rhoda morganstern style idol underdog

November 17, 2013 in costume party, stop look & listen by editor

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Why Mary Richards’ eccentric BFF was the ultimate bag lady.


Mary Tyler Moore’s TV alter-ego Mary Richards has long been perched up as a fashion icon for the pop culture age, with designers like Marc Jacobs, Issac Mizrahi and Michael Kors citing her as one of the best-dressed characters in the history of television. To be sure, her endless closet of jersey knit dresses, low-slung belts and poorboy sweaters is worthy of the praise. But what we want to know is: Why doesn’t Rhoda get more love?

Rhoda Morganstern, played with gleeful cynicism by Valerie Harper, was Mary’s upstairs neighbor and best friend, the smart-ass yang to Mary’s hopelessly sunny yin. A creative type, she dressed windows at one of downtown Minneapolis’ department stores. But while she did typically gear up in true artist form — chambray smocks, disheveled layers — she did know how to knock it out of the park when she wanted to (usually, while in the presence of available men). Her style had a free-spirited edge, with billowy midi dresses, peasant sleeves and punchy hippie prints. Where Rhoda really excelled, though, was in her use of accessories and was rarely seen without her gold hoops, coin-dipped necklaces and signature head scarf. She also had a serious handbag collection, full of handy-crafty fringed and embroidered totes that made the Brooklyn-born 30-something seem like a globe-trotting iconoclast, even if she did only leave the US that one time she vacationed with Mary in Mexico.

We watched many hours of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” just to hunt down some of Rhoda’s greatest handbag hits, which you’ll find below, along with their modern-day counterparts. The sarcastic tone, however, is on you.

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Adorn by Sarah Lewis and Stela 9

embroidered_bags_like_rhodaBillabong and Brooks Brothers

fringe_suede_bags_like_rhodaSabrina Tach and RL Ralph Lauren