top of page

Reigning with Style: 90s Chic in Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air stars a young Will Smith, as his character of the same name moves cross-country to live with his affluent aunt and uncle. Working class himself, the show often explores the class differences between Will and his family. Through the show's costuming, this is explored even further, the audience being exposed to preppy styles alongside streetwear. Fresh Prince does a great job reflecting characterisation through costuming; Loose's Piangfah Arnprakhon discovers more.

Will Smith

Words by Piangfah Arnprakhon

Will is our titular ‘fresh prince,’ moving from downtown Philly to Bel Air in the pilot (and revisited in the show's opening credits). In his first appearance, he is seen in a navy cap, front facing as to seem more ‘put together.’ Baseball caps and snapbacks are streetwear staples to this day, but during the 80s and 90s, had a particular connection to hip hop artists — something Smith was, having starting his music career long before the sitcom premiered. Throughout the series, the character Will mainly wears caps backwards and sideways, trying to seem cool and divorce himself from his uptight cousins.

Will’s main outfit is comprised of a lime green and neon yellow striped t-shirt with denim shorts. In other contexts, ill-fitting clothes may represent a character being uncomfortable in an environment, however, for Will, it shows he is comfortable in his own skin and stays true to the street style he grew up with. Although his uncle, Mr Banks, thinks Will's outfits are improper, Will is conventionally desirable in Bel Air, his street style and swagger being a key element of his charm. In episode 3 of the show, whilst dressing and acting like preppy cousin Carlton to woo a girl, she instead rejects him, saying, ‘I want a real man. Someone dangerous. Someone exciting. Someone from the streets.' The classist implications of this aside, Will's natural charm is reflected in his nonchalant style.

Get Will's look

Most of Will's outfits comprise of relaxed light wash denim, whether it's shorts or jeans, with an oversized tee — and if he's feeling the chill, a windbreaker or open button-down layered on top. He sports these with basketball shoes in particular; finish off the look by accessorising with a cap, 90s skinny sunglasses, and like any cool guy in the 90s, a Walkman.

Hillary Banks

Words by Piangfah Arnprakhon

Hillary is Will’s cousin and the eldest of the Bank kids. Known for her excessive shopping habits ("Dad, I need $300"), Hillary’s style heavily mirrors her mothers tailored, classy look, however with a much lighter colour palette. Hillary opts for bright colours and neutrals as opposed to the muted and berry shades Vivian Banks often sports. This visual tool shows that they both share elegance and class, however Hilary is more youthful and outspoken.

Hillary’s style is the epitome of Chanel’s 90s runways, which can be seen in this contrast trim pink set. The light colour gives an air of youth about her, but her alignment with Chanel, the stereotype of 'class', reminds us of her place in society, and her high opinion of herself. This matching set makes her look put together, without the drama of finding pieces that coordinate.

This is one of my favourite casual Hillary outfits. During the later seasons, she fronts her own talk show, something she's a natural at. Hillary looks put-together and perfect for the air, but she still looks comfortable. The sheer blouse has a unique cut leaning slightly towards the whimsigoth trend of the 90s, but the simple black maxi skirt helps Hillary stray away from Mazzy Star territory. Cuts aren’t the only thing you can use to customise an outfit: varying opacity, especially in layered colours can give an outfit an elevated edge.

Get Hillary's look

Emulate Hillary's put-together style with clothing synonymous with preppy: a blouse and mini skirt, hidden mostly by a boxy blazer was her staple, but finish the look off with simple gold jewellery, and a pair of black heels, and a fabulous hat. Or, of course, for an evening or date night look, find an elegant black dress that flatters your body.

Ashley Banks

Words by Lucy Eaton

Ashley was my favourite character on the show, and growing up, her wardrobe littered my Pinterest boards. Her style marries the classiness of her sister and the coolness of her cousin; she'll wear a mini skirt, sure, but she'll pair it with a more casual top, dressing down the look. I love the look below; a plaid mini skirt screams 90s to me, especially with its reign over the costuming in Clueless, but it shows this perfect balance of Hillary and Will's styles. The plaid mini skirt and knee socks seem preppy and put-together like Hillary (not to mention the 90s blowout), but the crop top feels more streetwear like Will. It dresses down the entire outfit, but it also reminds the audience that Ashley's style is bound to be more casual, since she's the youngest of the cast.

Denim plays a major part in Ashley's style too. When the show starts, Ashley is a child, and as she becomes a teenager, Will's involvement in her life is reflective in her wardrobe. The rest of the Banks family rarely wear denim (off the top of my head, I can't remember a single instance of it, swapping jeans for trousers), but Ashley does, just like Will. She often uses denim to dress down a look, but below, she wears dungarees with a tight long-sleeved top, accessorising with chunky hoops, a flannel tied around her waist, and a matching scrunchie. It's simple, but it's effortless, and pure 90s fashion.

Get Ashley's look

Express your 90s fantasy with Ashley's mix of classy and cool. Pair a mini pencil skirt — extra points if it's plaid — and dress it down with a baggier top, like a t-shirt, jumper, or even a blouse, but tied at the waist. Finish off with black leather boots or trainers, with a chunky white sock peeking out. And, of course, a chunky gold hoop, and a scrunchie to match.

Words by Piangfah Arnprakhon

(@piangfaharnprakhon on IG)

& Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)

Edited by Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)


bottom of page