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Charlies Angels' Weekly Wardrobe Cost A Staggering Amount

Back when Farrah Fawcett feathered hairdos reigned supreme, and fans flocked to their TVs on Wednesday nights to watch "three little girls who went to the police academy," ABC's "Charlie's Angels" was an odd mix of second-wave feminism and male gaze-centered eye candy that could only have become a major pop-culture moment in the 1970s — a period that was both nascent in its consciousness of equality issues and more liberated than previous decades.

The idea of independent young women taking down the bad guys week after week felt empowering for many girls. As actress Jaclyn Smith told People in 2016, "It was groundbreaking. It was about three emotionally and financially independent women." And as actress Cheryl Ladd noted in an interview for the OWN network that same year, "There hadn't been a show like this on the air, where three powerful women, who had the latest hairdos, wore the coolest clothes, and could walk around in a bikini — and yeah, I think it irritated the crap out of us, that the critics would say, it's a jiggle show." 

While the more feminist aspects of the show might have been packaged in a stylish exterior, those cool clothes were definitely one reason the show became a phenomenon. And that was absolutely part of the plan, given how much the wardrobe for "Charlie's Angels" actually cost.

Wardrobe for the show cost $20,000 per episode

 MeTV reports that while some TV shows in the '70s spent $20,000 to make an episode, "Charlie's Angels" spent that much on wardrobe alone (some sources say that the budget for one episode of the series ranged from $310,000-$450,000, for reference). Given the inexpensive prices of clothing in the '70s compared to today, this does seem fairly high.

These costs were caused, in part, by the sheer amount of clothing used on the show. Mental Floss reports that the Angels changed their clothes up to eight times an episode — and in one, Farrah Fawcett wore 12 different outfits, breaking a record. In addition, care was taken to provide each of the actresses with their own visual personalities. Kate Jackson, playing the intellectual of the group, wore pants and collared shirts from Ralph Lauren, while Smith got pretty blouses and slacks, and Farrah Fawcett got "super-sex-bomb stuff," according to a New York Times article focusing on costumer Carolina Ewart, who worked on the show from 1977-1979.

This was, in part, due to producer Aaron Spelling's involvement. "Aaron had a thing about being able to identify the characters. God forbid you put two of the Angels in blue or red. And most of the time, you never saw the girls' shoes, but we still bought the best," Eilish Zebrasky, his costuming department head, said (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The angels chose some of their own high-end clothing — and got to keep a lot of it

Although the show aired before Rodeo Drive hosted a lineup of elite brands like Prada and Armani, much of the clothing in the show apparently came from boutiques in Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley. The show's costume designer from 1979-1981, Nolan Miller, said that by his time Spelling was letting the actresses both pick out and keep many of the costumes. "'It was a nightmare,” Miller told The New York Times. "Every Monday they'd come in with huge lists of boutiques in Beverly Hills where they had thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise on hold. But it was smart on Aaron's part, because the girls really started to develop their own style."

These included Smith's preferred garbardine pantsuits with matching blouses and vests from Alan Austin's boutique in Beverly Hills and jeans and turtlenecks for Jackson. Miller said, ”We must have bought about 300 black cashmere turtlenecks for Kate."

If IMDb is to be believed, this level of detail did not extend to makeup. A piece of uncredited trivia on IMDb notes that the actresses often shared the same shades of lip gloss and eye shadow. At the beginning, Sabrina (Jackson) and Jill (Fawcett) wear the same coffee-lip gloss, and Kelly (Smith) and Jill sport identical eye shadow. By the end of the series in 1981, IMDb says, all three angels were wearing the same red lipstick that Tanya (Tanya Roberts) wore. And the 2019 "Charlie's Angels" reboot film might be said to have featured a callback to this — there's a scene in which all the angels wear the same lipstick (via PureWow).