During the first few weeks of lockdown, one of the things I noticed was that people began to wear their “house clothes” when going shopping. We saw more sweat pants and less skin tight jeans, more sneakers and fewer heels. Life came to a standstill and so did our wardrobes. No one had places to go or people to see. I was deprived of the sweet pleasure of retail therapy at a time when I needed it the most. So when I started watching Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, it wasn’t just the gripping storyline that kept me coming back for more, it was Betty’s sense of style. Unlike us, Betty had no problem keeping up with the latest trends, even when her life was in turmoil – going through a rough divorce and losing custody of her children.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story tells the story of Betty Broderick (Amanda Peet), the wife of a successful attorney, Dan Broderick (Christian Slater), who leaves her for his secretary, Linda Kolkena (Rachel Keller). After years of gaslighting, psychological trauma and unfair treatment of Betty by her ex-husband, the upper class of Los Angeles society and the courts of law, Betty is put on trial for the murder of Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena. The story jumps around chronologically, starting with the testimony presented at the murder trial and then switching between Betty’s early life as a child and her newly married life in which Betty financially supports Dan through medical school and law school. By the time Dan has established himself as a lawyer, the couple has four children and live the American dream.
Creator, showrunner and executive producer Alexandra Cunningham says, “Betty is trying to maintain a certain point of time, a facade of everything being alright.”
This is clearly evident through her choice in designer clothing throughout the entire show. During this lengthy period of time, we get to indulge in the best looks from the 1960s up until the 1990s. However, we are spoilt for choice when we see Betty in the 1980s, looking bold yet elegant.
Amy Stofsky, the costume designer, had the immense task of putting together outfits that would be gorgeous, flattering and period-accurate to three different decades, without overshadowing the storytelling. Cunningham states that, “This season, the shoulder pads and the stirrup pants and the matching workout separates and all the other impeccable, unimpeachable choices Amy and her team made in outfitting Betty, Dan and the other characters, roots the show both in time and place but also from the first moment, capture the essence of who they all were—bright and dramatic and colorful and heartbreaking.”
Throughout the entire show, Betty’s wardrobe tends to point towards her different psychological states, and the different phases in her life. We see this when Betty wears her statement sweaters, during the holiday period. Her Christmas and Easter sweaters evoke a certain kind of sentimentality and nostalgia for the perfect past. It aids her in her desire to be seen as the good, caring mother, and not the psycho ex wife. A few episodes in, you see Betty appear in trendy tracksuit sets. The tracksuits are worn when Betty was disconnected from her former life, and no longer cared to be in anything besides sweats or a tracksuit – Dan was gone, and she lost her kids. Reece Goodwin, television curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, states that fashion conveys socioeconomics, time and place, which is really important for a historical drama, it also reflects parts of the character – what they are wanting to outwardly project, and what they are internalising.
If, like me, you’ve enjoyed browsing through a dozen online shopping websites during this pandemic, you will clearly see that the ‘80s has been revived and new trends have taken their inspiration from classic ‘80s looks. Retail stores like Zara and H&M have definitely been influenced by the vintage fashion tropes of the 1980s. According to the Sunday Morning Herald, there has been an increase in interest in certain designer brands. Searches for Ferragamo alone have jumped 79% since the show’s premiere and searches for Levi’s are up 53%. Vestiaire’s brand director and co-founder, Sophie Hersan states, “This nostalgic desire we’re seeing in the market is heavily influencing fashion choices and trends. All the most current trends today are courtesy of the ‘80s: wide shoulders, white jeans, high-waisted jeans, underwear as outerwear, oversized jewellery, neon colours, oversized biker jackets, to oversized blazers.”
So ditch the “quarantine look” and be inspired by some ‘80s style choices instead!