Generations of TV law enforcers have learned the same lessons while walking the beat. "Obviously a lot of pants and jackets, and the shoes are low," says NYPD Blue's Kim Delaney (1), who observed detectives for guidance in making her character, Diane Russell, look "smart and businesslike." Agrees Cagney & Lacey star Sharon Gless (4, left): "You don't want to be chasing a perp and say, 'Freeze!' and have him turn around and say, 'Nice outfit!' " Not a problem for Hill Street Blues' uniform-clad Betty Thomas (5), but an occupational hazard for The Mod Squad's Peggy Lipton (2) and Police Woman Angie Dickinson (3), doing the plainclothes thing. "We had to blend in with the culture," says Lipton of her bell-bottoms and microminis. Likewise, Dickinson describes her character, Pepper Anderson, as "a normal, fade-into-the-atmosphere woman." Delaney, on the other hand, is hard to miss, especially when going under covers. "The naked part is easy to do," says Blue costumer Brad Loman. "Easier for him," Delaney says. "Harder for me."
In the early-'70s series Nanny and the Professor, Juliet Mills (below) wore a nurse-like hat and blue cape to convey 'the classic British nanny look," says the show's producer, Charles FitzSimons. More spitfire, less polished, The Nanny's Fran Drescher (left) "is the antithesis of what a real-life nanny would be," says costumer Shawn Holly Cookson, who puts Drescher in "colorful, almost cartoon-like" getups. The character is "witty in a Queens-logic way," Cookson adds. "She thinks she looks good."
Two icons triumphed in indecorous newsrooms dressed like perfect ladies. As Mary Richards, Mary Tyler Moore (left) edited her wardrobe to "crisp, clean Peck & Peck" dresses and slacks, says costar Valerie Harper. Ten years later, Murphy Brown wardrobe chief Bill Hargate used anchorwoman Diane Sawyer as the model for Candice Bergen (below) and a "simple, classic American look based on designers like Ralph Lauren." But Hargate also "tried to work in some color" to liven up Murphy's timeless mix of blazers, suits and turtle-necks. "You're playing comedy, and color helps add to it."
Administrative style has run from the dainty to the demented. In the 1960s, Gail Fisher (1) wore wide collars with bows to epitomize what she calls the "immaculate secretarial look" on Mannix, while a decade later, Loni Anderson (2) took calls at radio station WKRP in Cincinnati in tight '40s sweaters that evoked "Lana Turner, a smart glamour girl," Anderson says. NYPD Blue costumer Brad Loman made Gail O'Grady (3) "one of those bridge-and-tunnel girls, with too-big hair and a Marilyn Monroe complex," he says. "She was over-the-top and outrageous." Which barely describes the macabre fashions of The Drew Carey Show's Mimi (Kathy Kinney, 4). Explains Carey costumer Julie Rhine: "We decided that Mimi should always be making a statement. Every now and then you find a perfect fabric, like one that lends itself to a hula-girl situation, and you're like, 'Gotta go there.' "
Forget the unisex bathroom. The biggest fantasy on Ally McBeal is Calista Flockhart's 15½-inch-long skirt. Loree Parral, the costumer who created the look to flatter Flockhart's figure, discounts what she calls "scathing" public reaction to so much lawyerly leg: "Ohmygosh, get a life!" she says. "The show is very different; she should be wearing different clothes." Ten years ago, Parral got a warmer response when she put LA Law's Susan Dey in a silky blouse with a surplice neckline (below). "Because the character was so serious about her work, we wanted to soften her costume," Parral says. "We didn't think we were making a strong statement, but people grabbed on to the look. Women would say, 'I want the Susan Dey blouse.' "
She thought of wearing a wraparound tip purse "in 1976, well before fanny packs, so I feel innovative," says Linda Lavin (above, left), who played Alice (and who'll appear next season as an ad exec's mother in the NBC sitcom Conrad Bloom). Even more impressive: "We came up with the pink uniform. We felt it was friendly and had an air of whimsy. We were so imitated." As on Roseanne (above, right), although costumer Erin Quigley found the uniform "too girlish, It added to the humiliation of a 43-year-old with a family who had to work as a waitress." On Friends, Jennifer Aniston (right) opted for "cute little aprons" that match "what you'd find at real-life coffeehouses," says James Michael Tyler, who plays Central Perk manager Gunther.
The scoop on reportorial style? In the 1950s' Superman, Noel Neill's Lois Lane (1) wore "a single lilac suit," purchased in triplicate, says Neill, "in case one didn't get back from the cleaners" in time. Lou Grant's Linda Kelsey (2) got through the late '70s in jeans, silk shirts and jackets like those of "reporters I was always in contact with doing interviews." Lois & Clark costumer Judith Brewer Curtis admits that "real journalists wear much more casual clothes" than the shapely suits she chose for Teri Hatcher (3); Curtis now gives Suddenly Susan's Brooke Shields (4) "classic long, lean lines" that "make her look good every time you-see heron-camera." Next season, to attract male viewers, Just Shoot Me's Laura San Giacomo (5) "is going to be sexier," promises costumer Katie Sparks.
Sharply dressed feds? An alien concept to many, but "FBI people are much more up-to-date than you'd expect," says Marlene Stewart, who suited up Gillian Anderson (above) for The X-Files film. As in the TV series, Anderson's Agent Scully is "sensible in her style," says Stewart. "When she's running, I wouldn't have her in stiletto heels." In swinging mid-'60s London, The Avengers' Emma Peel (Diana Rigg, left) also chose a suit: the iconic catsuit that costar Patrick Macnee says was based on "simplicity, comfort, flexibility and movement. It was extremely practical. I was a real 19th-century man, and Emma was a 21st-century woman. She showed women what they could do."
Their TV attire has always displayed a healthy dose of reality. As single working mother Julia, Diahann Carroll (right) wore a bona fide RN uniform, but how to explain her glamorous off-duty late-'60s duds? "There was a sewing machine prominent in her apartment," says producer Hal Kanter, who told skeptics that she made her own clothes. M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit (top right) spent most of her time in "good old olive-drab" fatigues, says executive producer Gene Reynolds. "We carefully followed what was worn by Army personnel during the Korean War." And over in the ER, Julianna Margulies (right) wears authentically Styled, albeit 100 percent cotton, scrubs. "Cotton-polyester doesn't wrinkle, which is why real nurses like it," says ER wardrobe chief Lyn Paolo. "But we want people to look tike they've been working for hours."