I started watching The Sopranos for the first time ever back in November 2021. Slowly but surely I’ve been making my way through this heart wrenching show. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at first. I thought it was just a show about Jersey mobsters, but it’s so much more than that! It’s about life, love, family, loyalty, betrayal. Oh my god! This show is just SO GOOD. I actually started watching it because a guy I was dating mentioned Gen Z had found The Sopranos and thought it represented the downfall of America. Phew! Gen Z, y’all were onto something.
That’s not what we’re here to talk about, although maybe another time. Today we gather here to discuss the legendary style icon, Carmela Soprano! Luckily this show started in 1999 so it technically qualifies as a ’90s post!
When I first started watching this show, I wanted to be drawn to Adriana La Cerva’s (played by Drea de Matteo), but I just wasn’t. It reminded me too much of my high school and college years. Now in my 30s, I found myself drawn to Carmela Soprano’s style.
After watching about 30 episodes, I found myself getting dressed one day. I picked out a tighter than usual top and started layering on gold jewelry with a conservative face of makeup. “What was I doing?!” I asked myself. I looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh my god, I’m dressing like Carmela Soprano!” Without regret, I went forward into my newfound chapter of adulthood as a y2k mom.
I found myself paying closer attention to Carmela’s style, wanting to break down the key components. Here’s some takeaways I put together for your reading pleasure.
Layered and Stacked Necklaces
One of the most iconic aspects of Carmela’s style is her layered or stacked necklaces. Frankly put, this is one of the things fans of Carmela’s style go absolutely crazy for. What I found particularly interesting was the evolution of the layering over the seasons. In the early seasons in ’99 and ’00, the layering was quite pronounced and, well, in true Jersey fashion, a little gaudy.
The most popular piece from this era is the mesh Christian Tse collar necklace. There are several iterations of this style that served as a base piece for the other layers. Lauren Kulchinsky Levison did the jewelry styling for The Sopranos.
“I wanted something that looked almost like fabric because it was reminiscent of a family quilt,” Levison said in an interview, “She was in charge of the family; she makes the sauce, she makes the food.”
According to Levison, the show brought in a cultural shift where women started purchasing higher end quality jewelry for themselves. Without waiting for their partners to purchase it for them. Before then, quality jewelry was often unattainable. The Sopranos ushered in women seeing jewelry as part of their overall look, even casually.
As Carmela grew into herself more, viewers can observe her jewelry becoming less gaudy and layered. In the later seasons, the layering is more understated.
Aesthetic but Mostly Useless Belts
Another thing I noticed is most of Carmela’s outfits include a belt. In true y2k fashion, these belts are metal and mostly useless in terms of true functionality. One thing I found interesting about these belts is that they’re reminiscent of the 70s. Much of Carmela’s styling is a throwback to 60s and 70s fashion, which can be observed mostly in the hair styling and more conservative-leaning outfits.
I love these belts, especially the silver belt she wore the blue monochrome outfit in the episode “The Weight” where she dances with Furio. Side note: I really wish those two had gotten together, but alas, our hearts will always long for a version of Carmela that could’ve been happier.
In any case, these belts bring me back to the y2k days. Why did it seem like the majority of belts were useless? Why did we all wear them? When did they go away and will they every come back? I have so many questions about this trend. Well, at least they weren’t the huge, thick belts popular towards the end of the 2000s.
Elevated Casual Workout Wear
One of my most favorite fashion storylines came early on when Adriana and Carmela would go to tennis lessons. I absolutely loved Carmela’s elevated workout wear. A lot of the jackets were hold overs from the 90s in terms of style, even with some 80s vibes pulling in. I also loved that Carmela always had her jewelry and hair done even for tennis.
Likewise, I enjoyed scenes where Carmela was more dressed down–to workout and also when she had to help her husband, Tony, in the hospital. The times Carmela wasn’t entirely put together we very rare, after all.
Acrylic French Tip Manicure
While Carmela’s style evolved over the 6 season run of The Sopranos, one thing remained the same: Her pink and white French tip manicure. This manicure is truly iconic and representative of Carmela’s style. It’s a little gaudy with the long tips but yet refined due to the nature of a French manicure.
One of the most fascinating interviews I read for this piece was with Maria Salandra, the manicurist who did the nail styling for all the women on the show. The nails on the show helped bring each actress into character on The Sopranos.
“The first time I met Carmela — or Edie Falco — she had already heard that I intended to do a pink and white acrylic,” Salandra said, “In the 1990s, all I did was pink and white acrylic. That’s what all the housewives had. With Carmela, it became iconic.”
Cheers to Carmela Soprano
Carmela, you truly are a style icon. Here’s to you, fictional mobster wife!