Home / Celebrity Style / From Rodney Trotter to Bet Lynch: our writers’ TV style icons

From Rodney Trotter to Bet Lynch: our writers’ TV style icons

Roz Doyle – Frasier

When Frasier Crane asked his radio producer, Roz Doyle: “What do you do when the romance goes out of a relationship?” She replied: “I get dressed and go home.” And what a wardrobe she had for the walk. When it came to style, all the Frasier women were masters of layering, but none more so than Roz, who eschewed the ditsy prints and cardigans of Daphne Moon for a far less fussy aesthetic: oversized shirt jackets, plain white T-shirts, roll-necks and tailored trousers were all staples. I still blame Roz for my love of vintage waist belts and the-bigger-the-better hair.

As a women in charge of her sexuality before such autonomy became fashionable, her love life was a well-worn punchline within the show. But did it drive her to prim and modest fashion choices? Did it hell. She wore black leathers while dressed as O from The Story of O in 1997, followed by a star-spangled Wonder Woman bodysuit in 2001 to Niles and Frasier’s fancy dress parties, kickstarting teenage crushes across my generation. Roz could wear a little black dress with ease, and did more for waistcoats than Annie Hall, but it was her ankle-length skirts with chunky shoes and cropped jackets that chime most closely with today’s trends. By series seven, she was wiping her toddler’s food-stained chin while wearing a floor-length silk dressing gown; TV fashion goals, if ever I saw them. LH

Blair Waldorf – Gossip Girl

It’s only my fondness for Blair Waldorf that made me persevere with Gossip Girl through to the last episode. Even as the teen drama had become increasingly ludicrous, Blair – the preppy queen bee of the Upper East Side – was so finely drawn, she could have been written by Jane Austen. She was ambitious, witty, loyal, self-sufficient, sometimes waspish. I fell in love with her barbed wit and then with her skater skirts. I could not access Blair’s wealth, but I could imitate her wardrobe. As a teenager, I saved pictures of her best outfits in a folder on my family’s PC: statement coats, blazers, floral prints and Francophile touches. It is hard to say what lasting impact Blair had on my personal style, but it is true that we are both never seen wearing trousers or even jeans. I drew the line at her fondness for headbands.

That was, until two years ago, when I was invited to a dress-up party with a 2000s theme. I wore a pleat plaid skirt, white shirt and high-heeled ankle boots with a string of pearls, red lipstick and black headband. All were already in my wardrobe. The fact I had a recognisable Blair Waldorf costume ready to be assembled was – I thought – was indicative of our kindred spirit. Because why else would you dress up as a fictional character if you didn’t want to invite the comparison? EH

Keeping up with the Jonzes: Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney Trotter and David Jason as Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter. Photograph: BBC

Rodney Trotter – Only Fools and Horses

There are few things that bring me out in hives quite like the phrase “fancy dress”. Yet a few years ago, we were invited to a 1984-themed event and my wife came up with a concept so good that I agreed to give it a go: we would head out as Del Boy and Rodney. Our heights and hair colours made us perfect for the roles. My wife bought some fake medallions, a flat cap, a cigar and a huge sheepskin coat. The results were unnerving. As for me, I bought … well, I had the jeans already, and a pair of Dr Martens, as it happened. Rodney likes a plaid shirt and, well, I owned a fair few of those, too. My hair didn’t really need changing. All I had to buy was a cheap blue parka with bright orange lining from eBay. The results were also unnerving. I was me. I was Rodney.

On that night, to suggest that Rodney Trotter was anything other than my TV style icon was to deny a clear and obvious truth. Nobody at that party said, “Who are you?” or, “Have you come as yourself?” They all said “Look! It’s Del Boy and Rodney!” While my wife ended up donating her sheepskin coat to charity shortly afterwards – denying me the surreal experience of ever stepping out with a fit David Jason again – I decided to keep hold of the parka. I ended up wearing it most days until it was threadbare. What can I say, it suited me. TJ

Olivia Pope – Scandal

Two things are true about Olivia Pope: she can handle the biggest of scandals and does so boasting the bougiest of coats. But Pope’s coats were more than a fashion statement, they were like extra characters in Scandal. Her sartorial choice reflected where she was emotionally and we got used to guessing turns the plot would take by her coat selection. Is that a white Max Mara number? Oh, a red leather Derek Lam trench? The show’s fans will tell you there’s no more classic a scene than the heroine pounding the pavements of Washington DC to fix the latest scandal with her belted coat billowing behind her. Pope’s outerwear changes were far too frequent and expensive for me to ever match. But it taught me a simple thing: my outfit can you tell my mood before I open my mouth. So it’s no coincidence that since watching the show my wardrobe has experienced an explosion of yellow. I am, in fact, aggressively happy and you’re going to know about it. Thank you, Olivia Pope, for teaching me your ways. GS

Monty Don

I’m reaching an age at which I no longer still seek to dress like Carrie Bradshaw, the enduring style fixture of my generation, and instead I am drawn to Monty Don. I’m not sure where this urge to dress like a turn-of-the-century pit village worker has come from. Perhaps it’s a newfound respect for practicality and comfort, or a rejection of hypersexualised women’s fashion. I suspect it’s mainly down to his pockets. I love pockets. Don’s are filled, I imagine, with layers of sediment, rescued baby birds and dog treats. He wears braces because his trousers are too big for him. Can there be anything more luxurious than a roomy trouser? Not a baggy, saggy tracksuit bottom, but a voluminous pair in soft well-worn, well-washed cotton drill. He’s the sort of person who would wear a smock. Or a hide jerkin.

Transport him to any century and he would blend right in, passing as an authentic peasant. You can’t say that about yourself, with your absurd autumn/winter 2018 animal print. Occasionally, there is a jaunty scarf or he breaks out the red braces, but there’s never anything flashy – Don’s colours are earthy and organic, as if he home-dyes all his clothes with beetroot. But his style isn’t hippyish, nor self-conscious in that pastoral-hipster way. I like the gentle elegance of it – but mostly the pockets. ES

Julie Goodyear as Bet Lynch. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

Bet Lynch – Coronation Street

A family legend has it that, when I was six or seven, I wanted to be a barmaid. Not just any barmaid, but Bet Lynch of the Rovers Return. Nearly three decades later as a fashion journalist, it’s an anecdote I’m proud of. Those spangly tops, power-shoulder skirt suits and leopard-print everything say fierce, fearless and fabulous Come to think of it, it’s very autumn/winter 2018 (note to self: pitch piece on why Coronation Street is a sartorial archive ripe to mine this season).

And then there was her jewellery: those magpie brooches, those chunky gold chains and big dangly earrings (she won hands down in the sartorial ratings against Pat Butcher) may account for my current growing archive of look-at-me costume jewellery, come to think of it. Sadly, depending on which way you look at it, I emulate her style better than I do her pint-pulling prowess (I was an awful barmaid, apologies to the locals of the Warrington, west London, in 2003). But I think having her as an aspirational figure fared better than my other career ambition when I was a child: to be Burglar Bill. It must have been those chic Breton stripes. SC

Marmalade Atkins

Marmalade Atkins was a TV character created in the punk era: a schoolgirl with messy hair, a skewed tie and a permanent supply of bubble gum to pop at just the moment teachers would not appreciate. Played by Charlotte Coleman, she employed side-eye well before the term was a thing, and cockney sass like the little sister of Emily Lloyd’s Lynda in Wish You Were Here. I dressed up as her as a child – not for Halloween, just because. I remember agonising over getting my striped socks just like hers, quite as perfectly imperfect, or crooked anyways, on my legs. Her backcombed and peroxided hair were an aspiration rather than a reality, although I did have a very-this-season hairband.

Fast-forward to now and Marmalade still has an influence on my wardrobe. I’m still drawn to the white shirts and pleated skirts that she wore (under duress, but still). In her later years, she had a great line in statement 80s sweaters, the kind that I would pay a small fortune for on eBay now. Stripes – whether on socks or elsewhere – are a regular occurrence. And my hair, whether I like it or not, quite often resembles Marmalade’s birds nest. She’s a beacon of the shambolic, the opposite of, say, the manicured style of Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Love Island. We may be a long way from the punk era that begat her, but I’d argue we all need to be a bit more Marmalade in 2018. LC

Xander – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Of course, I really wanted to be Angel. Handsome, broody, chest gaping from a satin shirt with one too many buttons open. And the object of adoration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, despite being undead and occasionally evil. However, being a self conscious teenager baring my chest was out of the question, curly hair is never going to behave in angular spikes like that of David Boreanaz – and where do you even get a satin shirt from?

Twenty years later, it’s clear that, while I may have aiming for hunky, fashion backward, 400-year-old blood-sucker, my style hero was Xander, the slightly dorky, under-appreciated, human one of the group. Nobody lusted after Xander, he had only his wit and (questionable) charms to work with. His staple outfit – a shirt, often checked, always with an ill-matched, usually logo emblazoned, T-shirt underneath – became my own. It still is most of the time. Classics never go out of fashion, right? It may not have been by design, but if this is what I’m going to be wearing for the rest of my days, I should probably be grateful there’s not a hint of satin. Everyone else can thank Xander that my hairy chest is kept locked away out of sight. TM

Jodie Comer as Villanelle. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/Sid Gentle Films/Robert Viglasky

Villanelle – Killing Eve

I dream of being a bit more like Villanelle (without the psychopathic tendencies, of course). She takes the same approach to her clothes as she does to everything else in her life: which is to indulge, devour, and exist for the simple end goal of pleasure and play. Her life is hilariously decadent: the fridge full of champagne, a dresser scattered with French perfumes and gold-embossed powder puffs. Before one kill, she fingers the victim’s silk bed throw, asking him where he got it from. She loves luxury, because why shouldn’t she? Who wouldn’t want to lie in silk sheets, walk through the Champs Élysées in Miu Miu, go clubbing in Berlin in a Dries Van Norton suit, gatecrash a garden party in Burberry lace? I would, if I could afford it.

Crucially, Villanelle does not dress for the approval of others. She is not a sex symbol in the traditional sense. Her clothes are ornaments for her own amusement. When she is dragged to a psychiatric assessment in the second episode, she arrives in a giant pink tulle Molly Goddard dress paired with Balenciaga boots, at once girly, rugged and definitely expensive. It is an outfit calculated to confuse, to shock, a sartorial two fingers up to the doctor who is trying to tell her she is not fit for work. Villanelle can be anything or anyone she wants to be: a waitress, a killer, Grace Kelly if she so desires. And what is fashion, if not a licence to transform? JS

Gaby Solis – Desperate Housewives

I was 13 when I first watched Desperate Housewives and felt an immediate affinity with Gaby Solis. Her wardrobe was her armour, an expression of the woman I felt like inside: strong, opinionated and unapologetic. From the brash velour tracksuits, to the slinky lingerie and tacky jewellery, Gaby’s style was the definition of nouveau riche and what I aspired to be. The only difference was that she was a grownup, sexy woman and I was built like a dumpling.

I was a real fan of the show and appreciated her backstory which involving sexual abuse as a teenager. It gave a purpose to her wardrobe, which many would probably scoff at or dismiss as being cheap or gaudy. All I know is that on very bad days I channel Gaby’s look and it helps me to pull myself together and project an attitude that says: I’m here to get what I want – and I’m not sorry about it. IA

Calista Flockhart and Gil Bellows in Ally McBeal. Photograph: Larry Watson/AP

Ally McBeal

My life hasn’t gone exactly according to plan, mostly because my intention was to grow up to be Ally McBeal. Her 90s (very short) skirt suits and Harry Hill-like collars are easy to mock now, but for me they were the height of put-together chic. As the seasons went on, McBeal’s style evolved with her, until the Boston winters would see her in luxe wool greatcoats and chic cashmere scarves. Her home and therapy outfits usually consisted of a casual Margaret Howell-esque roll-neck sweater. Unfortunately, I also went through a passing teen phase of dressing like Seth from The OC: Penguin polo shirts, Converse All Stars and preppy argyle sweater vests, in the days when I owned zero dresses. I mix it up a lot more now, but alas, I still tend towards trainers and tees, with the odd well-cut shirt or dress thrown in. I still envy the power women in classic suits who look as though they daily settle class action suits. HJP

Elaine Benes – Seinfeld

From Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington to The Good Fight’s Diane Lockhart, TV has never been short of power-dressing doyennes who can instil fear with the rustle of a single shoulder pad. Perhaps you think Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes looks a bit like them: she gives good lapel and pulls off sharp shirt collars and shiny loafers. But this veneer of professionalism is a disguise for her unabashed fecklessness. Barely disguised chaos is my fashion MO, if you can call it that. I’d never worn dresses until I read Victoria Beckham saying that they were the easiest option because they entailed less bleary-eyed decision-making: bingo. When Elaine goes for a job interview, she is chastised for her lack of elegance. “I don’t have grace,” she replies. “I don’t want grace. I don’t even say grace, OK!” But who needs refinement when you have a fine line in weird, long floral dresses, oversized denim, brown lipstick and a manic facial expression to top it all off? Plus, she nails practicality: an unobtrusive skirt and sensible shoes are precisely the thing for pulling off your finest expressive dance moves at the office party. Though, as much as I admire her lazy sense of vague femininity, I will stop short at the urban sombrero. LS

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