In praise of Joan Collins and her shoul­der-padded power moves on Dy­nasty.

Anya Ge­orgi­je­vic on the pro­found im­pact the TV show Dy­nasty still has on fash­ion—and on her.

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Anya Ge­orgi­je­vic

IN THE LATE 1980S, when I’d stay up way past my bed­time, Alexis Car­ring­ton waltzed into my life, de­mand­ing pres­ence as I’ve never seen a woman do on the small screen. The iconic Dy­nasty char­ac­ter, played by the in­com­pa­ra­ble Joan Collins, was a sight to be­hold, glid­ing through my tele­vi­sion in big-shoul­dered power suits, sump­tu­ous furs, over­sized hats and glis­ten­ing jew­els. She was my first fash­ion mem­ory, and her im­pact on me was pro­found. She wore her clothes like ar­mour—and she needed plenty of pro­tec­tion as a lone woman run­ning a bil­lion-dol­lar oil cor­po­ra­tion with an en­emy list that crossed oceans. When she spoke, it was with a posh Bri­tish ac­cent and per­fect dic­tion not un­like Princess Diana’s, ex­cept that Alexis could hiss her fa­mous put-downs with very un­la­dy­like de­light. She was tele­vi­sion’s first bitch, and she was en­tirely un­apolo­getic about it.

“I have a rep­u­ta­tion that is un­pre­dictable, de­vi­ous and ma­nip­u­la­tive,” she de­clared on one oc­ca­sion. “I cher­ish that rep­u­ta­tion be­cause it keeps my en­e­mies off guard.” Her en­emy num­ber one was ex-hus­band Blake (John Forsythe), a sil­ver-haired oil ty­coon who had re­cently mar­ried a stat­uesque blonde—Krys­tle (Linda Evans)—with the per­son­al­ity of a card­board cut-out. Alexis’ only weak­ness was that she was still in love with Blake, and since she could no longer have him, the next best thing was to de­stroy him. She did so by mar­ry­ing his even wealth­ier oil-ty­coon ri­val (who con­ve­niently dropped dead min­utes after the wed­ding) and then launch­ing a cor­po­rate war against Blake’s com­pany.

Although I’d been on earth for less than a decade, I un­der­stood that the business world was not stacked in women’s favour. Alexis didn’t lean in; she bull­dozed through the glass ceil­ing. In an iconic scene, she marches into the Car­ring­ton man­sion, in a sparkly white dress, no less, and an­nounces her takeover of Blake’s es­tate: “Take this junk, and your blond tramp, and get out of my home!” De­spite her im­moral­ity, I couldn’t help but root for her. Alexis

was TV’s first fe­male anti-hero. She was the Car­rie Brad­shaw of the ’80s, but bitchy, and she opened doors for am­bi­tious mean girls like Blair Wal­dorf ( Gos­sip Girl), Claire Un­der­wood ( House of Cards), Cookie Lyon ( Em­pire) and even Cer­sei Lan­nis­ter ( Game of Thrones).

Set in Den­ver dur­ing the oil boom, Dy­nasty was a show about the 1 per­cent, and it ran for the en­tirety of Ron­ald Rea­gan’s pres­i­dency, from 1981 to 1989 (not a co­in­ci­dence). The Car­ring­tons lived in sprawl­ing man­sions and ate caviar as if it were jam. “For many Amer­i­cans, watch­ing Dy­nasty felt like hav­ing an in­ti­mate view of the lives of the hy­per-rich,” says fash­ion writer and his­to­rian Laura McLaws Helms. “[Se­ries co-cre­ator] Es­ther Shapiro re­al­ized that they wanted this type of life badly enough that they would be open to pur­chas­ing their way into it—and the Dy­nasty li­cens­ing em­pire was born.”

But it was re­ally the fash­ion that made the fan­tasy come alive. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Aaron Spell­ing’s finest hir­ing de­ci­sion—after Collins, of course—was cos­tume de­signer Nolan Miller, who had pre­vi­ously worked on another Spell­ing ve­hi­cle, Char­lie’s An­gels. Miller was given a weekly wardrobe bud­get of US$35,000 (which is equiv­a­lent to close to a stag­ger­ing $ 104,000 to­day!), about a third of which went to­ward out­fit­ting Alexis. He cre­ated more than 3,000 out­fits over the course of the se­ries, with more than 700 for Alexis alone. “Dy­nasty re­ally put Miller on the map,” says Mered­ith Mark­worthPol­lack, cos­tume de­signer on The CW’s new Dy­nasty re­boot. “[The im­pact] was so sig­nif­i­cant that peo­ple wanted to look like Linda Evans and Joan Collins.”

The show launched a se­ries of li­cens­ing deals that in­cluded cloth­ing, lin­gerie, hand­bags, shoes, cos­tume jewellery and fra­grance. “It was the first tele­vi­sion mer­chan­dis­ing tar­geted at the up­per mid­dle class, yet it was avail­able to any­one who wanted to buy into a lit­tle Car­ring­ton magic,” says Helms. “While no other TV se­ries has quite em­u­lated the breadth and di­ver­sity of Dy­nasty’s li­cens­ing, the se­ries changed the way net­works and stu­dios un­der­stood and ex­ploited their prod­ucts.” The show very much es­tab­lished the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween tele­vi­sion and fash­ion that we now take for granted.

My mom’s closet was noth­ing like the women’s on the show, but I would still rum­mage through shoul­der-padded blouses and fur hats to play Alexis dres­sup. I’d wrap silk scarves into a tur­ban, dec­o­rate it with brooches and then sashay over to the mir­ror and say, “Get out of my sight, you mis­er­able has-been.”

The show’s fash­ion legacy con­tin­ues to­day. “The taste for large shoul­der pads and se­quined gowns has evolved and adapted to var­i­ous styles since then, yet any­time they show up on the cat­walks, a com­par­i­son to Dy­nasty is in­evitable,” says Helms. With the rise of third-wave fem­i­nism, fash­ion has taken an ac­tive role in fe­male em­pow­er­ment, once again look­ing to the decade that de­fined power dress­ing. “I think the ’80s, in gen­eral, are hav­ing this re­vival in fash­ion, which has been re­ally help­ful for me—it’s made my job a lot eas­ier,” says Mark­worth-Pol­lack, who took on the dif­fi­cult task of trans­lat­ing the orig­i­nal Dy­nasty look for to­day.

The new cos­tumes are mostly sourced off the rack, with glam pieces from Bal­main, Gucci and Alexan­dre Vau­thier for the char­ac­ter of Fal­lon Car­ring­ton (El­iz­a­beth Gil­lies) and softer shapes from Stella McCart­ney, Juan Car­los Obando and Jo­hanna Or­tiz for Cristal (Nathalie Kel­ley), a Latina ver­sion of Krys­tle. My beloved Alexis has yet to make an ap­pear­ance. She is to be in­tro­duced later in the sea­son, and the net­work has not an­nounced which ac­tress will be tak­ing on the iconic role.

Who­ever she is, she has some wicked size 7 stilet­tos to fill. I’ll be watch­ing, of course, to see how she fares in to­day’s world. I’ve man­aged just fine thanks, in part, to her. When I was a painfully shy child, Alexis taught me how to dis­cover my in­ner bitch, a char­ac­ter that has proven use­ful in nu­mer­ous sit­u­a­tions when be­ing nice was no longer suf­fi­cient. She showed me how to use fash­ion to com­pen­sate for my in­tro­vert traits and how to claim space by de­mand­ing pres­ence through cloth­ing. My closet is filled with vol­ume—sculp­tural blouses, co­coon-style jack­ets, fur stoles and, yes, padded shoul­ders—adding drama to my rather or­di­nary five-foot-five-inch frame. I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated enough gold and sil­ver footwear to take me through all four sea­sons, enough sparkly cos­tume jewellery to send a light sig­nal into space and a pile of red lip­sticks large enough to last me a life­time. When­ever I’m in­tim­i­dated by my sur­round­ings, or afraid to speak my mind, my clothes be­come my ar­mour—just as they were hers. n

Alexis Car­ring­ton, TV’s best bitch

Alexis’ ri­val Krys­tle

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