Thanks for the add! Gros bisous :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mary or Rhoda?

I was watching Mary Poppins a couple weeks back when I noticed her scarf for the very first time - because I started knitting again recently. It looked so nice, and light, and fluffy that I really want to make one like this and I even found a pattern for it.
But the way my mind works, meant that now I look at everything that is knitted or crocheted on TV... and since these days I am captivated by the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I could not help but notice how much knitwear Rhoda wears. I am sure that there are plenty of patterns out there on the Internet, in case you want to knit or crochet one of these.

I have to once again admire the skill of the people who devise wardrobes on these shows in sync with the scriptwriters, as these are the details that do make the characters credible in a sitcom, and make the viewers identify with one character over another. 

One important thing in this credibility business, is that in this series, Mary and Rhoda get to wear the same outfits and accessories in the very same way a normal person would wear their own garments. For example Mary mixes and matches various items of clothing, even over several seasons - this amazing pastel shade tweed skirt with gold tassle belt for example.
The way Mary's wardrobe works is transparent and even faithful to the letter to what women's magazines tells us to do time and again, that is-own a few staple pieces and accessorize or make them work with replaceable items. Mary's wardrobe is built around the colour red. 

Below you see how Mary applies that rule with red and yellow. The yellow breaks the monotony of the all red outfits, and gives it that "spacy-cosmonauty" feel which was one of the style inspiration for couture in the 1960's and 1970's.

For an excellent article about the way the wardrobe was designed in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, read Fashioning Mary and Friends.
Let's do a test:
Is your favourite colour  : a) red, like Mary above or b) purple like Rhoda below?
or b) a poncho ?
Would you wear: a) a hermes-style scarf around your neck?
or b) a hippy silky scarf around your head?
Is your hair: a) neat and tidy 
or b) fashionably messy?
Would you rather wear: a) a sassy little dress like this one
or b) palazzo pants?
Deep down, we don't ask ourselves the question, simply because although we are unique, we do belong to certain types too. The strength of the Mary Tyler Moore Show is that it promotes different types of the "girl next door" - the classy one, and the trendy/stylish one.

I am definitely a Rhoda in all her failures and glories, and could never be a Mary, although my best friend would have been a blond Mary.
I am constantly surprised when looking up a popular subject such as sitcoms - whether it's Frasier or The Mary Tyler Moore Show - how few studies there are of these monsters of cultural ideology these things are, in order to judge to what extent sitcoms are really a canvas for us to hang our own constructs on... For example Rhoda's self image, and Mary's insecurities deserve a complete doctoral thesis as these themes are linked to so many issues which were, and are still crucial to women's identity.

But girls and boys, a much more difficult choice for you...
Are you ... a) a Lou grant?
or b) a Ted Baxter?
Until next time.... :-)


Becky said...

Excellent post, Dani!!
I adore Mary's style in the first four or five seasons...unfortunately toward the end, even though she looks groomed and smart, she goes a bit too 'beige' for my liking. Rhoda always maintained that boho will love 'Rhoda' the TV show. I wish we could watch all of these together - you and I look out for the same things and make the same observations. I agree that the set design and styling deserve a thesis/documentary of their own. Gotta LOVE the way that both Mary and Rhoda work their accessories with the scarves and the pendant/locket necklaces. I honestly just want to jump into the screen and be their friend.

Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl said...

I am the biggest Mary fan and have done several posts about her show. I have all the DVD's and watch them alot. I love the show and Mary's wardrobe. I am a "Mary" type, but Rhoda's character was great, too!

Stationary Explorer said...

Brilliant insight as always.

su said...

Pues yo la verdad, después de leer tu post me declaro fan de Mary, me gusta todo ese look, a excepción del pelo... yo soy rizosa jeje.
Me gustó mucho leerte.

Un abrazo.

Rebelde said...

Arriba los 70 ;)


fujisai said...

Sitcoms try to reflect the society at the time their aired, and wearings are a part of it.
Good reflection ideed.

Danièle said...

Thanks for the cool comments. I realise I left out an important aspect of this of course, and this is the fact that each character is also dressed not only according to her personality, but also according to her job. So, it is only natural that Mary should have a more formal look than Rhoda, since she she is an "associate producer", really a fancy name for PA, in this instance, and Rhoda needs looser clothes because she is a window dresser. So the task for the warrobe people is even more complex as they have to devise outfits for both "work", and "play" situation for us to believe in these characters.

Sew Country Chick said...

I wish we got Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda reruns here in the US. I love the set design too. It's such a microcosm of the early 70's. The newly liberated career girl. Even though I spent years trying to get my act together like Mary I always end up being more like Rhoda. It's time to embrace my inner Rhoda.