Ah, the fall of 1995.
You may have still been but a wee little tot, but I was a spritely pre-teen about to enter the gates of freedom - middle school. I was no longer reduced to the infantile elementary days of old where my stubby peers and I were herded like cattle into a pine sole infused cafeteria, forced to collectively feast on the amorphous slop of disgruntled cafeteria ladies. I was now a woman of choice.
In middle school, I now had the privilege of choosing what entered my mouth every lunch hour. I had entered a space to create my own food destiny, and the choice was simple: curly fries and Sour Patch Kids, indefinitely.
The age of modernity and freedom transcended the cafeteria and infiltrated my social space as there were no longer a playground or swing sets to cower behind. Tag, Lava, and Kickball were no longer socially permitted in public. Here, in middle school, we did adult things like congregate in semi-circles and discuss contentious issues like the stylistic cost of wearing overalls and the risk of looking like a homeless painter.
And somewhere in that mix of freedom and discovery was Brandy Norwood serenading me in my middle school years with her nasal-voiced classic hits like “I Wanna Be Down” and “Best Friend.” Her lyrics were cryptic as my life experience in my pre-teens centered around securing oversized cookies and siphoning parts of my friend’s uneaten lunches into my mouth, but I adored her. It can only follow that when her show Moesha emerged, I was ready to follow her from radio to prime time.
While my friends were having their brains decimated by copious amounts of sugar and strange encounters with boy children, Moesha was a beacon of wisdom in my middle school years. Charming womanizers, bullies, drugs, and the general malaise that comes from being a stupid teenager had no place in her world as Moesha was a woman wise beyond her years. It’s no wonder that this also translated to a style that was beyond her years as she mastered looks that I still envy to this day. When I was bumbling around with bucket hats and manly overalls, Moesha was busy crafting a style all her own that still sends my heart aflutter. And when Netflix decided to resurrect this iconic gem of a show from its slumber, my heart did a little dance and my eyes soon followed as I jumped feet first into the nostalgia of Moesha and her iconic 90’s style.
Wise (And Stylish) Beyond Her Years
“Stay in school, don’t do drugs, keep your pants on and of course don’t forget that spoken word night at the den” is exactly what Moesha is reminding us of here. When I first saw this masterful ensemble in the first season of Moesha and as a portly 11-year-old who accessorized herself solely with cookie crumbs and ill placed happy face tees, she awakened something in my style sensibilities. The vibrant print, the playful colors - she was a self-possessed woman in the glory years of her mid-teens while I was looking on, lunch time snack in hand, adorned in trendy baggy pants and a not-so-baby tee with a happy face stretched across my burgeoning middle school chest.
With a few timeless silhouettes, this outfit is one I could and should happily replicate today. Dear Moesha plays with colors - but she is playing responsibly by pulling from color families of orange and red that are showcased in her floral blazer. She brings balance to this oversized blazer with a fitted turtleneck, and not-so-mini mini skirt.
Overalls Are Not For The Faint of Heart
Look at her, smiling innocently at us - suggesting that we can all look like poised women in a pin striped overall. This woman is the reason I went on a hunt for overalls in my teen years. But even though I adored them and felt like they would help me live my best life, at best I looked like a distant cousin of Groundskeeper Willy from The Simpsons.
While my peers and I fiddled with trendy denim overalls, Moesha elevated the trend by choosing a non-denim pin stripe medium. And perhaps this is the misstep that my friends and I fell into: when trends are doled out in mass, its best to think about how you might put your own individual twist on it instead of blindly following. Take in Moesha’s ancient wisdom and don’t follow a trend to the tee - play with different colors and fabrics as she has done with the playful polyester pinstripe.
The Classy Trucker
The frustrating thing about watching Moesha as an 11-year-old is that I could never find or replicate her style. While she is “oohing” and “aahing” my eyes with this plaid trucker jacket and monochromatic base layer, I thumbed through clothing racks only to find baby tees with tacky yellow happy faces stretched across the chest as if to say, “I’m happy, no boobs yet, but I’m happy.”
While it’s clear the definition of cool was ill-defined in my life, I can appreciate a good thing from a woman ahead of her time when I see it. I love the mix of a boxier semi-cropped jacket paired with a tighter base layer. Moesha is blending a traditionally masculine and feminine silhouette and creates something that looks both strong and fitted. This ensemble checks off all my style sensibilities: bringing feminine and masculine energy with fitted and looser cuts all in one ensemble. The result is effortless visual intrigue.
Next Level Layering
In my youth, my concept of layering involved taking off a sweater to reveal a ruddy old tee shirt when it got warm. But in my teens my understanding expanded, evolving in its prime to a baby tee and a very daring long sleeved shirt underneath. I believed I was living on the cutting edge of style - until I saw this outfit which initially broke my brain. I had no vocabulary for what Moesha is even wearing. “Weird but cool tight button-upping thing” was my best attempt to describe this glimpse of heaven. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that this brown top is actually a tube top and that Moesha was layering at a level that fashion designers would have marveled at.
If you dare to layer at the next level, there are a few rules when attempting to pull off a layered tube top ensemble. Tube tops don’t naturally ooze class, so choose one that has a lycra spandex blend to ensure stretch for layering but with a thicker polyester feel. Be sure to choose a tube top offering that is fitted and sits snug against the skin as the look is designed to showcase a narrow waistline. Stay away from loose fitting summertime casual tube tops and dress shirts as this mix will bring on more vibrations of style confusion than inspiration.
Moesha Across The Millenniums
While most 90’s style icons make me wince and squirm, Moesha’s style rings true across the millenniums. With all the slop and gobbledygook that is the aftermath of following a fast trend, take a page out of Moesha’s wisdom and be a person wise beyond your years as when it comes to your personal style. Wear what you love and be uncompromising about wearing what makes you feel in your element -- and maybe twenty years from now, you will find yourself gushing over the fact that you too were in a league of your own.