By Laura McLaws Helms
Mention the 1980s American television series Dynasty and your mind is immediately filled with thoughts of shoulder pads, sequins and catfights. The runaway hit of the decade, this archly camp take on the life of an oil tycoon and his feuding past and current wives became synonymous with a certain brash 1980s extravagance, which pushed for everything to be bigger and glitzier—including the beauty. Starring Joan Collins, as Alexis Carrington Colby (Blake’s ex-wife), and Linda Evans, as Krystle Carrington (his current wife), the women competed not just with barbed quips and brawls in lily ponds, but also with their looks.
Krystle, the demure ex-secretary, wore her ash blonde hair in a long fringed bob; a fluffy halo framing her lightly tanned face. The angelic counter to Alexis’ dark beauty, Krystle’s make-up was understated with a tawny blush on the apples of her cheeks, a frosted peach or tan lipstick and soft brown eyeliner emphasizing the vibrancy of her clear blue eyes.
Alexis might only have joined the cast in season two but from her first appearance she inarguably became known as one of the best bitches in television history—with style to match. From her raven locks teased up in a mess of curls to her vampy long red nails, Alexis was every inch the femme fatale. Her wardrobe of sleek skirt suits and daring gowns was actually inspired by the sexy dangerous vamps of 1940s film noir, and Joan Collins made sure that the make-up suited these ensembles perfectly as she applied it all herself—a holdover from the beginning of her career in the 1950s when most actresses were expected to do their own makeup. Glossy red lips, dark eyeliner and a swathe of contouring blush makes for a dramatic look, but one that Alexis easily carried off no matter what time of day or occasion, and which could easily be seen under her trademark hats and veils.
Though both actresses were in their forties for most of the series, they were portrayed as vibrant and sensual—a first for women of that age on television. Their allure and privilege were emphatically shown through their healthy, toned bodies and beautiful faces, which in those pre-botox years had the perfect sprinkling of age-appropriate lines. It isn’t hard to see why both Krystle and Alexis became role models, both in beauty and lifestyles, to legions of women, with both the actresses who played them becoming spokesmodels for perfumes and other products. Their mix of beauty, power and glamour was beguiling.
If only there were more strong female characters like them on television today…
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