Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Fans of Gossip Girl and The O.C. are already familiar with the hallmarks of a Josh Schwartz/Stephanie Savage production, chief among them cross-generational drama, devastatingly attractive casts, and fantastic clothes. Fortunately, the TV dream team’s latest venture — a modern reboot of classic ’80s soap opera Dynasty, which premieres this Wednesday on The CW — checks all three of those boxes.
As with Gossip Girl, a show that strayed far from the books on which it was based, the new Dynasty takes plenty of liberties with its source material. While the show still revolves around the ultra-wealthy Carrington family, patriarch Blake (Grant Show) is less of a focus than his daughter, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), who’s gunning to be the new COO of dad’s energy empire. Her competition? Savvy publicist Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley), who just so happens to be Blake’s new wife. In other words, there’s a genuine corporate struggle to back up the catfights.
The new Dynasty also features updated costumes: think Gucci pantsuits in place of shoulder-padded skirt sets and sequined slip dresses instead of ruffled lamé. For that, you can thank costume designer Meredith Markworth-Pollack (who, fun fact, got her start assisting Eric Daman with Gossip Girl’s wardrobe). Below, Markworth-Pollack discusses the tricky balance of incorporating nods to signature Dynasty style while still designing a modern soap, and the Melania Trump reference she swears was a complete coincidence.
Dynasty’s fashion is legendary. Did you reference those ’80s looks often while designing this show?
Starting out, Josh, Stephanie, showrunner Sallie Patrick, and I had to figure out how much we wanted to incorporate from the original and how much of it was something we wanted to create on our own. We really do want to incorporate ’80s silhouettes and references where we can, but the show also needs to be able to stand alone.
A lot of the CW audience — the Gossip Girl audience — that will be tuning in have never seen the original, so we needed to make sure it felt fresh and new and contemporary, while also honoring everything that the original Dynasty was. I think Nolan Miller’s work was iconic, so I’m trying my best to do it justice, but I’m not by any means trying to recreate it.
Were there specific trends or themes you chose to keep?
Watching the old episodes, one of the first things I noticed was all the matching sets — the pantsuits, the blouse-and-skirt sets. To me, that’s timeless. I knew that was something I wanted to play with because it easily blends into contemporary fashion. And it was funny because once I started shopping, I just found so many good ones out there. Also, I’m not afraid of a shoulder pad, I’ve got to say! They don’t have to be the size of your head anymore; they’re a little bit more refined, a bit more structured.
Ultimately, what I took away from the original is that it’s about power dressing. It’s about making women feel powerful, whether that means dressing more feminine, more subdued, or more outrageous.
It’s been 36 years since the original — a lot has changed! In our Dynasty, Fallon and Cristal are both running businesses, and I’ve definitely been playing around with the work looks and exploring how the women want to be perceived at the office.
It used to be that if you wanted to play with the men, you had to dress like one of them, which meant a power suit. Women were afraid to dress sexy in the workplace because it drew too much attention. Don’t get me wrong, I love a power suit, but it’s okay to dress feminine and even sexy if you want to!
Cristal will wear a dress with a plunging neckline to the office — not as an “eff you,” but more as a statement that she can be confident, powerful, and sexy. Because as long as you’re doing a good job at work, that’s all that matters.
Where did you shop for Cristal?
Cristal’s a little softer, a little bit more femme. For her, we’ve been using a lot of Stella McCartney, a lot of Giambattista Valli, some Roland Mouret. Her wedding jumpsuit was Brandon Maxwell. And I’ve used a couple Ryan Roche sweaters on Cristal, too. In the original, I loved how Nolan kept Linda Evans in this beautiful palette of champagnes and blushes, and I’ve definitely been keeping that for Cristal to juxtapose her with Fallon, who’s in gem tones, blacks, stripes — the bolder, louder colors and prints.
We’ve also used a couple of pieces from Juan Carlos Obando and Johanna Ortiz on Cristal. Nathalie is Peruvian — although on the show, Cristal is Venezuelan — and she felt that Cristal would be supporting South American designers whenever possible, because she’s now in a position where she can, even though she’s come from nothing. So I’ve got a lot of Latino designers on my radar.
Cristal is also very aware of the fact that she’s married into a wealthy family, so while she doesn’t dress conservatively, she’s a bit more refined and reserved — as opposed to Fallon, who’s come from money and is a little bolder and more outrageous. When Nathalie and I first started discussing her character, Bianca Jagger immediately came up as an inspiration; we’re both huge fans, and Bianca’s had so many great style moments over the years that we took and fine-tuned.
How about for Fallon?
I definitely went for designers who’ve been nodding to the ’80s — luckily that’s a big trend right now, which made my job a lot easier. Obviously, Balmain is a big one — they play around with shoulder pads and ’80s silhouettes. Alexandre Vauthier and Marc Jacobs as well. And Gucci — I mean, if Gucci wanted to make a deal with me to dress the entire cast, I’d do it. It’s just so perfect: it’s bold, it’s colorful, it’s got these beautiful ’70s and ’80s references.
Between Fallon’s love of blazers and her ambitious, calculating personality, I got some pretty strong Blair Waldorf vibes. Was that a conscious decision?
Having worked on Gossip Girl for the first couple of seasons, I knew the comparisons would be coming — there was no avoiding it. I mean, it’s a Josh and Stephanie show with two very different female characters with equally different aesthetics. At first, I was trying everything in my power to fight it; I’d throw something on Liz and be like, “No, that’s too Blair.” But you know what, it’s been 10 years, and it’s going to happen anyway, so I might as well just do my thing!
There are definitely similarities between Fallon and Blair in the sense that they’re both structured and character-driven in their dressing. [Like Blair,] Fallon dresses both for herself and for the occasion. Like, if she’s at the office, she’s in a Gucci blouse and skirt set; if she’s at the club, she’s really going for that look. With Fallon, it’s go big or go home!
But Fallon’s also not pigeonholed into a specific style; she’s very versatile. I actually looked to Gigi Hadid a bit for inspiration — she’s similar in the sense that her style is constantly evolving. She doesn’t just wear one thing. Also, when she dresses, it’s a look, and I appreciate that. Like, there was this crazy pink outfit she wore recently that was just so Fallon!
Speaking of pink: There’s a particular fuchsia pussy bow blouse Fallon wears in the pilot that’s almost identical to that infamous one Melania Trump wore last year. Coincidence?
That’s so funny, but definitely not intentional. It was actually part of a Max Mara three-piece suit, and we ended up ditching the jacket at the last minute. I’m just such a fan of the pussy bow blouse; I think it’s so elegant and classic. There are more of those to come on the show.
But no, I definitely am not purposely seeking out what Melania or Ivanka or the Kardashians are wearing right now. In fact, I try to do the opposite, to go with my gut instinct so it’s more organic. Of course, photos of [those women] are everywhere, so sometimes there will be crossover.
What are you most excited for viewers to see this season?
There are some really great little Easter eggs and nods to the original in there that I think the diehard Dynasty fans will appreciate. In the original, for instance, Fallon wore a black and white dress to Krystle and Blake’s wedding, so we put [our] Fallon in a black and white dress. It’s a completely different dress, of course; ours is Mugler, but it has a bit of an ’80s nod to it while still being chic and contemporary.
And for an ’80s-themed party that’s coming up, I put Cristal in a silver sequined Juan Carlos Obando gown and Fallon in a turquoise two-piece dress that I made that has this big “Dynasty sleeve,” as I like to call it.
The thing about ’80s fashion is that it can easily get into comical territory, and I don’t want to take away from the scenes, our stories, and our cast unless the script really calls for it. That being said, we haven’t seen Alexis yet...
Dynasty premieres on Wednesday, October 11th at 9 p.m. EST on The CW.