One of today’s ultimate style icons is the 90s sitcom character. Whether it is Rachel Green from Friends or Ashley Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the on-screen women of the 90s were some of the most fashionable of all time. But it is impossible to think of sitcom style and not think of one woman in particular: Fran Fine. The Nanny first aired on CBS in 1993 with Fran Drescher playing the titular character, the gaudy yet charming Nanny named Fran who came to work for a wealthy family in Manhattan. Emmy-winning Costume Designer, Brenda Cooper put together the outfits for the show, and though it may seem like hyperbole, she never missed.
For the show's pilot episode, Fran was adorned in a Lillie Rubin skirt suit with leopard-print fur trim. This ensemble was perfect for the world's introduction to Fran Fine because it toed the line between elegant and ostentatious, a line that the character would walk constantly throughout the duration of the show. In a breakdown of her best looks, Drescher called this look the definitive Nanny-looking costume and said it created the "style of the flashy girl from Flushing."
Brenda Cooper had a tough job ahead of her when creating the outfits for this character because of how complex they had to be. When choosing these outfits, Cooper said, "It was a sassy elegance that was important to me, and pushing that to the edge without tipping it."
One of the key elements of the nanny's wardrobe was a stylish, colorful bathrobe. To further show the differences between Fran and the family she worked for, she would show up to breakfast in robes while the rest of them were fully dressed already. This small costume design choice created the perfect characterization for Fran.
You may look at a bathrobe and think "It's just a bathrobe!" but that is where you'd be mistaken. Cooper detailed the process in an interview with Variety, saying, "She has to wear a robe, but it couldn’t be any old robe, it had to be the perfect robe. I’d go shopping and found the perfect robes by Canyon Road but they weren’t quite right. Again, it was how to elevate the robes, so I elevated it with the shoulder pad." While this might seem like a lot of work to put into a character wearing a bathrobe, it allowed for these simple items to become beloved by fans.
The best thing about Fran is that she never shied away from a bold print. From a Jeanette Kastenberg candy wrapper dress to the Moschino checkered mini skirt to a neon Stephen Sprouse suit, Fran always aired on the right side of gaudy. Unlike her more polished and pristine counterparts, she was not afraid of the judgment that might come with wearing a patterned mini skirt. She was the antithesis of "less is more," and this made for one of the most fashionable and exciting characters in sitcom history.
As Fran Drescher herself tells it, the iconic staircase set in the Sheffield household was there specifically for the purpose of letting Fran do a "fashion show" in each episode. She strutted down the stairs each day in the most outrageous and glamorous ensembles, but none were more iconic than the Bob Mackie gown from season one. Paired with a thrifted necklace and an updo that was rare for the character, it was looks like this that embodied glamor.
Brenda Cooper calls this look one of her favorites from the show, saying, "It’s sexy and elegant. It’s a bit over the top, but we need that in entertainment sometimes. But I had the freedom from Fran to take it as far as I wanted."
Under the direction of Brenda Cooper, Fran Fine was one of the most stylish characters in television history. Not only was she the it-girl of 90s sitcoms, but her style was iconic enough that it is still being praised today!