Saved By The Bell, the American TV series which ran from 1989 to 1993, has become an iconic slice of idealised teen-dom. It was a show with strong morals, flimsy sets and a Principal with a very high pitched laugh. Of course at the time I didn't care about any of that, I was far too invested in the lives and wardrobes of Jessie, Kelly, Lisa, Zack and Slater. And Screech, kind of. These were kids with golden California-sunshine lives, sure bad stuff happened but none of it ever lasted for longer than 25 minutes, and at the end we all came away having learned an important life lesson. For example, don't do drugs, work hard, save your local diner, help old people. That kind of thing.
Rewatching it now brings a rush of nostalgia: this was what I grew up thinking America was like. But of course no one has a life like these guys, it's pure teen fantasy. It's so safe, no one is ever in serious danger - there's no real peril. It's warm and cosy, it feels a million miles away from shows like My So-Called Life, Beverly Hills 90210 and even Dawson's Creek. Compared to the gritty real-ness of Angela, Joey et al, this is a cartoon. Except in a cartoon the characters can go outside and are able to venture into more than just five rooms in their lives. Seriously - all the scenes are either in the same bit of hallway, the same classroom, the diner, the gym, or one bedroom they just switch around depending on which character supposedly sleeps in it.
I also realised that the treatment of outsiders in the programme is sort of messed up. The main characters, who are supposed to be good, honest people, are often laughing at other characters in glasses who are overweight/have nasal voices/snort when they laugh. Stereotypical "nerds", I guess. And boy nerds are nearly always in bow ties, while girl nerds have plaits. Both wear glasses. Obviously that's the show creators being lame-o's rather than the actors, but still it's a weird running joke to have on a show that's so preachy about being a perfect teen. Oh, wait, it's because that means you have to be physically perfect too! I just got that!
Here are some of said nerds. Yes, one of them is Tori Spelling.
However, it wasn't all negative. The focus on working hard is pretty cool, and I think Jessie Spano gave me my first taste of feminism. Sure it was a bit heavy-handed, but still. Then there was Kelly. Kelly Kapowski was my dream girl, I wanted to be her so badly. She was sweet, funny, beautiful, hard-working and great at sports. And her wardrobe was perfect. I always loved how fashionista Lisa Turtle dressed, but I knew I would never have the confidence to wear door knocker earrings, and Jessie's serious nature extended to her outfits. But Kelly dressed like the coolest girl in the world, she was amazing.
Here, let me show you.
Kelly loves pink. She is nearly always in pink.
"Oh hey guys, just lookin' in my mirror"
"My friend Lisa is so into shopping she has made maps of every mall in the area" (Genuinely what is happening in this scene).
"I found a blusher that matches my top"
"This movie sucks but my shoes are DOPE"
"We're clapping my all-fuscia outfit right?"
"My mom says there is a shortage of pink clothing dye, I'm freaking OUT"
"I think a lot of people thought that wearing pink floral paperbag shorts couldn't be done...Look, I'm no hero"
"I know this dress and silver belt is a perfect combination and I'm so happy about I can't even hear what lame scheme Zack is currently plotting"
"Jessie, I really want to lend you my denim jacket with pink lace sleeves, but what if something happens to it?"
Kelly also loves florals. Especially floral co-ordinates.
"This is my favourite off the shoulder top, I got it at the mall on a Wednesday so I call it my mall Wednesday top".
"I wonder if the mall is open right now? I wonder if it's a Wednesday..."
"We're all pretending something is wrong with our backs for some reason, but I'm really just trying to show off my matching crop top and cycling shorts. Mission. Accomplished".
Life isn't always easy for Kelly though, she's often caught in the middle of her love triangle with Zack and Slater. And on one occasion a locker fell on her head when Slater was driving his strange buggy-car-thing around the school halls. Because there is no outside in SBTB world. These guys have never even seen a tree.
When bad stuff like that happens Kelly stays in her room, which is decorated with lots of sports equipment and posters of sports equipment (presumably because they couldn't have posters of actual sports people on the walls) and looks sad. She is often hugging her teddy.
"I have to pick between the two hottest guys in school! Not even my poster of a huge tennis ball can comfort me right now".
"Dad I went really crazy last night and put all my soft toys in my mini basketball net and now I feel weird about it and I think they're judging me".
"Just looking out the window, feeling sad, hugging my teddy, surrounded by piles of sports equipment, stuffed toys...and Indiana Jones style hats..."
"...I keep my posters of a bike and a baseball glove by the door so they're the first thing people see when they walk in the room. I think they say so much about me as a person".
For the record you can buy a replica Bayside High jumper like the one Kelly is wearing below online, and I have nearly purchased it several times, and only stopped myself because someone walked in the room and asked what I was doing.
These two are pretty frickin' cute, it has to be said.
Another look Kelly does really well is the crop top and denim skirt look, which she wears with white or coloured Keds. On my first trip to America I made my parents buy me some Keds, but then my mum got some too and it kind of ruined it for me. Especially because they looked better on her.
"Cropped purple denim jacket, purple top and floral purple skirt. I am SO RAD RIGHT NOW AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT".
"I'm wearing a bralet at school. A BRALET. At SCHOOL."
Ha! That look on that extra's face is amazing.
They're peitioning against a beauty pageant BTW.
"Yes you can be against superficial beauty pageants and still rock a cobalt strapless dress! I know 'cos Jessie told me!"
Kelly is so great.
Weird thing I noticed - Tiffani Thiessen who plays Kelly looks at the camera and crew a lot during filming. Watch out for it next time you're having an all-weekend SBTB marathon session. I KNOW YOU DO IT.
Jessie has got guts, she's bold and strong and takes crap from no one. She's the Bayside badass. She even punched a guy. Violence isn't cool but I think this was self-defence.
Clothing-wise Jessie is classy and grown up. She mainly wears high-waisted trousers with shirts and vests. She likes her mom jeans.
"Hey Zack! Here's a photo of me being more badass than you".
"I defy you not to take me seriously in this floral shirt, Belding. I DEFY YOU".
"I'm sitting on my desk so I can see you over Kelly's blow dry".
"My blazer is so much better than his white suit, but I need to keep looking in this direction so I don't have to deal with Slater's weird crotchet vest thing".
However sometimes she branches out into shorts, and the result is excellent.
"While I want to save Max's Diner, I'm not a big fan of mustard. Unless it's the colour of my clothes *drops mic*"
The outfit above is worn by Jessie in the infamous epiosde, 'Jessie's Song' where Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills and totally loses it. "I'm so excited".
That episode is also special because it features the music video the ladies make for their hit smash 'Go For It'. Their band is called Hot Sundae. I can't believe you've never heard of them. In the video they're wearing a lot of spandex workout gear, which is cut with very, very high legs.
I love this editing trick they do below. I want to do that with our next video.
"My ghost face is siiiiinging on you whiiiiile you work oooooooout"
I know that's what I look like when I exercise.
In fact, high legs were a big deal during this era of female fashion.
I'm not 100% sure how comfortable this look would be, surely it's like having a wedgie all the time? And while you're working out too? And does Jessie really need a belt to hold up her leggings?
Being a woman with curly hair myself, I'm particularly drawn to Jessie's locks and the way she scoops them up and accessorises with headbands, bows and clips. BIG bows and clips.
When it comes to clothes, Lisa knows what's up. She defines herself through her outfits. She IS her wardrobe. And her hats. And her shoes. And her earrings. And her hair.
Lisa's style rules:
1. Be Serious About Polka Dot
"Yeah, I mean, I guess you could say I'm a bit dotty"
"What do you mean my dots are too big? I'LL SHOW YOU TOO BIG"
"Hey Screech, are these dots too big for ya?"
"WHAT ABOUT THESE ONES? POW POW POW"
2. Red, White And Black Are Always A Good Combination
"Haha, it's so funny Zack actually thinks his clothes look good"
"Today I managed to combine red, white and black with polka dots and now we have world peace".
"Yes, I know I'm a style goddess. I allow you to touch me".
"Psst...My shoes are zebra print and you haven't complimented me on them yet".
"I can accessorise with a FRICKIN' CAR".
3. Learn How To Sass And Perfect Your Stink Eye
"Jessie stole my idea to use a big bow headband to deal with her curls"
"I'm the only one around here who can wear a tassled suede jacket, OK?"
"My tropical florals are so much better than Kelly's pastel ones"
"No one is saying or doing anything to make me mad right now, but practise makes perfect. Also my earrings are heavy and they kind of hurt".
4. Make Lime Green Work For You.
"I'm so tired of hearing how much better I look in green than Screech does".
Make it rain, Lisa!
5. Denim Is Better With Additions
"Jessie I can't believe you've not done ANYTHING to your jeans! I'm sick of your excuses!"
"Yes, those are stars on my skirt, and yes I have added military-esque embellishments to my distressed boxy cropped jacket. I really need to make my life about something other than just being your denim hero".
"These shorts were great and all, but now I've put lace on the hem they're a PARTY". *Kelly agrees*.
"Metal rings on my jacket, metal rings on my jumper, metal rings in my ears. It's a no-brainer!"
6. Just Because Everyone Else Follows The Rules Doesn't Mean You Have To
"Didn't you get the memo Zack? It's cool to be non-conformist"
"*Gulp* these earrings are going to be so impractical on the assault course".
So, there you have it. Classic late 80's/early 90's looks. I miss these guys, I wish they'd do a reunion.
Maybe without Screech though, especially after Dustin Diamond's distressing post-SBTB antics...