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