Every episode of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story is a veritable treasure trove of vintage fashion, spanning the late 1960s to the early nineties. But the era that’s the star of the style show is the 1980s, during which the majority of the story takes place. It is a time when Betty can increasingly afford to keep up with the Joneses, at least in terms of her fashion game. And keep up she does, adopting almost every major trend befitting the wife of a successful attorney who becomes known as “Dapper Dan, the Cary Grant of San Diego”—even while she’s experiencing inner turmoil, frustration or sorrow. As Creator, showrunner and executive producer Alexandra Cunningham tells Variety, “She’s trying to maintain a certain point of time, a facade of everything being all right.”
The numerous wardrobe choices also help to tell Betty’s story, indicating where Betty is in her life through style clues. Costume Designer, Amy Stofsky, explains that “the onset of wealth is a vast emotional shift for Betty, and it enables her to spend an exorbitant amount of money on designer clothing. As the story continues down the darker path, Betty becomes disinterested in the chic persona she displayed on the arm of Dan. That part of her life is lost.”
In an exclusive to usanetwork.com, Cunningham reveals that, “What showrunners ask of costume designers on the regular is insane. ‘Have the clothes be gorgeous and flattering and conversation pieces and (in the case of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story) period-accurate to three different decades but don’t overshadow the storytelling and don’t pull focus.’ I’d say it seems like an impossible task except for how Amy Stofsky (costume designer) always manages to pull it off.”
Providing behind-the-scenes insight in Amy’s process, she notes, “Amy spends as much time as any writer thinking about the characters as people—what their closets look like, the sweater their best friend bought them, the romantic dinner that jacket reminds them of, the old favorite wardrobe staples they will wear until they fall apart. This season, the shoulder pads and the stirrup pants and the matching workout separates and all the other impeccable, unimpeachable choices Amy and her team made in outfitting Betty, Dan and the other characters roots the show both in time and place but also from the first moment, capture the essence of who they all were—bright and dramatic and colorful and heartbreaking.”
While we rarely see Betty wear the same outfit twice, there are some trends and style choices she favors. Check out the galleries below to see some of Betty’s fashion go-to’s.
Even though Betty doesn’t work in an office, her wardrobe works overtime with blazers, jackets and tops that are bolstered by exaggerated padding on the shoulders. In the 1980s, wearing shoulder pads wasn’t just a sartorial choice; it was also a statement for women who were trying to achieve equal status with their male counterparts by increasing the size of their silhouettes. In the Dirty John Season 2: The Podcast, Producing Director Maggie Kiley says, “A big part of Betty’s look and vibe…was having…the shoulder pads, the cinched belts…. It was a moment in her life where going out into public she felt like she needed to put on a strong face.”
Blues of all Hues
According to Costume Designer Amy Stofsky, “Blue was always our hero color for Betty. Betty chooses to wear the color blue, her favorite, as psychological armor. She is always impeccable. In her mind Betty feels that it is a way to win Dan back.” But instead of sticking to the safeness of navy, Betty plays the color field in a range of teals, turquoises and aqua, even the occasional royal blue and cerulean. Clearly, the sky’s the limit on Betty’s blues.
Frills and Flounces
The fashion of the 1980s was all about excess; the shoulders were big, the patterns were bold and the colors were bright. Garments were often adorned with ruffles, frills and flounces; not-so-subtle flourishes that made big fashion statements and created dramatic fashion moments. Betty proves when a ruffle and a pouf sleeve or a peplum-waist get together, the impact is almost impossible to ignore.
Plaid prints do the hard work of coordinating colors for us, making it a go-to pattern through the ages, including in the 1980s, when it was co-opted for both preppy and punky styles, and everything in between. Betty uses plaid garments to her advantage to add visual interest to an outfit without having to go over the top with her color scheme.
Pretty, Pink....and Powerful
From casual tops to strong-shouldered jackets with statement lapels, Betty plays up pink to her advantage because it gives her versatility like no other color. Sometimes, she wears it in order to convey softness and femininity. But at other times, it’s a total power play, camouflaging the strength, drive and determination within, like the pink pantsuit she has on during the night of the murders.
Just like Betty, the sweaters she wears are never boring, especially when the holidays roll around. According to Costume Designer Amy Stofsky, “The patterned Christmas and Easter sweaters are a way of showing Betty’s love, or former love, of the holidays.” Betty seems to have the perfect sweater for every cold-weather occasion, such as being up in the mountains for a ski getaway, in addition to a collection of graphic-patterned sweatshirts for when the SoCal weather occasionally turns chilly.
Proper Pussycat Bows
Betty “ties one on” again and again with her collection of pussycat bow blouses and dresses. Also known as a “lavallière,” the boldness of the pronounced bow commands attention, drawing the eye to the face, while also providing softness with its large knot and drooping ends—the opposite of the stiffness of a man’s bowtie.
Spotlight on Polka Dots
Any which way Betty slices it, her polka-dot game is always spot on. Whether it’s oversized black dots on white jackets or smaller dots on silk blouses, Betty’s style always stays on point, period.
Costume Designer Amy Stofsky explains, “By the late 80’s Betty was disconnected from her former life, and no longer cared to be in anything besides sweats or a tracksuit. Dan was gone, and she lost her kids. She also lost the idyllic life that she felt was owed to her.” Even so, Betty’s workout wardrobe is anything but drab. She favors nylon tracksuits with bright or neon graphic accents while Janet, her walking buddy, has a penchant for body-conscious coordinating leotards and tights and accessories, such as leg warmers, headbands or fanny packs.
From painterly to geometric, from baroque to botanical, Betty’s choice in floral patterns is as varied as flowers themselves. Whether it’s dressed up on a structured top for lunch with her friends, or dressed down on a sweater or sweatshirt for downtime at home, Betty seems to have a floral print that’s fitting for every occasion.
Catch up on the entire season of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story online or on demand.