360 Review: Linda Zwordling of Better Off Ted

In the 360 Fashion Review, Corporette examines a fictional “professional woman’s” attire and critiques it from all perspectives: underling, boss, friend.
better off tedAll right – we are resurrecting one of the features that we get a lot of requests for:  the 360 Review.  We’ve done one for Dr. Lisa Cuddy of House, Ellen Parsons of Damages, Rachel Menken of Mad Men — and then we kind of got tired of looking for screen caps that were of good quality.  Also, we kind of stopped watching a lot of television in which people dress professionally.  (Kell on Earth?  Nope.  The Tudors?  Ermm. Syndicated repeats of Star Trek: The Next Generation, our husband’s favorite?  Well, they dress professionally, and there is much to be said about the fashion —  ye gods, the fashion — but perhaps this is not the forum for that.)

However, Better Off Ted is one of our shows that is a) airing new episodes, b) really good, and c) involves fictional characters who dress somewhat professionally.  It is a brilliant, brilliant comedy, with lots to say about office culture in a big corporation — and accordingly, we hear it is almost canceled.  So we thought we’d get our 360 review in now, and hopefully inspire some of you to check it out. 

The basics of Better Off Ted, if you don’t know them:  Linda (second left in the photo above; Andrea Anders plays her) is a “quality assurance tester” at a large, soulless corporation, Veridian Dynamics.  In the first episode we see her filling her desk drawer with Splenda packets from the coffee room, because this small act of rebellion makes her feel alive.  Her immediate boss, Ted (played by Jay Harrington), is charmed by this — and would ask her out, had he not already had his one allotted office fling.  That fling was with Veronica, Ted’s boss (played by Portia de Rossi), who has drunk far too much of the office Kool-Aid and feels entirely comfortable with abandoning sense and morality in order to get the job at Veridian done.  She is always dressed immaculately, with her hair pulled up into a severe bun — which only comes down when she’s playing the assistant to her magician boyfriend.  We think these two sentences from Linda’s bio on the ABC website sums up both her character and the show quite nicely:

She’s the most rational person in the company, the first to point out the insanity of making Christmas sweaters with the unfortunate quality of occasionally eating the flesh of the wearer. Linda is one of the few Veridian employees who sees her job as simply a job and not a life-long career. She dreams to one day publish her own children’s book, the story of a stern giraffe and a precocious toaster.

Thus:  today’s 360 Fashion Review will focus on Linda.  We’ll examine what her clothes, accessories, and personal style might say to a superior, to an underling, or to a friend.

zwordling fashion One of the things that makes Linda interesting for a 360 is that she dresses the way so many of us dress so often:  a lot of basics in solid colors. We actually really like the blouse here — the unusual collar, along with the blousing of the sleeves, makes it look stylish — less like a waiter wearing black and white.  Note that she’s not afraid to tuck things in.
(Side note: We are loving the way Veronica’s necktie is purposely tied to the right.  [We would have done a 360 of Veronica, honestly we would have, but “model of perfection” doesn’t leave a lot to be said.] Here’s a better shot of that necktie.) UPDATE: We actually managed to track down the costume designer for the show, Brandy Lusvardi, to talk about Veronica’s style in more depth.
We haven’t quite figured out how Linda’s makeup plays into her character.  In this picture, you can see it:  bubblegum pink lipstick, blue eye shadow, and, ah, some attempt at curling her hair.  For our $.02, this is one of those examples where the effort Linda put into the makeup is just a distraction to everyone she works with. better off ted linda
linda zwordling hair Say it with us, ladies:  camisole.  Camisole.  It’s a good thing, and it stops you from looking like you’re wearing your low-cut sweaters with nothing beneath them.
We have varying thoughts on her hair. She sure does style it a lot.  It’s never wild or crazy, though (although: wait for the last picture), and it generally always looks nice.  We actually quite like this particular look, pulled back like that.  That said, we know from experience that it’s really difficult to get two barrettes to look “balanced” — one is always too high, or too far back, or kind of holding the hair in a different way.  We’re curious what the readers have to say on this hairstyle, though — even assuming one can get it perfect, is it perhaps too juvenile?  Perhaps too “children’s author” and not professional enough?
Here’s another place a camisole would have been nice, if only for propriety’s sake (or in case she has to hand someone a report across a conference table, for example).Her jewelry, as you can tell, is almost always on the delicate side.  Simple, nondescript chain with simple, nondescript pendant.  She’s not conveying class or personality. better off ted fashion
better off ted hair OK, we really don’t like this hairstyle for the office.  Is it the high placement of the barrettes so high on her head?  Is it the strands of hair falling down?  Is it the lack of bangs? We’re not entirely sure, but… just… no.
A flip?  Seriously?  Please!  If we were this woman’s underling, we would resent doing anything she asked us to because it’s clear that she has a lot of time to spend with her curling iron and blowdryer. zwordling hair

Our take: If we were this woman’s boss, we probably wouldn’t notice her at all, provided her work was solidly mediocre.  And maybe that’s the point, from the storyline point of view — she’s trying to fly below the radar and keep her job until her children’s book takes off, but it probably never will because her sense of imagination may not be as great as she thinks it is, as you can see from her fashion choices.  As we mentioned above, if we were her underling we would resent the time she puts into her hair — when we noticed her, if at all.

Our advice: If we were her friend, we’d give Linda one of the best pieces of advice we ever got — from the BBC version of What Not to Wear.  Trinny, we believe, advised a woman to “always wear color with color, or black with black.”  Linda? Did you hear that?  The black pants paired with a solid top = bo-ring.  Sure, we get that she’s flying below the radar, but if she is a creative soul we’d like to see her take some risks — with color, perhaps (pair purple and yellow together one day!) or prints (wear some!  maybe two at once!) or — easiest of all — some jewelry.  We’d like to see her move away from the “single pendant necklace” look — either by wearing chunkier jewelry, or with a layered pendant-necklace look, or even with some vintage pieces like brooches.  Or shoes, Linda, where are some shoes with personality?  On the flip side, if Linda were ever to decide that she actually did want to start being noticed, we’d hope to see her wear a few more structured pieces — a blazer, a pencil skirt — and wear them with more authority.  A lot of the styling of the hair would probably have to go out the window, also — it’s an interesting contrast on the show that Veronica, Linda’s boss, always wears her hair in a tight bun, whereas Linda changes her hairstyle often.  We’re not saying that a female executive can’t have more than one hairstyle, but … well, perhaps the Charlie’s Angels flip isn’t one of them.

You can watch lots of episodes on ABC for free, or buy the entire first season at Amazon for $23 (Better Off Ted: Season One).

Readers, any thoughts?

(L-2)

Comments

  1. Hmmm, never heard of this show but I love your analysis. Here are my thoughts:

    Love the barrettes in her hair in that picture. I don’t think it looks juvenile, provided that the barrettes look expensive and not something you would buy at Claire’s for a few bucks.

    I love the flipped hair! Maybe it’s because my insanely curly hair could never do that. I can see how it would look high maintenance though.

    The color with color, black with black principle is interesting. How do you avoid wearing color with black/gray? There are only so many colors that you can wear as pants/skirts, and the majority are in the black/gray/navy blue category.

    Very interesting post, C.

    • Agree. I’d like more elaboration on only wearing black with black. That eliminates some of my favorite work outfits, which have black pants, colored jacket and top that matches or complements either the black or the color. Is that boring even if the jacket is interesting?

      • My takeaway from the WNTW show was that black shouldn’t be worn with just ONE color, and then a black basic. So if you’re wearing a light blue top with a dark blue sweater in complementary tones, I think that would meet the “color with color” theory. And I think gray/navy counts as color.

        • So you can’t wear a black or grey suit with a solid colored shell? Well, that knocks out 90% of my work wardrobe. Glad to know I’m so unfashionable…

      • WNTW advocates to never wear just two pieces (I’d consider a suit two pieces). That alone should eliminate this issue. A black suit could be worn with a colorful shell and a shoe, bag, scarf, something in a different color or texture. I read a post today about pairing a mustard cardigan with a red flat over cream and denim. The disparate colors were tied together with a necklace. I think this is what the black/color rules are more about. Change up some texture, wear extra pieces, accessorize. Does that make sense?

  2. New Lawyer Jane :

    I am also unwittingly in a jewelry crises. I am a relatively new professional – I finally purchased a wardrobe of professional clothes, but jewelry fell by the wayside. I like expensive jewelry, which tends to be delicate and nondescript at my price range. But I didn’t think about the classless part of it, ouch! Now I see it and agree – one can purchase that pendant anywhere. So thanks for both bringing up and solving the crises! Off to Ann Taylor…

    • I’m really at a loss to figure out how a nice chain w/an elegant pendant is “classless”??

      Maybe it doesn’t scream “I’m expensive,” but is that the goal? Having things scream that they’re very costly seems the a bit vulgar, if you ask me (or at least, if you’re buying them with that goal in mind).

      I frequently wear various pendants to work, especially if I’m wearing a larger pair of earrings or something else on the “bold” side. I had no idea this could be considered a bad thing. Can someone give me some explanation/examples??

      • I guess I wasn’t thinking that simple pendants are classless — just that pendant necklaces aren’t like pearls or other accessories like that, where you’re definitely conveying (or generally trying to) convey a classy look. Imagine Linda’s outfits with a set of pearls and the whole look is a bit different.

  3. anon - chi :

    I think it is interesting that C says that if she were Linda’s underling, she would resent doing anything Linda asked because it is clear that Linda spends so much time on her hair. Do other people feel this way about style choices that obviously take time and effort? I don’t think it would occur to me, personally.

    • It would only bother me if a coworker or boss complained about being too busy all the time. A colleague of mine (above me, but not my supervisor) constantly complains that she doesn’t have enough time to work out in the morning and that she always has a ton of errands to run, some of which she spends work time taking care of. But she spends at least an hour a day on her hair and makeup, and her errands include facials and shopping every week for new accessories, which she considers critical. I spend some time on my appearance, sure, but not to the point where it cuts into the rest of my life or my job.

    • I think if someone is putting in a lot of time and effort into something seemingly unnecessary, it’s fine as long as they aren’t also complaining about lack of time for more meaningful pursuits (either blaming work for their inability to take on more in their personal lives – when they could really just cut back on hair styling, or even worse – saying they don’t have enough time to get their job done).

      But for someone who has things generally well balanced, sure, take as much time as you need to get a great look (though now that I think of it, this could inspire some jealously).

      • Agreed. I worked with a woman who spent 90 minutes daily on her hair. She never complained about having to work too many hours (even during crazy deals) so my feeling is that, if she wants to spend her free hours on her hair instead of doing X, Y or Z, she is free to do so.

    • divaliscious11 :

      I don’t think I’d care one way or the other…. I’d only resent my superior if he or she was pushing down work to me so they could leave early to go get elaborate stuff, but that is different, imho.

  4. I adore this show (and know that it was actually creamer in the first episode, rather than Splenda – it is a poor reflection on me, not C, that I know that). So sad about the cancellation rumors.

    I can’t even focus on Linda because I’m so busy drooling over Veronica and wondering how I can precisely duplicate her wardrobe, down to the bun. Perfection. However, agree with the comment that Linda is booooring in her dress, and her hair often looks just slightly “off” to me. Just not quite there. (Interestingly, we learned in one episode that Linda had been wearing her hair back in a bun, and Veronica wearing hers down. Veronica loved the bun and found it powerful, so she took it, and then she insisted that Linda couldn’t have the same hairstyle. Yes, I need more of a life.)

  5. I love to wear two barrettes like in the pic, but find that it looks too young for work. With a cardigan and a little flip to the hair, the whole look is a little too “co-ed” a la 1950s. The exception (for me) is when I have two barrettes and then pull the rest of my hair back into a low ponytail or bun. The barrettes make it look more polished and frame the hair around the face nicely.

    V. curious about this black with black principle. And color with color? Does “color” mean non-neutral or just not black? I have very few bottoms in non-neutral colors!

  6. Well, the barrettes in the second picture just look too casual, like she’s going for a picnic or something. It looks more styled and therefore more professional in the first picture.

  7. Actually was hoping you _would_ do Veronica (hee, “do Veronica” – who am, I Ted? or her magician ex?). It’s a little too buttoned up, but that woman has some great suits week in and week out, and never shows too much skin.

  8. I think that barrette look is a great one for the office, except NOT with barrettes. In my opinion, this look is very flattering, but best done with bobby pins that match your hair; that way, you don’t have to worry about the “placement” of the barrette and you still look polished and feminine without looking like you’re 8 years old.

  9. Oh No!!! Please don’t tell me that the “barrettes on the side” look is too young – it is super, super flattering on my heart-shaped face. It’s my go-to look for everything – work, going out, even interviews. I wear it with nondescript metal barrettes, without the hair falling into my face (because really, who can concentrate like that), and with smoother, straighter hair.

    This is so sad.

  10. I thought the black/color rule was this: black looks more sophisticated when paired with a neutral such as gray, khaki, cream, white, etc., while brown looks more sophisticated paired with a color. Primary colors in general look less sophisticated than muted or jewel tones.

  11. As for the barrettes, very few professional women can carry off the double-barrette look without looking too young, or too frumpy (I’m picturing the several 40+ year olds I’ve seen with graying hair who are wearing this double-barrette style with their shoulder length hair and bangs).

  12. First, can I just say that I love, love, love Veronica’s style. She is definitely the picture of the perfect working woman! I am all over that side neck tie. I am going to try my best to duplicate that look! Amazingly chic!

    Second, I must agree that Linda’s wardrobe is blah and needs some revival. As C suggested, she could start with some key pieces like blazers and pencil skirts. The hair is a non-issue to me other than the pic of her wearing those atrociously teenager-looking double-barettes (for the weekend, go for the young look; for the weekday, keep it sophisticated).

    Corporette, this 360 Review post is awesome (I follow your blog but missed the others so I’ll have to go back and read those)! Think I’m gonna have to check this show out just so I can oogle and drool over Veronica’s (a/k/a Ms. Perfectionist’s) super-perfect wardrobe.

    http://cornerofficechic.wordpress.com

  13. Hopefully, this won’t appear as a duplicate comment (please ignore if it does; there appears to be a glitch in the system on my end).

    First, can I just say that I love, love, love Veronica’s style. She is definitely the picture of the perfect working woman! I am all over the side neck tie. I am going to try my best to duplicate that look! Amazingly chic!

    Second, I must agree that Linda’s wardrobe is blah and needs some revival. As C suggested, she could start with some key pieces like blazers and pencil skirts. The hair is a non-issue to me other than the pic of her wearing those atrociously teenager-looking double-barettes (for the weekend, go for the young look; for the weekday, keep it sophisticated).

    Corporette, this 360 Review post is awesome (I follow your blog but missed the others so I’ll have to go back and read those)! Think I’m gonna have to check this show out just so I can oogle and drool over Veronica’s (a/k/a Ms. Perfectionist’s) super-perfect wardrobe.

    http://cornerofficechic.wordpress.com

  14. Blonde Lawyer :

    I think this critique highlights the curse of being blonde. You either look to cute and flirty (innocently) or if you look pulled together you look like a frigid bitch. I wear my hair in a low pony w/ my long bangs (basically an inch of hair on each side) pulled out but tucked behind my ears. Or I wear it down and straight or half back.

    The comment about bubble gum lipstick – pink and pale pink are some of the only colors that look natural on natural blondes. Red can look slutty, mauves can look over powering and fake. We naturally look better with pink.

    I’ve often wondered if I would get taken more seriously if I dye my hair but I don’t think I’ve had too much of a problem and have decided to not let the few that underestimate me bother me. Instead they can be shocked at my results.

    • Interesting that you feel limited to pink lipsticks. I am a blonde, but I feel that pinks generally make me look too washed-out (I am a fairly light blonde). I stick to plum/berry shades and rosy nudes to look more polished and keep the pinks for weekend wear.

    • TGEmpress :

      Sing it Blonde Lawyer – I’m with you 100%. I’m a blonde as well, and was thinking while reading that I thought her hair looked good (minus the barrettes which bring back traumatic memories from childhood).

      My only concern working with or under her would be – what product does she use to keep her hair that perfect!

      I don’t think we ever look as serious unless we intentionally go for very severe which my flyway mane cannot manage.

    • delurking :

      Maybe everyone is discriminating against her or… she is wearing *blue eye shadow*. Blue. Eyeshadow. I’m not sure this is a hill you want to die on.

  15. Black with black will look weird/mismatched UNLESS you can ensure that you’re wearing the same shade of black top & bottom. It sounds funny, but there are various ‘types’ of black – they’re not all created equal!

  16. Nicole Gustas :

    Hooray! You just wrote up my favorite show!

    I would LOVE to read an interview with the stylist.

  17. newassociate :

    fyi and ot- nordstrom just did a ton of markdowns online, including a lot of nice shoes!

  18. I’ve only seen the show a couple of times, but I think the whole point of Linda’s look is to contrast her with Veronica and show that she’s a sweet, honest girl in the big bad corporation. Right? So flips and double barrettes and blue/pink makeup do that. (Pretty much all things I avoid, not that I’m a paragon of fashion these days…)

  19. more 360! more 360!

  20. While I haven’t seen the show, this woman could definitely benefit from wearing a third layer jacket, sweater, or cardigan (on the softer side) which would give her more visual authority. Agreed — she needs some prints!

    And blue eye shadow? It should still be illegal.

    conselleimageconsultant.wordpress.com

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