Taking tips in 80s sartorial excess from Alexis Carrington, just in time for Christmas party season
Dame Joan Collins in her role as Alexis Carrington Colby remains one of the most intriguing, unforgettable characters from 1980s American soap opera, Dynasty. The villainous vamp – who was introduced to viewers during the show’s second season – dramatically increased ratings by wreaking havoc on the affluent Carrington family, based in Denver, Colorado. The first wife of Blake Carrington (the show’s patriarch), Alexis brought scandal and drama to every scene, and purred her lines with a British accent: a sign of sophistication to North American audiences, not to mention her indulgences in cigarettes and caviar. Yet it was her eye-catching wardrobe that continues to be the distinguishing feature of her identity. And Toronto-based fashion writer Anya Georgijevic showcases that style on her Instagram account @whatalexiswore.
Georgijevic says her initial inspiration came from Instagram account @whatfranwore which curates the outfits of American actress Fran Drescher on The Nanny. “I thought: who did I admire growing up and what shows did I love so much? Even though I’m as old as the show and I was really young when it was on – but I watched it in reruns in the 90s – I was obsessed with Alexis,” she explains. “I thought, I’ll do an Instagram account of just Alexis’ clothes and that will be my thing. She was my first introduction to fashion. I grew up in former Yugoslavia which is not a very glamorous place but we had Dynasty on TV. That to me was the epitome of glamour and she to me was fashion and nothing else was fashion. She was fashion.”
Indeed, Alexis stole many scenes with her strong and striking day-to-night ensembles which both Joan Collins and costume designer Nolan Miller styled. As Georgijevic has been pulling this archive together, she noticed some details about Alexis along the way: “She definitely has a bit of a dual personality,” she says. “Alexis goes from masculine daytime office outfits to extremely feminine evening gowns. For example, I think the most iconic are her power suits with big shoulders. It’s the look that defined the decade.” In a class of her own, Alexis stands out as one of the few small-screen characters who could pull off this range of gender fluid dressing. Georgijevic believes that those two sides share a connection: “What I think they have in common is that she liked her volume. She liked to take a lot of space in the room even though she was a petite actress. She wasn’t afraid to add volume onto herself. And somehow she managed to wear the dress and not have the dress wear her. And that’s talent.”
Especially around this time of year, Alexis’ ensembles could provide inspiration for holiday party dressing. Georgijevic explains that, “I think she’s a fabulous inspiration for the holiday season because in the evenings, Alexis would always slip into these extravagant gowns with a lot of sequins, embroideries, and jewels. She was a big fan of gold lamé: all things you can find in stores today. In fact, there’s a little bit of an 80s resurgence going on right now so it’s not hard to find Dynasty-inspired dresses. On the runway if you’re going for high end, Saint Laurent has a lot of things I could see on Alexis.” And of course, vintage and charity shops typically carry an array of retro party dresses for anyone seeking genuine authenticity.
The recent Dynasty reboot includes a new Alexis, and Georgijevic admits, “the old fans seem to be pretty good at ignoring her. I think the original will still stay the ultimate.” So it’s no wonder that the fashion world continues to look back on Alexis as a lasting influencer. The reasons? “I think she will remain an icon because she’s always referenced in fashion quite a bit, whether it’s on Project Runway or anytime someone does big shoulders – there’s the Dynasty reference,” Georgijevic says.
Even this last spring, Zara released a Dynasty t-shirt printed with the original cast, that often sold out online after restocks. While there are five other cast members on the shirt, they simply pale in comparison. Alexis’ black, ruffled, one-shoulder gown, accented with shimmering jewelry, keeps the gaze on her – just as it’s always been.