Everything we know about fashion, we learned from our TV mothers
Television opponents like to accuse parents of letting the boob tube raise their children. I gotta say—what’s wrong with that? For decades now, TV has been home to some effective mothers, from the lax and laid back to the strict and tough, with the wardrobes to match.
In deciding to profile some of the most stylish TV moms, we didn’t, of course, imagine this to be a comprehensive list—just a picking of some of our staff’s particular favourites. Want to gush about Jane Jetson or Peggy Bundy? Tell us in the comments. But first, sit down, read what we have to say, and don’t forget to eat your vegetables.
1 > Roseanne Conner from Roseanne (1988-1997)
Although comedian Roseanne Barr succeeded in turning her “Domestic Goddess” standup routine into a half-hour sitcom, the look of her character on Roseanne was anything but divine. Sweaters, simple button-downs and jeans made up Roseanne Conner’s wardrobe—that is when she wasn’t wearing her retro-kitsch waitress uniform.
The costumes were a way for the show to reflect the everyday authenticity of Lanford, Illinois. Roseanne battled with the wardrobe master over pricey clothes which made her “look like a show pony rather than a working-class mom.” As she wrote in New York Magazine, “I wanted vintage plaid shirts, t-shirts, and jeans, not purple stretch pants with green-and-blue smocks.”
The wardrobe master admitted that head office instructed her to ignore what the star wanted to wear because they did not approve of how Roseanne was portraying the character (despite the fact that the character was obviously based on herself). While not a trendsetter, Roseanne deserves credit for sticking to her guns and bringing some realness to ‘Must See TV.’ WORN celebrates Roseanne for wearing what she wanted, even if we never found out what the deal was with that ubiquitous chicken shirt. // Max Mosher
2 > Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
As a kid (and, okay, kind of recently) we’ve spent many a sick day watching re-runs of The Cosby Show and wondering how one family could be so sartorially spot-on. Mr. Huxtable had his iconic sweaters, and Denise—well, Denise’s style was clearly not dreamt up by mere mortals. But the one family member who is most deserving of our nail art-embellished and bracelet-jangling applause is Mama Huxtable (Phylicia Rashād) herself—er, let’s just call her Clair.
Clair was a hard-ass, capital ‘M’ Mom (and lawyer) who could make you clean your room whether you liked it or not—and she’d wear a pile of jewels and a brightly coloured onesie while she did it. Then she would throw a matching apron over top and whip up a roast dinner without scuffing even one of her immaculately manicured nails. Even when she was working in the garden, Mama Hux was put together; she pulled weeds with style in oversized dungarees, a plaid shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and a straw hat.
It’s impossible to pick a favourite of Clair’s outfits, but a recurring look she owned and we’ve always envied was the oversized blouse and skinny trouser combo; there were usually shoulder-pads involved, and there was always a carefully selected set of jewelry on top, with the occasional belt to pull it all together. Mrs. Huxtable’s knack for style is simply undeniable. // Stephanie Fereiro
3 > Vivian Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Two actresses may have played Aunt Viv in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but it was the original who was the most memorable. Janet Hubert played matriarch of the mansion from seasons one to three. She was spunky, stylish, and a rare sight as one of the few dark-skinned, black women on TV.
Will Smith’s dayglo tanks were no match for original Aunt Viv who stole scenes with her classy, luxurious style. The sitcom mom was rarely seen without a piece of gold jewelry. She wore suits that were masterfully tailored and jumpsuits that cinched at the waist. Her nails were always manicured, her hair always full. Even when she was cuddling in bed with Uncle Phil (that’s her husband, Will’s uncle), the woman always looked beautiful. Producers eventually fired Hubert over contract riffs, replacing her with Daphne Reed from seasons four onward. And Aunt Viv was never the same. Her wardrobe wasn’t as fly, she wasn’t as forthright, and she probably couldn’t pull off this dance in a pink unitard. // Mai Nguyen
4 > Morticia Addams from The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Morticia Addams is the spooky mama of the Addams Family; played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s sitcom that paired creepy, gothic sensibilities with a sense of humour. Morticia (the Frenchies amongst you will recognize the word “mort” means “death”) is the ultimate domestic housewife with a demented twist. Her dark yet refined look was a fixture of the show, and she is considered a style icon for classy goths both inside and out of the fashion world.
Morticia was never seen without her cascade of sleek, black hair, cat-eye make-up and clingy, floor-length black gown. She ruled her household with cool (yet perfectly manicured) hand, in contrast to her excitable husband Gomez, who could barely contain his sexual attraction to her. Morticia’s trademark style oozed glamour, and was somewhere between a silent movie star and a grim funeral-goer. // Isabel Slone
5 > Florida Evans from Good Times (1974-1979)
Florida Evans, played by actress Esther Rolle, was the lead character and fiery mother of three in Good Times. The series followed the Evans family and their lives spent in a housing project in a poor, inner-city Chicago neighbourhood. While working class families had been shown on television before, depicting the lives of black characters living in such impoverished conditions was a breakthrough in the genre.
So what’s a ’70s housewife in the projects to wear? Polyester, and lots of it. Florida’s outfits may have been tame compared to the funky wardrobes of her children, but she still had mad style. Her most memorable looks had her dressed in head to toe orange—just as fresh and bright as the fruit. Though this might be a clever comment about the state that Florida shares her name with, perhaps the choice was just a compliment to the autumn hues of the Evans’ ’70s living room. Dressed for a wedding in her “JC Penney Original”—a vibrant orange dress complete with matching bakelite necklace—Florida declares that her outfit for this uptown occasion is a little tight downtown. Like a good mother should—ain’t we lucky we got em!—Florida speaks the truth. // Jenna Danchuk
6 > Marge Simpson from The Simpsons (1989-present)
Marge Simpson has become so ingrained in pop culture as one fifth of the most iconic animated family, her style has become taken for granted. Sure, one could argue that she’s meant to represent the typical housewife (though what does that mean, really?) but quick—how many small town stay-at-home moms do you know who rock a green strapless dress, orange pearls, and a bright blue Bride of Frankenstein-style beehive? A mother of three, she understands the value of clothes to the extent that she can stop a counterfeit jean ring operating out of her car hole by recognizing their faulty stitching.
Marge is never more conscious of clothing than in the episode “Scenes from a Class Struggle in Springfield.” After rationalizing the purchase of a dramatically discounted Chanel suit (“It’ll be good for the economy”) she gets invited to a country club inhabited by Springfield’s elite. Marge desperately wants to be accepted by this new crowd, for whom living on a budget and meatloaf do not exist. It’s a world that the always resourceful Marge doesn’t understand, but nonetheless runs her sewing machine ragged trying to get the maximum mileage out of her Chanel suit. Eventually she learns that clothes are just textiles, capable of getting destroyed with the wrong amount of pressure on her sewing machine pedal, and that while they reveal a lot, they can never truly compensate for one’s values. Plus, let’s be real—her hairdo is way more chic than anything the women at the country club were sporting. // Anna Fitzpatrick
7 > Betty Draper from Mad Men (2007-present)
Ice-cold blue eyes shoot daggers through cat-eyed sunglasses, while fitted waists and full skirts cause children (even her own) to run in the other direction. January Jones as Betty Draper, or Francis rather—if we are able to picture her outside the golden era of her and Don and that blue velveteen headboard—is the ultimate in ’50s housewife style. If Grace Kelly put on an apron and went to therapy, she would be Betty. Never a blonde strand out of place or a smudged rouge pout—even while in a nighty, shooting the neighbour’s pesky pigeons.
To the world outside her suburban windows she is perfect. Her anxiety cramped hands hide in white day gloves, and as an audience we rarely see her looking dishevelled. Even sulking in polka dotted chiffon, she still manages to look way more put together than I would after a marathon Kleenex fest. For the most part, however, Betty’s costume is just that. A suit of tafetta armour, protecting the ideal she upholds.
And while the fashion thirsty Mad Men watchers in the past few seasons may have—like Don—found a new muse that’s more their cup of Scotch (cough, Megan), I would urge you not to overlook some of Betty’s sartorial adventures that prove she’s not just a cookie cutter gingham clad housewife. Remember when she recalled the story of being a muse to an Italian designer and pulled out that racy silk romper from the back of her closet? Or the time she bought that yellow bikini from the auction and confronted Don about wearing it outside (Hi, Feminism!…That is until he shamed her out of wearing it by saying she looked ‘cheap’—not cool, Draper). And, ummm, hello, this hair!? // Casie Brown
8 > Jo McGuire from Lizzie McGuire (2001-2004)
Lizzie McGuire was always one of the coolest 13-year-olds who managed to rock some the most flamboyant outfits the Disney Channel ever did see (your move, Hannah Montana). Her mom, Jo McGuire, on the other hand, was much plainer and often deemed by Lizzie as uncool. And yet, Mrs. McGuire was awesome—her look was former-hippie-turned-soccer-mom, who although plain, never lost her quirky flair. Jo’s hair was always in a simple yet complex up-do that even sometimes supported bright bandanas intricately laced. She also seemed to have a cardigan in every colour imaginable, and wore poignant thick rimmed glasses before they were the hip, go-to accessory. Still, what especially put Jo McGuire within the high ranks of super cool moms was the fact that she took Lizzie bra shopping with an enthusiasm and active motherly support that isn’t so common on television. She helped send a body-positive message to young girls wherein lingerie was seen as a part of growing up and womanly empowerment instead of a tool for male seduction with voyeuristic connotations too often seen in teenage dramas. // Paulina Kulacz
image compilation // Zoe Vos