The Surprising But Deeply Important Impact Mary Tyler Moore Had On Fashion

Photo: CBS-TV/REX/Shutterstock.
Mary Tyler Moore broke new grounds by portraying a career woman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show during a time when most female TV roles centered on their identities as wives or mothers. But even when she was playing a stay-at-home mom on the Dick Van Dyke Show, she still managed to move women forward — through her fashion choices, as Vanity Fair reports.

The show's producers wanted her to wear skirts and dresses, but she preferred to portray women more realistically. "I had Laura wear pants, because I said, 'Women don't wear full-skirted dresses to vacuum in," she told TV Guide.

She reiterated to Variety that she aimed to portray "a realistic wife who wears pants and doesn’t care how she looks."

Such a small decision caused a surprising amount of uproar. Some of the show's sponsors worried the pants were too suggestive. The network told her, "We're afraid that housewives are going to be a little annoyed because she looks so good in pants."

The compromise? She could wear pants in one scene per episode — and had to make sure there wasn't too much "cupping under."

But over time, they got lazy, and the pants stayed on from scene to scene. "We got the absolution of men everywhere, and women kind of breathed a sigh of relief, too, and said, 'Hey, that's right. That's what we wear,'" she told TV Guide.

"They were definitely cupping under," she told NPR. "And everyone thought it was great."
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