Vanna White still going strong

Alpha diva's a sartorial showstopper

Famous for the glamorous gowned image she has portrayed for more than 25 years on “Wheel of Fortune,” Vanna White has become synonymous with over-the-top decadence in dress. She has worn more than 7,500 outfits on the show without ever repeating.

Referring to her job as 50% letter-turning and 50% fashion, White has a keen sense of how her wardrobe helped build the “Wheel of Fortune” brand.

“I think a lot of people watch the show to see what I’m wearing,” she says.

There’s considerable evidence to back that assertion. In 2005, Woman’s Wear Daily listed her as one of TV’s biggest style icons. “Wheel” has its own popular mini-website, Vanna Style, dedicated to tracking her every outfit.

Even now, with above-the-knee cocktail dresses and formal pantsuits among her “Wheel” fashion repertoire, White’s image is practically an American institution. Fan letters describing bets on what color she’d come out in have been common.

“You never know if I’m going to come out in a prom dress, a slinky thing or a pantsuit — it’s part of the fun,” White says. “In 25 years, I’ve worn everything — every color, every design, short, long, taffeta, beaded, you name it.

“I once wore this yellow dress with feathers on it, and Pat (Sajak) called me ‘Big Bird,'” she adds. “I’ll put on something and say, ‘Should I really wear that?’ Then I’ll think, ‘Why not?’ There’s something for everybody.”

It takes a small team to create White’s iconic image. Stylist Roberta Wagner coordinates with the star along with costumers Kathi Nishimoto and Alan Mills to dazzle audiences. Wagner calls in 18-20 looks for every 12 that are aired, pulling clothes from designers in California, New York and Europe.

Referring to White as “a very sophisticated woman who is also very down-to-earth,” Wagner aims to incorporate White’s preference of “clean, sleek and modern” into the ensemble. Then the team judges the color against the backdrop, making sure hues pop for the camera — particularly important since the show’s transition to hi-def. Finally White joins the group, and the final lineup is chosen.

While she prefers classic, simple gowns with pearls for the show — something Grace Kelly or Jacqueline Kennedy might have worn — she admits that her job is to please everybody. As a result, she often dons items that she wouldn’t necessarily wear in her personal life. (She calls herself a “blue jeans person — very casual, no makeup, and tennis shoes.”)

“Those gowns are not who I am,” she says. “I am more the girl next door with a ponytail. I am portraying an image.”

Ultimately, White feels that onscreen fashion is merely an element of her job, not the reward. She says that what she loves is making people happy and seeing contestants win.

“It brings such joy to them,” she says.

More TV

  • Janene Drafs KTLA

    Janene Drafs Becomes First Woman to Lead KTLA

    KTLA-TV is poised for a historic changing of the guard as Seattle station executive Janene Drafs takes the reins of the storied Los Angeles TV station as general manager following the retirement of local broadcast stalwart Don Corsini. Drafs, who is the first woman to lead KTLA, is set to begin her post as VP and [...]

  • Conductor and Composer Eímear Noone pictured

    Oscars to Feature Female Orchestra Conductor for the First Time

    A woman will be conducting at the Oscars for the first time on Sunday, Feb. 9, the Academy announced today. Irish-born composer-conductor Eímear Noone will conduct excerpts from the five nominated scores. She is the first female to lead the orchestra in the history of the televised awards, the Academy said. Details beyond that are [...]

  • Marta Kauffman Television Producer

    Marta Kauffman's Okay Goodnight, Fox 21 TV Studios Ink First-Look Deal

    Okay Goodnight, the production company helmed by “Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman alongside Robbie Rowe Tollin and Hannah KS Canter, has signed a multi-year first-look deal with Fox 21 Television Studios to create projects for linear and streaming platforms, starting with an adaptation of the novel, “The Dreamers.” “Marta Kauffman is a legend and a hero [...]

  • Actor John Karlen

    John Karlen, Actor in 'Dark Shadows' and 'Cagney & Lacey,' Dies at 86

    Emmy-winning actor John Karlen, best known for his work on the television series “Dark Shadows” and “Cagney & Lacey,” has died. He was 86. Karlen died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at a hospice in Burbank, Calif., his friend and spokesperson Jim Pierson told the Associated Press. The actor played conman and scoundrel Willie Loomis [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - Hannah Brown caught

    'Bachelorette' Contestant Tyler Gwozdz Dies of Suspected Overdose

    Tyler Gwozdz, a former contestant on ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” has died of a suspected drug overdose. He was 29. According to the Boca Raton Police Department, Gwozdz was hospitalized on Jan. 13 following a “medical overdose.” He later died in Florida’s Palm Beach County after spending a week in the  intensive care unit. TMZ, which first [...]

  • betty gilpin ann coulter

    'Impeachment: American Crime Story' Casts Betty Gilpin as Ann Coulter

    “GLOW” star Betty Gilpin is set to play Ann Coulter in “Impeachment: American Crime Story” at FX. News of Gilpin’s casting comes just one day after it was announced that Billy Eichner had been cast as Matt Drudge in the third season of “ACS,” which will tackle the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Beanie Feldstein will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content