Fran Fine’s Moschino & other crazy 90s fashion in THE NANNY

When The Nanny wrapped up 15 years ago, it left behind some pretty big stilettos to fill in the costume department.

I’ve been watching lots of reruns of The Nanny lately… wait, wait, just hear me out.

I always knew that Fran Fine’s outfits were pretty out there. Obviously. You cannot think back on that show without remembering all of her costume essentials. The crazy colour! Huge hair! Wigs! Sequins! Leopard print! Feathers! Often all at once!

What I never realised until recently was how nostalgic I would get watching that crazy styling all over again, because at the time it used to really irritate me to be honest.

Back then, I was really only interested in Fran’s funny scenes with Niles or hurling things at Mr Sheffield’s head until he told Fran he loved her again. Brighton usually had some cracking oneliners too. (Tell me, what the heck ever happened to that kid? He didn’t even stick around for B-grade telemovies, just totally disappeared.)

All those outrageous head-to-toe prints, the go-go boots, the dresses made out of ridiculous household items, what have you… I seriously used to wish Fran could just tone. It. Down. For. Once.

I mean come on. It was the 90s, grunge was what we were into back then, and no one loved grunge more than me. (Minimal effort and messy hair? Sign me up.)

But this is what I now know. In the same way we came to consider Manhattan the fifth lady on Sex and the City, Fran Fine’s larger than life image (dubbed Funny Girl meets The Sound of Music by one critic at the time) had a life-force all of its own on that show.

 

The Nanny fashion, outfits, clothes and costume design

 

“We use a lot of Moschino and Todd Oldham because they have a sense of humor,” The Nanny‘s costume designer Brenda Cooper told the LA Times in 1994 of turning actress Fran Drescher into Fran Fine.

Well that explains it. I never knew that at the time – we are talking 20 years ago now – but of course it makes perfect sense. Moschino in particular has always infused a spirit of fun into its collections. (Remember when couture queen Anna Dello Russo stepped out in a McDonald’s-inspired dress with matching purse earlier this year? Moschino.)

But it wasn’t all Moschino (especially the Cheap and Chic range) because NO ONE did the high-low dance like Fran. While The Nanny‘s costume designer says it was actually Todd Oldham’s early 90s designs that inspired the whole Nanny character for them, other favourites of the size 2-4 Drescher included Dolce & Gabbana, Norma Kamali, and everything from Neiman Marcus to Loehman’s, K-Mart, thrift stores and garage sales.

 

The Nanny fashion, outfits, clothes and costume design

 

The Nanny fashion, outfits, clothes and costume design

 

You might not remember the story but you remember those outfits… which were styled with all the flair of one of Maxwell Sheffield’s Broadway productions.

As the LA Times put it:

The prototypal “Nanny” suit consists of a bright Moschino jacket (from the Cheap and Chic collection) worn over a black spandex, mock turtleneck top and black spandex miniskirt. And always, always, sexy high heels. The original “Nanny” shoe was a 4 1/2-inch pump by Charles Jourdan. Then Cooper found copies at J.C. Penney for $50 a pair. She bought all the shoes the store had in Drescher’s size and, each episode, she dyes them to match.

As the series progressed, Fran Fine’s look evolved in keeping with her character’s journey. After several years of living with the Sheffield family on Park Avenue in Manhattan, Fran’s once frizzy hair started smoothing out with bouffants, longer hair pieces and short wigs (often teamed with a headband to keep in place), while the eyebrows thinned considerably and the waistline shrunk even more.

Fran slowly shed her Single Jewish Girl From Queens Living With Her Parents skin and made the transition to Confident 30-Something Single Woman Raising Three Children Who Isn’t Going to Take Crap From Anyone (Especially A Man Who Told Her He Loved Her And Took It Back). She started to ooze more… I say it hesitantly…. sophistication.

 

The Nanny fashion, outfits, clothes and costume design

 

The daring outfits, while still sexy, started to have less of a nightclub feel and became ever so slightly more mature, as befitting a woman in her thirties. By that I mean, less mini-dresses and more mini-suits. Yet while most 30-somethings I know are covering up their midriff, Fran’s abs somehow started clocking up more air time than ever before.

Doesn’t matter. Whichever version of the Flashy Girl from Flushing you preferred, there is unfortunately nothing like her on television anymore.

I suppose one could argue that Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City was a 2000s couture version of Fran Fine, where costume designer Patricia Field clearly had a ball with her styling (think flower lapels the size of basketballs, mens white shirts as mini-dresses and bloomers as pants teamed with knee high socks).

But where is the crazy fashionista of 2010s?

Sure we’ve got our fabulous Jessica Pearsons, Nina Proudmans, Rachel Zanes and Olivia Popes, but where is the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan?

Until we find a new one, I’ll stick to my reruns.

 

The Nanny fashion, outfits, clothes and costume design

the author

Marie C

Feature writer by trade, movie maniac by night, Marie-Christine grew up watching films from the projection booth at the local drive-in and now she's lucky enough to write about them.

17 comments

  1. i’m sorry but do not compare the carrie bradshaw character to fran fine. don’t. just do not. i saw both and fran fine is ahead by miles. carrie looked like a grown toddler who couldn’t dress herself, more often than not. fran was always put together. i don’t recall an epi where i was disappointed with a fran fine outfit… i recall many an epi where a carrie outfit made me think “what…the…”… now, to be fair, charolette, you can put her up against fran fine and she’ll have a footing. her clothes never disappointed. fran fine was a crazy more fun version of her (on the clothing front anyhow.)

    1. Haha, Charlotte is a great comparison! Just a more conservative version, but still perfect ensembles every time. I know, I know, Carrie’s styling was far more left field, but in terms of the level of fashion interest in what she was wearing, both women stand out to me for their time. Not sure who I would put in their place now – Olivia Pope I guess? Or any of the gals from Suits? Except all of the above wear more workwear than freestyling so hmmm… anyone else got a tv style standout for this decade?

    2. I agree with Christina,

      Fran Fines outfits were a bit cooky but she and only she could pull them off. Doesn’t hurt that she had a great body that a bag would look good on.
      I still love to see the old episodes and miss her on “Happily Divorced”.

  2. First it’s Patricia Fields not Fieldings LOL. The Nanny and Sex and The City were two totally different shows with different feels, different creative teams behind it. Fran Drescher dresses were part of the comedy, while in Sex and The City the garments reflected the characters personalities and trends of the late 90s (the time when The Nanny was ending). Push tongue-in-cheek humorous outfits or even avant-garde looks in today shows are hard, because you need not only a show that lend of it but that it makes sense within the plot. We don’t have shows that can justify that kind of fashion, recreate a show in the lines of Sex and The City it’s really a tough act to follow in trying to avoid copy-cat the style of it. Until producers come up with something like that, we can enjoy more of that kind of fashion through movies such as Devil Wears Prada (what a delight).

    1. Francisco thank you for pointing out my typo! I’ve just amended it in the text, I am going to blame the autocorrect for that one and my lack of picking it up 🙂 You are completely right, the show needs to make sense to have those kind of looks in the plot and there just doesn’t seem to be anything like it at the moment. So yes, perhaps the magical world of movies is the only place for it right now?

    2. actually frans clothes really didn’t fit in with the character she was playing. a nanny that dresses like that? especially with the salary that she would have made. she made a lot of jokes about how low her pay was. yes the clothes were a big part of the comedy. how can you forget the suit that looked like woodgrain?

      1. Very true Fran! The clothes were definitely a big part of the comedy. I think in the later seasons Mr Sheffield would buy her things, but definitely in the early days she was always talking with Val about shopping at sales and getting things half off 🙂

  3. Fran’s outfits were always on point!They complimented the show’s aesthetic and the Sheffields’ outfits in the most daring way!

  4. The most recent show I can think of that would kind of fit the sense of fun and fashion, although may seem an odd choice, is Ugly Betty. Although, generally the joke was that she was unfashionable, there was definitely a lot of attention, fun, and color in Betty’s wardrobe, and also the similar toning down over the seasons as in The Nanny. Kind of like the anti-Nanny haha.

  5. Where is the crazy fashionista of the 2010s? Rosewood, PA. Pretty Little Liars’ costume designer Mandi Line is absolutely amazing, and Aria Montgomery is probably as close to Fran Fine as we’re ever gonna get though her style has tamed down a little. But still.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Erin! I must confess, I haven’t watched too much PLL because I thought it might be a little young for me (shows like The Nanny and SATC definitely had an older core audience) so maybe it’s time I checked it out 🙂

  6. I’m laying on my bed at 1am actually watching reruns of The Nanny. I loved that show when it was on TV. I thought it was great! I b hated it when the show went off. Her clothes were phenomenal. She made her own fashion statement. I loved the outfit with the piano keys printed on the skirt. I was never able to find anything even close to it. Great outfit!

  7. Very interesting article, I have also been dying to know where her outfits were from and assumed most of them were made just for her because of how unusual they were…Please I would love to know how you got to know about this:

    ‘While The Nanny‘s costume designer says it was actually Todd Oldham’s early 90s designs that inspired the whole Nanny character for them, other favourites of the size 2-4 Drescher included Dolce & Gabbana, Norma Kamali, and everything from Neiman Marcus to Loehman’s, K-Mart, thrift stores and garage sales.’

    So Brenda Cooper mentioned that I guess. But where have you read this? What is it in an interview, or in book or something ? I have bought Fran’s first book “Enter Whining’ with the hope to find more about the clothing on the set but unfortunately there was no information in it.

    Thank you 🙂

  8. I too love Fran’s wardrobe and as much as I love the show I think I re-watch the show over and over to see her wardrobe. I also have SITC DVD’s and re-watch over and over. I agree Charlotte was closer to Fran’s style but being a little off beat myself I loved Carrie’s free style. But then again Fran’s brick pant suit was quite quirky. My favs were the black and white outfits with the black and white boots. There’s a website called “What Fran Wore” the author has tracked down many of the designers for her wardrobe. I liked HIC and really wish that show had gone on. I truly believe they could have done well even though Betty White wanted to retire. As much as I love Betty I actually didn’t care much for her part on the show.

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