Mary Tyler Moore died this week at the age of 80, but her contribution to the world of fashion and to the lives of working women impacted them for decades to come. I loved this tribute from Oprah which says it all.
Before Pantsuits, There Was Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore shocked everyone by being the first woman to wear pants on television. It was Mary who merged the distance between pants and femininity on The Dick Van Dyke Show, showing both genders that trousers were no more shocking to wear than a skirt. The actress revealed in early interviews that she insisted her character on the show wear something other than dresses despite the sponsors’ worries that they would accentuate her figure.
Mary Tyler Moore and her fictional other selves – Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but particularly Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show – were to their lives as girls and women. Mary Richards was the smiling, friendly side of 1970s feminism in the women’s liberation era: she got by on charm, brains, wit, talent and hard work.
Staying true to her word, Mary started wearing pants in every episode and shared that it was well received off screen. The actress not only left a lasting legacy in film but also in fashion.
“I think we broke new ground, and that was helped by my insistence on wearing pants, you know, jeans and capri pants at the time,” she said to NPR. “I’ve seen all the other actresses and they’re always running the vacuum in these little flowered frocks with high heels on, and I don’t do that. I don’t know any of my friends who do that. So why don’t we try to make this real? And I’ll dress on the show the way I do in real life.”
The influence of Ms. Moore’s Mary Richards can be seen in the performances of almost all the great female sitcom stars who followed her, from Jennifer Aniston to Debra Messing to Tina Fey, who has said that she developed her acclaimed sitcom “30 Rock” and her character, the harried television writer Liz Lemon, by watching episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Many non-actresses also said that Ms. Moore — by playing a working single woman with such compassion and brio — inspired their performances in real life.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) was known for being the first of its kind to focus on an independent, single and career-driven woman. The Mary Tyler Moore Show won 29 Emmy awards over the course of seven seasons.
A 70’s Style Icon
Mary was indeed a style icon as we see here in this special tribute to Mary Tyler Moore from the Ultimate Fashion History.
Mary’s Style 101
- Chic separates. Mary’s wardrobe is based around simple, easy-to-wear separates. She chooses skirts, tops and pants that are versatile, which makes it super-easy to mix-and-match each piece to create tons of different looks.
- Pretty prints. Mary uses printed pieces to show off her fun and carefree sense of style. She’s a big fan of abstract prints and florals, and in her eyes, the more colorful the pattern, the better!
- Bold hues. Speaking of color, no Mary-inspired outfit would be complete without a bold pop of it. She typically sticks with solid-colored primary hues, (red, blue, and yellow) which always make a huge impact.
- Statement jewelry. Mary’s favorite type of jewelry is stylish, flashy and statement-making. Whether she wears a chunky necklace, an oversized cocktail ring or some sculptural earrings, Mary always chooses accessories that complement (but never overpower) her chic ensembles.
Of course there were a few exceptions, not necessarily of her choosing.
By all accounts, the star’s beauty went beyond her wardrobe. Today, her old friend, actress Cloris Leachman, told People: “the picture that we all have of her, that’s how she was—sweet, kind, so tender, so delicate. She was America’s sweetheart.”
In the end, Mary Tyler Moore really did embody that most overused of terms; she was a cultural icon, her influence palpable, profound and widespread not just in the history of television, but as an inspiration and a role model for generations of girls and young women deciding, in an era of ingrained chauvinism and sexism, and in its long aftermath, to live free and independent lives determined by their own choices, not those of the men in their lives, if they deigned to have any. Yes, this one hurts.