Did 9/11 influence ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ wardrobe design?

@Hamara/ShutterStock @exbottom/TikTok (Licensed)

‘Gotta balance out the witchcraft with patriotism’: Did 9/11 influence ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ wardrobe design?

'You kinda had to be there. And by "there" I mean Old Navy.'

 

Eric Webb

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Posted on Feb 7, 2024   Updated on Feb 7, 2024, 11:45 am CST

For one brief window of time, the worlds of witchcraft and flag-waving patriotism converged on American television.

TikTok creator @exbottom last month went viral for a video that pointed out conspicuous wardrobe choices on season 6 of the sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which aired in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The show starred Melissa Joan Hart as the titular spellcaster and ran for seven seasons from 1996 to 2003, first on ABC and then on the WB.

The video has 2.6 million views and about 387,000 likes.

“Pov you’re watching sabrina the teenage witch season 6 which aired after/was shot at the time of 9/11,” the text overlay on the video reads.

In a supercut of clips from the show set to “It Girl” by Aaliyah’s Interlude, viewers see Sabrina appear in nonstop red, white, and/or blue outfits. The fashions range from the subtle—a red top here, an American flag pin there—to the flamboyant, like several loudly patterned stars-and-stripes shirts. 

Even the supporting cast got into the act. Characters Roxie (Soleil Moon Frye), Morgan (Elisa Donovan), and Miles (Trevor Lissauer) are also seen in patriotic-themed clothes. Even iconic Aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick) were proud to be Americans that season, though most of their wardrobe shown consists of tastefully coordinated red and blue clothes.

The creator wrote in the caption, “they had the wardrobe team doing nationalism overtime ! (season 6 aired oct 2001-may 2002 and if i’m correct every single episode starting at episode 2 had some variation of a USA themed/juxtaposed fit).” That timeframe is right, according to IMDb.

@exbottom

they had the wardrobe team doing nationalism overtime ! (season 6 aired oct 2001-may 2002 and if i’m correct every single episode starting at episode 2 had some variation of a USA themed/juxtaposed fit) 🦅🇺🇸👯‍♀️🏙️

♬ IT GIRL (Sped up Version) – Aliyah's Interlude

“Producers were NOT getting cancelled,” one commenter wrote. When some tried to respond that “cancel culture” wasn’t a thing in 2001, another viewer replied, “We canceled French fries because France didn’t want to invade Iraq.”

“Sabrina the teenage patriot,” a viewer quipped.

“Gotta balance out the witchcraft with patriotism,” another person wrote.

“Okay but I’m watching season 8 of friends rn and the flags just keep popping up lmao,” a viewer added.

One commenter wrote, “ive watched this show all the way through TWICE and never realized wow.” Another commenter wrote, “I didn’t even notice when I watched because this was normal.” Someone else commented, “I was just talking about how media and pop culture directly after 9/11 is so noticeable and interesting to see.”

Anyone who was around in the era immediately post-9/11 remembers the ubiquity of flags and flag-themed clothing and merchandise. A 2021 article from Vox pegged it to a rise in “consumer patriotism” encouraged by the White House itself and pressuring brands to associate themselves with patriotic sentiment. “There was a boom of US-themed goods as corporations realized they could channel the country’s desire to express patriotism into profits,” according to Vox. 

“You kinda had to be there. And by ‘there’ I mean Old Navy,” a commenter on @exbottom’s TikTok wrote, referencing the retailer’s iconic July 4 flag shirts, which actually launched in 1994, according to Fashionista.

“We all dressed like this too. The mall was full of shirts exactly like this. Bedazzled American flag crop tops at Wet Seal,” another comment read.

So, it would be a safe assumption that the wardrobe department of Sabrina the Teenage Witch was signaling support for the U.S.A. after a national tragedy, because everyone else was doing it, too—including other TV shows and movies, according to Vox. But we have actual confirmation about Sabrina, straight from the cauldron.

In a Facebook memorial post written on the anniversary of the attacks in 2017, Hart said, “If you watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch and see me wearing an American flag on my neck, shirt, belt, etc, you know that was after 9/11 in 2001/2002!” The actress has been vocal in the past about properly memorializing 9/11, too.

The Daily Dot reached out from further comment from @exbottom via TikTok and Hartbreak Films, Hart’s production company that produced Sabrina, via email. 

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2024, 7:00 am CST