Nancy Drew is many things to many people, yet across the decades there have been several consistent elements in her characterisation. For one thing, she’s deceptively resourceful. A brilliant brain. A crime busting teen queen. And she owns a wardrobe full of fierce fashions that she’s not shy about showcasing. Basically, Nancy Drew likes to look good while solving the sorts of mysteries that routinely baffle the police of River Heights. As we approach Nancy’s 90th birthday (!) I thought it would be nice to take a look at one area of Nancy that often goes neglected. Let’s peek at Nancy Drew’s classy not trashy outfits, as seen on the cover art of her many books. I’ll select personal favourites. Let’s start at the start.
The legend makes her debut in The Secret Of The Old Clock. It established certain things about Nancy that remained unchanged across the years: she’s the daughter of a lawyer. Her mother died when she was a little girl. She has a housekeeper called Hannah. And she’s effortlessly fabulous. Look at that one-piece green frock. Note how Nancy has paired it off with two very stylish accessories i.e. her thin gold bangle and a screwdriver for prying into old clocks for clues. Clearly, this is a detective who wants to look good while she catches crooks.
The shopping malls of ’80s River Heights were clearly good for chic cardigans. Nancy had the good taste to put her pink and cream striped cardigan against a clashing blue skirt. The final effect is striking. Nancy is displaying a talent for both sleuthing and colour blocking. The little touches are being observed: her blouse, buttoned to the top, gives her a sense of elegance befitting her status as the greatest detective ever to crack crimes in River Heights. Valley Girls would pawn their back issues of Sassy to look this good.
In False Moves, Nancy decides to help out her flop ex-boyfriend Ned Nickerson when he crawls back to her for help. Basically, his new girlfriend (!) has been falsely accused of a crime and Ned needs Nancy to help clear her name. Obviously, Nancy can’t refuse a mystery, but her smartest move in False Moves was her decision to wear this exciting rich red turtleneck with black leather maxi dress. It gives a twist to old-fashioned formal wear and Nancy clearly intended it to show that fool Ned know what he was missing. Luckily, Frank Hardy is far more appreciative and a match for Nancy’s brainy brilliance.
In this beautifully painted cover art for Mystery Of The Tolling Bell, Nancy continues to show off her skills at co-ordinating a fierce look. This time, a simple peach blouse is Nancy’s garment of choice with her Titian locks being the main centrepiece over an accessory. Deliberately styled for the messy look, Nancy is proving very capable in the art of personal style.
1970s Nancy Drew meant business. Here, she’s styled herself to resemble American actress Pamela Sue Martin. Nancy is a master of disguise and a queen of cosplay. It’s uncanny, isn’t it? Favouring functional yet form fitted attire, this is a Nancy Drew that demands attention and refuses to stand in the background as men solve the mystery.
The ’90s changed fashion forever. Grunge was in. Kurt Cobain. Winona Ryder. Casual but cool. Boots. Sunglasses. Less is more. Once again Nancy Drew decided to move with the times, embracing fashion unlike the terminally uncool Hardy Boys. Nancy of the ’90s decided to dye her iconic red hair for the first time. Resembling actress Tracy Ryan, it was a different sort of Nancy Drew, one with brown hair.
Nothing I write could possibly do justice to this outfit. Look at it. An orange romper suit and a white scarf. Only Nancy Drew, a genius at solving baffling conundrums, could put this flawless look together. Add to this a belt for a cinched waist and you have A LOOK.
Nancy’s holiday style is cool and effortless. She matches a blue and black bathing suit with a light fabric shirt and a functional bag with tanning lotion and a magnifying glass. This is a girl ready to catch some rays…and a killer.
The title of this spooky mystery is Something To Hide. It doesn’t refer to Nancy’s conspicuous outfit, a nicely co-ordinated costume for Halloween that doesn’t mask her famous face. A necktie and a nice hat complete this outfit. NOTE: the blouse is striped, but the stripes are vertical, which creates a flattering effect. Horizontal lines are bad. I speak from desperate experience.
There we have it. A history of Nancy Drew’s fierce fashions. Obviously Nancy Drew is more than just a collection of really great outfits. She’s a crime solving queen and still at it even now. She has survived changing fashions because she has adapted over the decades, shapeshifting but always keeping the essential elements of her character: her smarts, her kindness, her determination…and her catwalk ready clothes. Even better, Nancy is back on television on The CW in America, though she’s investigating ghosts rather than crime. I’m not sure about that. As for her books, they’ve never been away from shelves. Like tastes in reading and changes within the publishing industry, Nancy has sometimes fallen out of favour, yet she always has her fans because Nancy represents something positive to aspire towards. Yes, she always looks stylish. But more than that, Nancy always wins – and that never goes out of fashion.