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NEW YORK — The bitch — and her power suit — is back.Joan Collins, whose portrayal on “Dynasty” as the shrewd and treacherous Alexis Carrington Colby epitomized the greed-is-good Eighties, is returning to the soap scene. The British-born Collins will once again play the role of a master manipulator, this time on CBS’ “Guiding Light,” the longest-running drama in broadcasting history. Collins will make her debut as corporate raider Alexandra Spaulding on Sept. 23.
This story first appeared in the September 19, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
This time around, though, don’t expect the towering shoulder pads, colossal earrings or soaring hair the vixens of “Dynasty” donned.
“We’re not doing any of that,” Collins said in a telephone interview. “The woman is haute couture, very high style. She is extremely groomed, sort of stylish without being a hag, stylish without being a fashion victim. Definitely a woman of the world who is able to spend as much money as she likes at the couture houses.”
But that doesn’t mean the power suit — Alexis’ signature boardroom-bitch getup on “Dynasty” — will remain in storage during Collins’ six-month “Guiding Light” stint.
“The power suit is there, but is softened, not with huge earrings, but with one important piece of jewelry,” she said. “The jacket could be different from the pants. Sometimes I wear a black jacket with a pleated skirt. I do not wear huge padded shoulders, but I wear shoulders.
Collins considers the power suit a staple of the business woman’s wardrobe, and believes its popularity has not waned despite corporate America’s leaning toward casual dressing.
“Quite frankly,” she said, “if I was a business woman, I wouldn’t want to go to work in a boardroom in a slip dress and a cardigan — I really wouldn’t. I don’t care how much your newspaper says the power suit is out — it is not out.”
Collins is relentless in her defense of the power suit. “I really do think that the twinset and cardigan is the most hideous look ever invented next to the baseball cap worn back to front,” she said. “I think the only person who would ever look good in it is Gisele Bündchen because it just isn’t attractive. I wear it for schlepping around the house sometimes, but it’s not a good look.”
She added, “I mean, women are to dress like women and I think they have to be proud of being women and proud of having a figure and a waist and shoulders and accentuate that without looking like Anna Nicole Smith.”
So the show’s costume designers, Sean Dudley and Patricia Field, are culling designer pieces suitable for Collins’ new persona, such as a “wonderful Giorgio Armani pale dove gray pantsuit,” Collins said.
“We started off with quite a bit from John Anthony and then we had a really eclectic bunch of stuff from Giorgio Armani, Louis Féraud, Oscar de la Renta, John Galliano, Kenzo and Nolan Miller,” said Collins, who recently gave up her Los Angeles home and moved into an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with husband Percy Gibson, stage manager of the Off-Broadway play “My Old Lady.” (She maintains homes in London and Saint-Tropez.)
On the accessories front, Collins will wear vintage pieces from jewelry designer Angela Tassoni, who on Tuesday in Manhattan, married Collins’ 36-year-old son, artist Sacha Newley.
“I was looking at stills of the show they took of me the other day and it’s a sleek look,” she said. “There was one of me in a John Galliano navy blue pinstripe suit and I was wearing pearls and my hair was sort of up. It looked good and it looked modern without being what I call the ‘Sex and the City’ look, because I can’t wear the ‘Sex and the City’ look and I know very few people who can.”
Collins is doubtful that her return to the soap circuit will influence trends and she remains convinced that despite the buzz her iconic “Dynasty” character generated during the Eighties, Alexis’ wardrobe was not as influential or sought after as most people believe.
“I don’t remember when I was doing it that I was being asked to do lots of fashion layouts in magazines and people saying, ‘Oh, we love your style,’” she said. “As far as I remember, they used to say, ‘Oh my God, those ghastly big shoulder pads and big hair!’ I think it’s been more appreciated now than it was then.”
But Collins has some good news for fans hoping Alexandra Spaulding takes a cue from Alexis Carrington Colby’s prickly interpersonal skills. (Remember Alexis and her nemesis, Krystle Carrington, duking it out in various cat-fight-friendly venues, including a beauty parlor, mud puddle and burning cabin?)
“She’s pretty similar,” Collins said. “They’re both strong-minded business women. [Alexandra Spaulding] is a woman who is very controlling and manipulative. She is very close to her brother and she comes back to Springfield to get control of his company while he’s faking a heart attack.”
Aside from the “Guiding Light” stint, Collins is gearing up for the launch of her novel, “Star Quality,” due out in November.