From the Tube to Your Office: How TV Career Women Influence Real At-Work Style

The Good Wife
Photo: David M. Russell / CBS / courtesy everett collection

From the Tube to Your Office: How TV Career Women Influence Real At-Work Style

01 of 16

TV Career Women & Their Influence

TV Career Women & Their Influence
Courtesy Everett Collection

When The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on September 19, 1970, it was almost revolutionary: the first television series focused on an independent (read: unmarried) career girl. And Mary 's wardrobe was a little bit revolutionary too—working women across the country were quick to copy her colorful dresses and wide-legged pantsuits. To celebrate the iconic program's fortieth anniversary, InStyle takes a look back at the fashionable TV shows—and characters—that influenced women's at-work style.

That Girl
Ann Marie, played by Marlo Thomas, was an aspiring actress/model who worked temp jobs to pay the bills—but she had no shortage of adorable mod outfits. The powder-blue suit and white quilted purse she wears at left were the height of 1960s chic.

02 of 16

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Courtesy Everett Collection

Mary Richards lived in wintry Minneapolis and therefore had no shortage of cute cold-weather staples, including double-breasted coats, knee-high boots, and that famous blue tam. But it was her '70s work-wear that most women sought: colorful scarves, two-piece suits and bright, office-appropriate dresses.

03 of 16

Charlie's Angels

Charlie's Angels
Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

The original Angels (Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith) quit menial jobs at the LAPD in order to work as private investigators; as such, their "uniforms"—which consisted of printed dresses, knee-length skirts, blouses, and lots of wide-legged pants—were far more coveted by their audience than any rookie cop's would have been.

04 of 16

Dynasty

Dynasty
Aaron Spelling Prod. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Okay, so the Carrington women weren't exactly your typical 9-to-5ers. Nevertheless, the big-shouldered, wasp-waisted creations worn by oil mogul Alexis (Joan Collins) and her longtime rival Krystle (Linda Evans) were popular enough with fans that the show spawned a signature fashion line, The Dynasty Collection, which was designed by the show's costumer, Nolan Miller.

05 of 16

The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show
Courtesy Everett Collection

Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) embodied the 1980s concept of "having it all": She was a successful attorney in a happy marriage with five attractive, well-adjusted children. She was also quite fashionable: Professional women were quick to copy from her brightly colored blouses and soft, feminine suits.

06 of 16

Moonlighting

Moonlighting
Courtesy Everett Collection

Model-turned-actress Cybill Shepherd played model-turned-detective Maddie Hayes, opposite then-newcomer Bruce Willis. Women tuned in for the quick-witted dialogue (and crackling chemistry) but many found themselves envying Maddie's never-ending array of wide-shouldered pastel suits, blouses, skirts and dresses.

07 of 16

Designing Women

Designing Women
Courtesy Everett Collection

The ladies of Designing Women—Mary Jo (Annie Potts), Charlene (Jean Smart), Julia (Dixie Carter) and Suzanne (Delta Burke)—were a little like the Sex and the City girls: Each character had her own well-defined sense of style. But while former beauty queen Suzanne favored slightly more feminine flourishes (V-necks, peplums and bows) and no-nonsense Julia preferred a modern silhouette, these women did have at least one thing in common: a love of bold, bright colors.

08 of 16

Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown
Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

The titular character, as played by Candice Bergen, was a tough-talking investigative journalist with a penchant for colorful power suits—women loved her combination of glamour and utterly unshakable professional confidence.

09 of 16

Melrose Place

Melrose Place
Spelling Television/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

The original Melrose Place featured a dizzying number of interlinking plotlines, but our favorite was the one that pitted ingenue Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) against her demanding boss, Amanda (Heather Locklear). Neither was exactly a model of appropriate office behavior, but their mini-skirted suits inspired some working women to try a sharp new silhouette.

10 of 16

Friends

Friends
NBC/Newsmakers

The first trend set by this popular show is still the most famous: In 1994, women all over the country got "The Rachel," a layered shag hairstyle popularized by the actress Jennifer Aniston. But, as her character evolved from coffee waitress to fashion industry professional, she also adopted a quirky-chic style—as seen with the windowpane plaid pencil skirt at left—that fans were almost as eager to imitate as her hair.

11 of 16

Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal
20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising / Everett Collection

In 1998, shortly after the show's first season finale, Ally McBeal's disembodied head appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the putative answer to the question, "Is Feminism Dead?" Despite the conclusions reached by that article (is it really fair to compare a fictional character to activists and thinkers like Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem?), women do owe something to the flighty young lawyer played by Calista Flockhart: She almost singlehandedly made the workplace safe for bare legs, freeing us from the tyranny of mandatory pantyhose.

12 of 16

Sex and the City

Sex and the City
HBO/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

The amount of money that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a freelance writer, spent on shoes was so improbable that it eventually became a plot point; her clothes only got more prohibitively expensive as the show went on. Still, though, Sex and the City had an enormous impact on regular women's style: Aside from all of those quickly copied (and forgotten) nameplate necklaces and oversized faux corsages, the ladies' willingness to play with fashion inspired legions.

13 of 16

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty
ABC/PATRICK HARBRON

Copying this look full-stop wasn't exactly an option—if there's one thing that can be said about Betty (America Ferrera), it's that she's an original. But many found inspiration in the character's flair for mixing prints and piling on bold colors; she was herself, which freed fans to be themselves, too.

14 of 16

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty
ABC/VIVIAN ZINK

Meanwhile, Ugly Betty's other characters, most of whom worked with her at a fashion magazine, were more conventionally stylish: Scheming Wilhelmina (played by Vanessa L. Williams) was almost cartoonishly glamorous in her sheath dresses and slim-fitting skirts.

15 of 16

Mad Men

Mad Men
AMC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

It's set in the early 1960s, but the best ensembles on Mad Men—for example, almost anything worn by Joan (Christina Hendricks)—would look chic, virtually unaltered, in today's offices. In fact, the show has heavily influenced fashion in the four seasons it's been on the air: This fall's runways were dominated by richly colored dresses, circle skirts and camel coats, straight from the Mad Men era.

16 of 16

The Good Wife

The Good Wife
David M. Russell / CBS / courtesy everett collection

Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, the stay-at-home wife of a disgraced politician who's forced to return to her former law career in order to support her family. Her cool, conservative sheath dresses allow her to present an air of complete composure . . . even as the rest of her life spins out of control.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles