Entire dissertations could be written about the wardrobe of Fran Fine, actress Fran Drescher’s fashion-forward character on the beloved sitcom The Nanny, from the way she paired bedazzled cocktail dresses with turtlenecks to her affinity for opaque tights and her collection of embroidered chenille bathrobes.
In fact, much has already been written about Fran’s style; her style has earned a fanbase all its own, including social media accounts with the sole purpose of chronicling her looks. But while Fran might be the flashy girl from Flushing, she’s not the only one with enviable style on the show. In fact, it could be said that the dashing Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (played by Charles Shaugnessy), who hires Fran to watch his three children, is actually the show’s unsung style icon.
Fran Drescher and Charles Shaughnessy in The Nanny, which is streaming now on HBO Max.CBS PHOTO ARCHIVEGETTY IMAGES
The inaugural season of The Nanny aired in 1993 and launched Fran and Maxwell—as well as the actors who played them—to household-name status. Last month, when news hit that the show was going “all the way from Flushing” to HBOMax, Twitter was flooded with celebratory tributes, lauding Drescher’s comedy and the show’s unrivaled costuming. The series is, for the second time, having quite a serious moment—and it’s easy to see why.
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The Nanny hits a nostalgic sweet spot; those of us who grew up with the show are getting to indulge in a childhood favorite with newfound appreciation, and nearly three decades after its premiere, the series feels fresh. One large reason is the costumes. And while Fran’s bold outfits might get the lion’s share of the attention, for some eagle-eyed viewers, it’s Maxwell’s wardrobe of sharp suits and lush fabrics that remains an excellent blueprint for any man who wants to look elegant, refined, and unapologetically rich today.
The outré fashion of characters like Fran Fine (left) and her mother Sylvia (center) make the quiet luxury of Mr. Sheffield’s wardrobe all the more apparent.CBS PHOTO ARCHIVEGETTY IMAGES
The creative genius behind the show’s wardrobe is Brenda Cooper, an Emmy-winning costume designer and author of the forthcoming book The Silhouette Solution. “[Maxwell] had to be the epitome of class and elegance,” she tells Town & Country in her first ever interview about his costuming. “He’s a businessman, and he’s also a creative.”
Cooper outfitted the character in varied permutations of double breasted sports coats, classic fit and pleated trousers, turtleneck sweaters, suede field jackets, and tailored vests sourced from designers like Armani, Canali, and Ralph Lauren. But any man can dress from these stores if his credit limit allows; there are a few critical attributes to his wardrobe that set Maxwell apart from other affluent gentlemen.
When it came to dressing Maxwell, Cooper says fit was of paramount importance. “Everything had to be finely tailored, everything had to have an excellent fit,” she explains. Maxwell is a classic fit guy; any of his looks could be easily pulled from the rack today and worn without looking dated, which is a testament to the staying power of traditional fits over trendier slim cuts. Even Maxwell’s non-suiting looks fit him with ease; knit polos under sportscoats move with his frame as he strides through his Upper East Side townhouse fretting about his rivalry with Andrew Lloyd Webber. No one wears a turtleneck sweater quite like Maxwell and the way his fit–close to his frame, but not at all clingy—are instructive for any man. “He was posh,” Cooper says. “Posh is an important word. Very English.”