The Enduring Legacy of Dynasty
Walking into a clothing shop recently, I found myself drooling over this t-shirt. Except it wasn’t just any t-shirt. It was an automatic flashback to my ‘80s youth.
Here was Blake Carrington (actor John Forsythe), flanked by Claudia Carrington (Pamela Bellwood), Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear) and Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) in the background. The ladies in the foreground were the supreme duo who stole the show—and often fought—in “Dynasty,” the long-running, American soap opera based in Denver, Colorado. Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans) was Blake’s current wife, and his evil, trouble-making ex-wife, Alexis Carrington Colby (the legendary Joan Collins) were the demented yin and yang of the iconic ‘80s show known for glitz, glam, bling—before we even called it that—all poofy shoulders and tons of luxurious attitude. Even though I was really too young to have been watching this series in the ‘80s, I couldn’t help it. It was eye candy, and the costumes and drama both drew me in. And my father (of all people) loved watching it.
I realize a “Dynasty” reboot exists today, but in my heart, there's only room for the original, captivating audiences long before high definition TV existed. Fashion and beauty-wise, there were the feathered, golden locks of Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear), Krystal’s swept-and-parted bangs, Fallon’s youthful glamor and feistiness, and Alexis’ seemingly infinite poshness with that purr of a British accent. I even recall the omni-present table which stood in the middle of Alexis’ living space. On top of it rested a silver bowl, full of caviar. And of course, there always seemed to be champagne on offer—at least at Alexis’ abode.
Apart from the noteworthy attention to detail of a period show like “Mad Men,” “Babylon Berlin” or even "Stranger Things,” is there a series on par with Dynasty with a cast clad in remarkable wardrobe, reflecting a certain era? A tribute to “Dynasty” wouldn’t be complete without recognising the curation talent of costume designer, Nolan Miller. He made the show a visual, style wonderland that reflected the times: a standout in opulence, exaggeration, and perhaps a golden era of television that doesn’t exist today. But to put things into perspective, there were only a few nighttime drama series that weren’t swimming in a vast pool of choice today like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other streaming services. “Dallas" also comes to mind, but its pace and clothing, comparatively speaking, had nothing on “Dynasty.”
The dramatic tension and luxury were just as important as the wardrobe. It would even seem fitting to say the costumes played a significant role in defining “Dynasty” and its history. And for those who remember it, “Dynasty" was “must-see TV” on Wednesday nights.
Despite what its viewers recall from its past, “Dynasty” was mostly about the women. Going back to this shirt, though copied from a publicity still and produced in 2018, it encapsulates the fundamental core of what keeps the original “Dynasty” alive in our pop cultural memory: only one male cast member (the patriarch) who seems to fade in the foreground amongst a group of strong, intelligent, striking women. -sc