Fashion & Beauty

Mary Tyler Moore: A Woman of Style & Substance

The woman of the 1970s — the height of the feminist movement — was the woman of reinvention. That reinvention was displayed prominently in the fashion of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which ran from 1970 to 1977 and ushered in a new depiction of American womanhood. Moore’s character,  producer “Mary Richards” who navigated her way through the newsroom for “The Six O’Clock News,” was a believer in dress for success with ensembles that ultimately solidified her as television’s first single, independent workingwoman. Penelope Green of The New York Times recapped how the show was a beautiful example of art imitating life:

There was a cultural sweet spot in the 1970s, as the old social mores unraveled and women flexed new muscles as working women, divorced women, women committed to the single life, newly conscious women — to use the parlance of the second-wave feminist playbook — and fashion reflected the fluidity of that time.

Before Hillary Clinton made monochromatic pantsuits a trending topic on Twitter and the object of viral Saturday Night Live skits, Moore was making career moves and trailblazing her way through the newsroom in stylish trousers. Of those trousers and pantsuits, Brooke Bobb of Vogue writes:

Whether it was a color-block suit or a pair of flared trousers, Moore made pants a thoroughly empowering uniform for the modern woman. The idea might not seem like such a big deal these days, but in a time when many are standing up to a White House full of grumpy old men, the phase “wearing the pants” has more meaning than ever.

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Of course, behind every stylish woman on television there is usually another trailblazing woman making it all happen. The show’s costume designer Leslie Hall was a driven woman who moved from Midwestern Chicago to Hollywood in the 1950s.  After numerous setbacks, she finally landed on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and secured top ’70s career-wear designer Evan Picone to permanently dress Moore’s character Mary Richards.

Author of Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All The Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show A Classic, Jennifer Keishan Armstrong told  The Hollywood Reporter this week that “Until [Mary’s] show, single women were often portrayed as sad, pathetic, or evil. And Mary’s personality was key here: She made singlehood glamorous, but in an accessible way: She was the woman we all wanted to be, instead of the woman we all felt sorry for. I would love for younger women to discover this show.

To catch a glimpse of more of Mary Tyler Moore’s trailblazing fashion, see The New York Times‘ compilation of “Five Great ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ Episodes to Stream.”

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  • APA January 27, 2017 at 8:55 am

    She defined what it means to be a strong woman in a time when that was an nheard of. My mother started dressing like her- probably her way of trying to get out of her stereotype ’70’s housewife role. Wish I had saved some of her clothes!

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