Dynasty dressing is back, dahlings! Fashionistas sneered for years at those over-the-top shoulder pads. How delicious, says JOAN COLLINS, to see Alexis’s style on the High Street..
Joan Crawford was never seen without them. Nor, for that matter, was the elegant Greer Garson. Even Ingrid Bergman, who made them look demure and lady-like in Casablanca, loved them.
During World War II, every woman wore a pair, even underneath their everyday outfits. I’m talking, of course, about shoulder pads.
For years, fashionistas and glossy magazines have been turning up their noses at a style that has been one of history’s most flattering and feminine. I’ve no idea why.
After all, wide shoulders accentuate the waist and hips and give a marvellously sleek silhouette. Those early screen idols knew that all too well, and their images remain iconic and timeless.
Alexis (Top left) stole the show in a glorious violet blazer. Fall back in love with shoulder pads for that flattering, feminine shape. Blazer, £21, dorothyperkins.com; Suede belt, £59, hobbs.co.uk; Skirt, £235, Paule Ka at stylebop.com
Alexis wore this fuchsia satin dress while making a martini in a 1984 episode. (Bottom Left) It’s so very Dynasty. Dress, £20, boohoo.com; Necklace, £15, marks andspencer.com
So I’m delighted that many twalks and High Street stores are a glorious riot of power dressing. Brace yourself, ladies. Dynasty fashion is back.
For me, of course, it never went away. I will always remember the time when, in the early Eighties, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin sent their models down the runway in dresses and jackets with huge, padded shoulders and massive, billowing sleeves. Suddenly the fashion world sat up and took notice. And so did I.
I had just started shooting a rather unsuccessful series on ABC called Dynasty. It was way down in the ratings and about to be cancelled. According to my agent, this would be a six-week gig — ‘but, maybe, if ratings pick up, you might get six months out of it’.
So off I flew to LA with a new Saint Laurent tuxedo jacket in my suitcase, plus my usual excess baggage.
At my first fitting for the then relatively minor role of Alexis Morell Carrington, the stylist showed me some neat little suits with June Allyson collars, some silk shirts (like the ones worn on Charlie’s Angels) and a couple of boring faux-Chanel tweeds.
‘These aren’t right for this character,’ I insisted. ‘She’s a sophisticate, a jet-setter. She wants to become powerful. She needs to wear haute couture and gloves, veils, hats and shoulder pads.’
A sharp yet feminine style (top Left) — just tone down the lapels. Blazer, £30, riverisland.com; Shirt, £153.61, shopbop.com; Skirt, £99, hob
A structured silhouette is a classic Dynasty look (Bottom Left), and the ruffles add extra drama. Dress, £55, riverisland.com; Earrings, £8, asda.com
Reluctantly, the stylist called in Nolan Miller, super designer to the stars. When I showed him my YSL jacket he was totally enthusiastic, particularly about the shoulder pads.
And so began a wonderful, decade-long collaboration between the talented Mr Miller and I. We agreed on everything — Alexis and Nolan adored sequins, cleavage, fur, gauntlet gloves, massive diamonds and hats; big ones or small ones, fur or lace, veiled or big-brimmed, berets and even pillboxes.
This soon became the Dynasty ‘look’, which also included big belts, small waists and stilettos. We loved thick, excessively embroidered jackets and coats, pencil skirts, strapless gowns and thigh-high boots. In fact, we loved everything that almost all designers are showing on the runways today.
And because audiences fell in love with this new look, Dynasty shot up in the ratings. In less than two years, it became the No 1 show on TV.
Was Alexis ahead of her time? Not at all. Actresses had been wearing these outfits since the first black-and-white films flickered on to the silver screen.
Think Jean Harlow in her slithery, white satin dress and feathered boas in Dinner At Eight; Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce; Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity; and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Alexis wore this timeless, floor-length, gold lame dress in 1982 (Top left), when it caught Bette Davis’s eye. Dress, £70, riverisland.com; Shoes, £29, kurtgeiger.com; Cuff, £29, hobbs.co.uk
This sequined silver bolero had shoulder pads to die for.(Bottom left) Team a modern version with a metallic skirt for maximum impact. Jacket,
It was from these iconic stars that Nolan and I drew our inspiration for Alexis, who, as she grew more powerful, eventually became Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan.
Some of our other influences were Princess Diana in the early days of her marriage to Prince Charles, and most of the couturiers of the Eighties, such as Herve Leger, Azzedine Alaia, Christian Lacroix and Versace. But it was those shoulder pads that seemed to define the decade.
Krystal (Linda Evans) and I often wore silk or satin knee-length dresses, cinched at the waist and with the obligatory padded shoulders. They were amazingly flattering and are still a staple of many a well-dressed woman’s wardrobe today.
So, too, are the big-shouldered jackets often featured by Balenciaga and Balmain and, of course, YSL, whose iconic tuxedo still reigns.
To be honest, most fashion recently has left me cold and almost certainly never would have featured on Dynasty. Striped socks and trainers worn with ball gowns, oversized, geometrically-structured pieces, clashing colours and jeans with holes — don’t get me started on those!
Whenever I see Theresa May in an above-the-knee, unconstructed frock looking overpowered by the men around her — all of whom are wearing suits with padded shoulders — I wish she would start wearing Alexis power suits, like Baroness Thatcher did. It would make a huge difference to her confidence.
I admit that after a few seasons, Dynasty fashion went overboard. Aaron Spelling, our producer, wanted Alexis to be the most powerful and stylish character. But when Diahann Carroll, who played my enemy Dominique Deveraux, came along, she demanded fur hats, diamonds and sumptuous ball gowns with massive sleeves.
The inevitable result was that my outfits became more outrageous and over-the-top. We should have signed some sort of non-proliferation treaty, because shoulder pads became weapons of mass distraction. When I crossed the line by wearing a suit with enormous padding and huge butterfly detail, Spelling barked: ‘Never wear that again. We want to see your f****** face!’
But it wasn’t all about shoulder pads. One of my favourite gowns was made of gold lame, draped and cinched, Grecian-style, at the waist, cut dangerously low in front and slit to the thigh. I wore it to the fabulous variety special Night Of 100 Stars in New York, where I shared a dressing room with, amongst others, the intimidating legend Bette Davis.
Sitting backstage, I became aware that Bette was staring at me. She drew deeply on her cigarette and then, blowing a blast of smoke in my face, said: ‘You almost have the dress on, m’dear.’
Yes, it was revealing, but it was also elegant, which is more than I can say for many of the outfits seen on the red carpet today.
‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ is what I should have said, though the credo of some celebs — flashing side-boob, bottoms and ever-climbing slits — seems to be closer to ‘the sky’s the limit’.
Some of us did flaunt it in the Dynasty years, but I still believe our fashions were flattering, stylish and most of all fun.
So bring out the shoulder pads — and unleash your inner Alexis!