It’s hard to figure out when she has time to shop, what with her various jobs, boyfriends, and all that to-ing and fro-ing from 5A, but it’s clear that once Elaine gets in the dressing room, she knows what works. A tour through the evolving identity of TV’s most complicated single woman:
ONE OF THE GUYS
Her trademark look — 1940s-style poufed hair, jackets worn over long, funky vintage-looking dresses, anklet socks, spectator flats — signaled basic Elaine as we first knew her: more pal than paramour. That hair said, ”I do it my way.” Those sensible shoes said, ”I’m ready to bail at any minute” (out of a date or a Chinese restaurant that keeps her waiting too long). As for her flannel nightgowns — well, they simply say, ”I’m cold. I’m alone. And I’m practical.”
LEADER OF MEN
In the seventh season, Elaine found career — and style — growth working for the J. Peterman catalog. Her Andrews Sisters ‘do was replaced with loose, elegant waves (and once, even, by a short wig). She invests in elegant suits (finally, she’s draped in the true, murky palette of a New Yorker); with her chicer eyeglasses and Bobbi Brown-style makeup, she looks really stylish, really tough, and (in more body-hugging styles) really sexy behind Peterman’s desk (as he’s having a nervous break-down in Burma).
SICK OF THE BOYS
Although she once saw a therapist — and went away with him to Europe — Elaine needs no help in getting in touch with her feelings. She has always known that there’s more to life than job-hopping, serial dating, and raiding Jerry’s fridge. Dissatisfied Elaine is the one who won’t take off her big, shapeless parka; who hates it when women discuss where she buys her shoes (Botticelli); who races around with a coat over that same flannel nightie, trying to shoo a boring out-of-town boyfriend to the airport; who won’t settle for a damaged white cashmere sweater; and whose hair is beginning to go seriously awry.
LOVER OF MEN
Va-voom! While the boys were out kvetching, Elaine became a glamorous babe with a lusty sexual appetite and the elegant wardrobe to advance it. In the last two seasons, the woman has blown her hair smooth, twisted it up, even slicked it back maharani style (while in a fetching sari, with a nose ring). She wears a hip black leather jacket to babysit. She shows off her cleavage (no more accidental exposure of nipples in Christmas card photos). She changes looks from week to week — out of self-confidence, not skittishness. Ah, but the fundamental things apply: Elaine still sleeps in flannel jammies.