While most of us were busy watching Saturday morning cartoons in the '90s and wearing whatever outfits our moms left for us on the bed, that didn't mean our sartorial minds weren't already coming together and trying to figure out how to nail Kelly Kapowski's style. After all, the Saved By the Bell character taught us that turquoise leggings were much better than sherbet orange ones, and that an outfit was never complete without a sparkly belt and neon scrunchies.
While we had muses like Pepper Ann and Daria to base our elementary school outfits off of, Kelly Kapowski's flare for fashion reigned supreme. We might have switched over to Lisa's haughty, high-fashion persona from time to time, or declared ourselves Team Jessie because of her book smarts and bicycle shorts, but our sartorial eyes would often wander back to Kelly.
Of course, who could blame us? With the world's best collection of floral dresses, high-waist short shorts, and a crop top curation that could outdo any fast fashion retailer's, Kelly K. had some serious style lessons she could pass down to us. Although it's now two decades later, we're still taking fashion advice out of her closet. Below are just nine fashion tips to steal from Kelly Kapowski. Because apparently, '90s fashion is pretty timeless.
1. You Can Make A Tight Mini Day-Appropriate With One Move
Add a baggy top! Kelly was all about those teeny minis, but she always balanced them out with clever proportions to keep the look feeling casual. Whether that means popping a cuddly knit over your Saturday night bandage dress, adding a loose crop top over a clinging maxi, or a baggy tee over a butt-hugging mini, the looser piece creates the right amount of contrast to make a look feel Wednesday-ready.
Pro Tip: If your tee or sweater is a bit too long and it looks lumpy when you try to tuck it in (or you can't tuck it in because you're wearing a dress), belt the top in question and then pull it over the belt to hide it.
2. Break Up A Two-Piece With A Jacket
Co-ord sets made a comeback this year in a big way, and I'm not complaining. Now that it's getting chillier, however, it can feel like a puzzle to figure out how to bring the happy floral patterns and summery midriffs into fall. Well, Kelly K. has it all figured out: Just pop a jacket over it. Whether it's denim, cargo, or leather, topping your two-piece look off with an outer layer not only brings depth to the outfit, but it'll also keep you warm as you stretch that summer wardrobe a little bit longer.
3. You Can So Wear Bras As Tops
And here I thought the bandeau or bra trend was so 2015. While some of us have been tiptoeing around the idea all summer long and not completely sure if walking around in a bra while at a grocery store or library could feel natural, Kapowski goes all in and shows us it's not a big deal. All you need is a high-waist something (pants or skirt) to keep the skin-baring to a minimum, and then a baggy jacket or blazer as a layer.
Pro Tip: Choose a bra that has a little more structure to it and a thicker band around the underwire so it looks like it's straddling crop top territory more than lingerie regions.
4. Pencil Skirts Don't Need To Be Fancy
When thinking of pencil skirts, you might conjure up images of smart office heels, or evenings spent drinking wine that didn't come out of a box (or is that just me?). But they have the potential to break out of their classier roles. All you need is an über-casual top, and you can make the look weekday-appropriate in a snap. Try pairing your pencil skirt with a jersey top (or an actual sweatshirt), a cozy knit, a chambray shirt, or a simple cotton tee. All of those options sound like they'd go great with baggy boyfriend jeans, so they can give the prim skirt a casual twist.
Pro Tip: The baggier your top or sweater, the more casual the pencil skirt will become.
5. Don't Underestimate The Power Of A Dress
Lazy girls unite! If you want to get dressed in two seconds flat but still look fabulous, all you need is a dress. Kelly has an army of them that I wish I could borrow, and for good reason: The whole process is zip it up and go. Pair your dress with Keds to keep the outfit looking weekday casual, or pop a shrunken jacket or cardigan over it for a touch of new color or print.
6. Proportions Make All The Difference
First of all, let me just say what we're all probably thinking: Kelly K. is the original hipster. Check out that outfit: She could be buying coffee in Bushwick. In a fashion era in which shoulder pads and jacket sleeves were as big as your feathered bangs, a girl really had to learn how to be clever with proportions. Being the resident cool girl, though, Kapowski had the skills down pat.
Pro Tip: A baggy I-stole-this-from-my-brother jacket becomes chic when paired with tight bicycle shorts. If you don't have those handy in your closet, it's snug skirts or high-waist shorts all the way. The same goes with grandpa sweaters, loose blazers with boyish cuts, or oversized tops. If you pair them with more form-fitting bottoms, the contrast balances will balance out the look stylishly.
7. Crop Tops Instantly Give Your Look A Flirty Touch
The great thing about Kelly's style is that it's not overly complicated. With just a few well-chosen pieces, she creates a cool outfit without adding too many steps or adornments (that's more Lisa Turtle's style). The crop top look is a case in point: Choose a shrunken, ribcage-skimming number, pair it with a high-waist pencil skirt or high-waist jeans (there's that eye for proportion again!), match it with tennis shoes to keep the look relaxed, and you're done. All you did was put three items together, and you have yourself a stylish but no-fuss look.
8. Double Your Wardrobe With Small Tweaks
Just because you have a baggy top doesn't mean it has to stay a baggy top. Kelly shows that you can play with your clothes until they work the way you want them to, whether that's tying the hem into a knot and creating a crop top, leaving a button-down unbuttoned and turning it into an outer layer, wearing a bra as a top, buttoning up a cardigan and tucking it into your skirt like a top, or turning dresses into skirts with the help of layered sweaters. If you find little tweaks to give your closet pieces more roles, you'll double your wardrobe.
9. You Can Totally Wear Jackets As Tops
Or cardigans, for that matter. All you have to do is button it up to the very top and pretend that it's the equivalent of a button-down shirt. Bonus points if you actually tuck it into your skirt or pants.
Praise the '90s and all the hipsters that came with it. Kelly K., you're still a queen.
Images: NBC Productions