TV Fashion: Betty Suarez from 'Ugly Betty' (ABC)
Somewhere between hot and cold
Hey, we're superficial and self-centered and believe everything that matters really is skin-deep. Actually, we don't even need to get to your skin - we've already made up our mind about you by the clothes on your back.
And so it causes us physical and mental anguish to stare at Betty Suarez from "Ugly Betty." Don't get us wrong; we love Betty, but the girl seems to have stumbled upon a fashion vortex that has her channeling a frightening combination of Bea Arthur and Sonny Bono.
When you think about what was wrong with styles of the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s, two things come to mind: prints and layering. And Betty, God bless her, is the queen of both.
If you can get past the unfashionable bangs, the red-framed eyewear and the mouthful of blue metalwork, our ocular units are assaulted with an assortment of polyester tie-neck blouses and dresses under crocheted sweater vests and trunks in burgundy leggings. The outfits say, "I started out with the best of intentions," but ultimately leave us looking at a Latina Frumpled Stiltskin.
Guadalajara ponchos and applique holiday sweaters are styles best left for bad dreams and square dances, but Betty, played beautifully by America Ferrera, has a closet full of hideously haute. Just when television finally shows a girl with a healthy body image in a positive light, it shows her in negative fashion. Seriously, you need to give yourself and your family a good 30 minutes of quality digestion time before watching this wardrobe catastrophe - or you could suffer what we like to call "visual dry heaves." So far this season we've seen her in Cinderella dresses, print frocks with long-sleeved jerseys underneath, pistachio cardigans and belted red vests over plaid wool skirts. Ferrera should get hazard pay for donning these items.
The funny thing about the show is that it appears the costume design team puts so much thought and effort into making Betty look disastrous that it's ignored the characters who are supposed to actually be fashionable, allowing employees of the fashion magazine Mode to look like models from the J.C. Penney catalog. We know which is sadder, but we're not willing to say it in print.
Nevertheless, if we have to find something nice to say, it's that no matter what Betty wears, she wears it with confidence and panache, ultimately making it work for her. And if you were to spot real players in the world of fashion editing - like Anna Piaggi and Patrick McDonald - you'd realize that ugly is merely a matter of taste.