clarissa’s partner in crime. In fact, Clarissa is always the one telling Sam what their mission is. At the time, girls stuck with girls and boys stuck with boys, so their friendship was quite progressive.
4) She speaks directly to the audience.
How awesome was it when Clarissa wrote on the TV screen? And how special did you feel when she looked right at you and told you what she was thinking? It was like having a cool, older friend in the room with you, guiding you and sharing secrets. The one-on-one angle broke the boring mold of sitcoms and helped diminish the corniness. In a way, I think it even foreshadowed the unstoppable influx of reality TV, particularly the “confessional” aspect. Kids suddenly had the opportunity to connect with characters on a new level.
5) We still covet her eccentric, forward-thinking wardrobe.
When the show premiered, girls were still being told what to wear. The options out there were matchy-matchy, innocent, and girly. Clarissa’s fashion sense changed that, and is still gush-worthy today. Clarissa is all about making a statement every time she gets dressed. Rather than sticking to one genre, she takes pieces from every category. From crop tops to oversized men’s button downs, big headbands to blinged out flat-brims, Clarissa can inspire any girl. She even wore large Ray-Ban style specs before they were a “thing.” (I’m wearing mine as I type this.) As long as you layer and mix any and all prints, you’re sure to have Clarissa’s approval. Here are some of Clarissa’s favorites that you can find at Karmaloop or in your own closet:
- Tie dye
- Printed leggings
- Denim, denim, denim – including patched and printed
- Statement jewelry – particularly earrings
- Doc Martens
- Animal print
- Polka dots
- Colored tights – under anything and everything
- High socks
I hope you enjoyed reminiscing on one of your 90’s kid memories as much as I did. Rumor has it a Clarissa novel is in the works and expected to be released in fall 2014. Think you’ll beat me to the front of the line at Barnes and Noble?
*Try these from Miss KL!
Blank NYC The Cut Off Denim Vest in White Teeth
Dr. Martens The Pascal 8-Eye Boot in Black and Acid Pink Patent
Profound Aesthetic Portland Rose Five Panel Pattern Hat w Suede Brim
*MKL Collective The Dotted Legging
Civil Tie Front Top in Tie Dye
– Haley Brennan