Thanks to the magical little box I have connected to my TV and some hocus pocus, I’ve been rewatching every single episode of Cheers, the American comedy set in a bar of the same name. And one thing that strikes me, aside from how hot Ted Danson was (is), and how many full drinks the customers who don’t have any lines leave sitting on the tables, is of course Diane Chambers’ style.
The premise, if you have never watched it, is that a little spoiled lady enters a bar she wouldn’t be caught dead in, gets abandoned there, and ends up deciding to take a job there, for many reasons including the fact that the bar owner is Sam Malone, a pig headed, chauvinistic, womaniser, and is pretty darn sexy.
And Diane, for her dues, fits right in. She doesn’t let the ignorance of drunk customers change her, nor does she try to win friends by giving in. And more importantly, she doesn’t even change her style of clothes, despite the fact that she’s waiting tables in what others would call their Sunday best. And what’s more, she still gets the man, who previously would be more interested in a scantily clad buxom bimbo.
From the frills, to the high necks, and the mid-calf skirts, Diane stayed true to herself. She was demure, yet smart, dressed for herself and no one else. She wore brooches, much like older ladies still do, on their buttoned-to-the-neck collars. Pearls and matching collarless jackets were a regular occurrence.
Her style was commented on in a few episodes. One where she tried to extol some knowledge to a passing customer, who simply commented how she wasn’t wearing a bra (she wasn’t), and in another when Sam nominated her for Boston Barmaid of the year, which she entered entirely as herself, prim, and sensible, but when seeing the competition, and hearing advice from Norm and the gang, she promptly pulled the shoulders of her gypsy top down, as she couldn’t win what was essentially a beauty contest on brains alone.
Towards the end of series one (spoilers) she starts a relationship with Sam. On their first evening together, you get a glimpse of a different side to Diane, when she slips into “something more flimsy”. She does still have her stuffed animals allllll over her bedroom, which she introduces by name to Sam. To me, this more raunchy side didn’t suit her, but I guess it was needed to make their relationship have staying power, in the eyes of the public. There was no way Sam was going to stay with a prude for any length of time!
After their initial date, she actually started to dress a bit more risqué. Whether this was as a result of viewer feedback, or perhaps from Sam’s influence, I’m not sure. Lower necklines, and higher hemlines perhaps became occasional, but still, typically Diane. Her hair remained a shocking, frizzy curled mess, that I find hard to believe anyone anywhere ever thought looked good. It was intended to make the look more frumpy, and it worked! Sam was forever lifting it to the side, to kiss her neck, and it looked as if it were a solid lump, fused with hairspray.
I doubt that many girls at the time aspired to dress like Diane, not like her eventual replacement of Kirsty Alley’s Rebecca, but I think that Shelley Long deserves a special mention for managing to be a very funny, independent, intelligent, individual character, quite opposite to many others on screen at that time. She described her perfect man, and it was exactly the kind of man my son is turning out to be. If he brought Diane Chambers home to meet me I’d be ecstatic. And not least because she would have no intention of stealing my clothes.