Of all the fictional pop-culture figures that have had an influence on modern fashion, very few have done it quite like The Nanny’s Fran Fine. Played by Fran Drescher from the mid to late ‘90s, the role was known best for her over-the-top yet inconspicuously high fashion looks from the runways (if you knew, you knew). However, after rewatching the series, yet again, I realized that while the star’s outfits were undoubtedly iconic, Ann Morgan Guilbert's character grandma Yetta was the show’s true style icon, and some of her most memorable moments are still relevant today. Campy ensembles by Moschino and super sexy outfits from Hervé Leger may have undoubtedly earned Fran the title of “The Flashy Girl From Flushing,” but just a few episodes in, you quickly learn that her sense of style was hereditary — which according to the sitcom’s Emmy-award winning costume designer, Brenda Cooper, was the point all along.
“I knew I wanted to make a difference in television, with style,” Cooper tells TZR. “At the time, I didn’t think that Hollywood really took that element of production seriously or valued what it could bring to a show. I had an opportunity and a great relationship with Fran [Drescher] — she let me do my thing. I wanted to bring a brushstroke of brilliance to the costume part of the show, so there was always this organic connection between the three generations of style.”
On air between 1993 and 1999, The Nanny spotlights the shenanigans of an audacious au pair, working for a playwright on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, during which fans are introduced to her iconic looks — as documented by the Instagram account @whatfranwore. In the show’s multiverse, this sentiment “she got it from her mama” couldn’t be more true. Fran’s mother in the series, Sylvia Fine, played by Renee Taylor, was a fashionable dresser in her own right. From voluminous blouses in the early seasons to boldly printed frocks towards the end (with ample accessories throughout that borderline gaudy), you certainly see where Drescher’s character got it from. For Cooper, it was all about telling the complete story.
“The through-line was absolutely color and fabrication and to have a garment that expresses their personality,” the author of The Silhouette Solution: Using What You Have To Get The Look You Want explains. “Fran had an elegant sass, while Yetta was more casually sassy but the point was to show how [the themes] would go down through each generation and she becomes the more refined version of her grandmother.”
However, Grandma Yetta's laid-back yet kitschy approach to dressing has a timeless appeal that’s on par with what’s popular today. The silver-haired muse used to wear lamé tracksuits with opulent jewelry and orthopedic “dad” sneakers on the regular. While her tortoiseshell oversized eyewear, complete with chain “croakies” has a distinct Alessandro Michele for Gucci feel — as does the heavily sequined or printed bomber jackets she was known to wear. During the fifth season (episode 17, to be exact) Yetta sported a now vintage two-piece Tommy Hilfiger tracksuit (later worn by Coolio) that the kids on Depop and TikTok would consider a hot commodity. She even wore a fanny pack on the daily, before it was cool. If Fran was the series’ trendy style maven, it makes sense that Yetta would be at the other end of the fashion spectrum with the tried-and-true classic. But that didn’t mean that her outfits were any less interesting.
“Fran’s silhouettes were more form-fitting and figure-hugging, while for the most part, Yetta was more comfortable — as she was much, much older,” Cooper explained on how her approach differed. “So [they were] loud, colorful, with great prints but much more relaxed. Her wardrobe also wasn't necessarily expensive, at all. The big bucks, though there wasn’t a huge budget at the beginning of the show, were spent on Fran,” she divulges, adding that many of Yetta and Sylvia’s looks were, in fact, found at Loehmann’s – the American retail store that Drescher’s character on the show referenced on the regular. “It was a go-to every week because you could find all of these different fun, eye-catching silhouettes. When [Yetta] walked into a scene, I wanted the audience to smile before she even said her first lines.”
Though effortlessly bold and a little over the top, at its core, Yetta’s style was meant to show a sense of pared-back glam — one of which is especially popular today. As the masses try to find a new daily wardrobe, Guilbert’s character offers a lesson in balancing grandeur with easy silhouettes and comfortable fabrics, further proving that you don’t have to wear heels and a dress to be all dolled up.