The Donna Martin Fashion Retrospective

Did you ever notice how, in the later seasons of Friends, the clothes (unless you looked down at the shoes) didn't date? I mean, I'd still kill for Rachel's wardrobe. I guess it's because the show's wardrobe department chose classic styles - pieces that have always been in fashion.

Not so for Beverly Hills 90210. Like Sex And The City, this was a show that both followed and started trends: think bangs, blazers worn with jeans, baby-doll dresses, and long-sleeved leotard tops with wide-scooped necklines. As such, Beverly Hills 90210 represents both a timeline and time capsule of fashion from 1990-2000, of which Donna Martin is the embodiment. Any clothes historian wanting to research '90s fashion year by year should look no further than the evolution of Donna's wardrobe season by season. In other words, name a trend of the '90s and Donna Martin wore it.

However, she was not a total slave to fashion. Sure, she wore items that everybody wore, but she also wore outfits that nobody dared to wear. The character made famous by Tori Spelling and a graduation chant didn't, by the ninth season, become a designer with her own label and clothing store for nothing, you know.

So hold onto your chokers, because we're taking a look back at some of Donna's finest fashion moments that reflected and defined the design of a decade.

Donna mainly took a backseat to Brenda and Kelly during the first season, but we caught glimpses of the fashion queen to come. Firstly, there was the bravery it took to wear that red, puffy, Victorian era hooped dress to the spring dance. Donna Martin had a fashion vision and she followed through. Respect.

I don't even want to know how she went to the bathroom that night.
Secondly, there was her ability to look quite cute in that Betsey Johnson daisy-print mini dress with matching headband, worn to Palm Springs with the gang. Tori Spelling has revealed she still owns this little number today.

Seasons two and three saw the character of Donna Martin come into her own and take even more fashion risks. Some paid off, like wearing short shorts to the Walsh family Christmas, while others didn't, like the prom dress that was so tight, she didn't eat all day to fit into it – we all know where that got her after a couple of glasses of champagne. Another fashion disaster was the mermaid costume worn to the fateful Halloween party where Kelly was almost raped. Like the red spring dance dress, this was an outfit that posed serious bathroom issues, but she wore it anyway. That's what you call committing to a look.
Channeling Darryl Hannah in Splash for Halloween.
"I do! I like champagne!" Despite the evening's events, this dress was still a
much better choice than the red contraption she wore to the spring dance.
After high school graduation (she made it, yay!), Donna entered the "grunge years" circa '94/'95. She was dating no-good musician Ray Pruit and dressed accordingly: flannel shirts, jeans, baby doll dresses, and combat boots. Seriously, who didn't own at least two of these items around 1995? Donna was also into A-line skirts (remember those?) and knee high socks. What's more, she cut her hair and dyed it platinum blonde a la Gwen Stefani.

Donna goes grunge.
Who didn't own a baby doll dress and a pair of combat boots circa 1995?
However, it was actually in the late '90s that Donna Martin's style really took off. She became a fashion designer and opened a store called Now Wear This on Melrose Avenue that stocked her own label, Donna Martin Originals. Despite the name, Donna wore every turn-of-the-millennium trend you could think of. While Kelly Taylor stuck mostly to beaded Y-drop necklaces and cardigans, Donna diversified with such items as--get ready for it--maxi sportswear dresses, mini butterfly clips, faux fur-collared cardigans, shrugs worn with boob tubes, metal comb headbands, cargo pants, army prints, crop tees, maxi skirts, dark denim jackets, mini backpacks, and pencil skirts with side splits. Women of my generation (and I shouldn't have to specify which generation), I ask you: who didn't at one point count a side-splitted black pencil skirt worn with a boob tube amongst their "dressy" outfits?
Donna's style matures as the turn-of-the-millennium approaches,
wearing such staples as the maxi skirt, dark jean jacket and crop tee.
Why settle for one butterfly clip in your hair when you can have several?
Donna shows us how it's done.
Yay for maxi sportswear dresses!
Every woman owned a cardigan with a faux-fur collar in 1999.


Despite how I just went on about Donna Martin: The Later Years, my number one pick is the season two outfit she wore when she was chasing Color Me Badd around the Bel Aire Hotel and found out her mother was having an affair. The outfit consisted of black and red argyle short shorts, a black sweater with a red argyle print, and a red cropped jacket. She even had a red raincoat. It wasn't exactly the luckiest of outfits, but it gets full marks for color coordination, versatility, and cuteness.

In second place is a peach tulle skirt and white top covered in daisies worn during a trip to Paris in season three. It was an outfit only the Donna Martin could pull off – we doubt even Sarah Jessica Parker, who wore a goddamn tutu for the opening credits of Sex And The City, could get away with it.

In third place is a bomber jacket covered in a CD print that Donna wore on her first day as a DJ for the West Beverly High radio station. This jacket is a perfect example of how she dressed according to her mood, which is a sign of a true fashion trendsetter. Again, think Carrie Bradshaw.

And no Donna Martin retrospective would be complete without a special mention of that famous graduation robe. Truly iconic.

What were some of your favorite items from Donna Martin's wardrobe, 1990-2000? More importantly, which ones did you own yourself?

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