Imagining the Jewish Mob Wife Aesthetic

Let Fran Fine and the wives of real-life Jewish mobsters be your muses.

The internet loves a good aesthetic. Over the last few years, trends like Barbiecore, Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic, Coquette and tomato and strawberry girls have collectively taken over our timelines. Now, the Italian-American culture-inspired Mob Wife Aesthetic is joining their ranks.

For reference, look to Carmela Soprano, Big Ang or Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice. Think animal print, extravagant fur coats, velour track suits, big hair and big jewelry and big sunglasses, accented with long, square French tips. Get into the mindset of someone so brazenly displaying the wealth they may or may not have accumulated outside of the law that their fashion choices toe the line between chic and tacky. That’s Mob Wife Aesthetic. But like Courtney Preiss did for Hey Alma a few years ago with Coastal Grandma, I’d like to (respectfully) imagine what a Jewish Mob Wife Aesthetic would look like.

Immediately my mind goes Fran Fine of “The Nanny” for inspiration. Like mob wives, Fran is flashy. She’s got style and flair. “In the sitcom, she wore lots of neon and bold hued suits with mini skirts (think lime green, hot pink, and bright red) and colorful sequined dresses by iconic brands like Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada, and Tom Ford for Gucci,” Sara Radin wrote for Hey Alma in 2020. “Print wise, snakeskin, zebra, and leopard were key to her wardrobe along with florals and ‘90s plaid, all worn often in the form of matching sets.”

She added, “But I think what really made her outfits stand out were the accessories, layering techniques, and small details. She often wore colored gloves, a big headband that matched her outfit, and eccentric vests or dresses over contrast tops.”

fran fashion
Design by Grace Yagel

To me, Fran’s style reads as Mob Wife Aesthetic with chutzpah. The key differences are you’ll never catch Fran Fine wearing a bejeweled cross or a gold-plated necklace of Catholic saints, and a mob wife wears neon and bright patterns less frequently. For what it’s worth, Fran Fine, the character, was almost Italian-American. When Fran Drescher got the greenlight to write the pilot for “The Nanny,” CBS executives told her, ‘It sounds great — we’ll buy the show outright. But the nanny has to be Italian, not Jewish.'” Drescher and co-creator Peter Jacobson ultimately put their feet down, leading Fran Fine to be the Jewish American pop culture icon she is today.

But Fran Fine is a fictional character. There are actual, historical Jewish mob wives we can look to for aesthetic inspiration.

In the United States, the golden age of Jewish mob activity was during the Prohibition era. Gangsters like Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Moe Dalitz ran bootlegging operations until alcohol became legal again in 1933. Then, they all turned to running gambling outfits and developing the Las Vegas strip.

Unfortunately, the lives and looks of their Jewish wives are simply not as well documented. (Lansky, Siegel and Dalitz all dated and/or married women who were not Jewish. For our purposes, I’ll be sticking to just the Jewish ones.) Here’s what we know: Meyer was married to Anna Lansky née Citron from 1929 to 1946. In the one photo I’ve been able to find of her, her style is refined and elegant. She wears a dark colored dress with a large, frilled white collar, a string of pearls around her neck and leather kitten heels. Meyer’s second marriage was to Thelma “Teddy” Lansky née Scheer. They married in 1948. There are a couple more photos of Teddy than Anna (thanks mostly to her FindAGrave profile), but they don’t reveal a ton about her overall fashion sense. In one portrait of the couple, Teddy is wearing a pale blue or white dress with a sweetheart neckline, accented with what appears to be a blue sapphire necklace and white or silver earrings. Her nail and lip color add a nice red pop of color to the entire look. In a photo of Meyer and Teddy from later in life, presumably the late ’70s or ’80s, Teddy’s style goes from sophisticated to a bit more of an added flair. She wears a red and white checkered blazer, a large beaded necklace and her hair is teased and possibly dyed blonde.

Like Anna Citron, there is only one photo I can find of Bugsy Siegel’s wife Esta Siegel née Krakower. In it, Esta is absolutely serving. Esta, who was married to Bugsy from 1929 to 1946, dons a dark dress with lightly padded shoulders, with white piping or stitching which goes down from her shoulders and across her bodice. She’s wearing lace gloves and holding a reptile print handbag. As for her make-up, her eyebrows are thin and long, mascara accentuates her long eyelashes and her dark lipstick highlights the arches of her upper lip.

A few decades later, there is Karen Friedman Hill, the Jewish wife of Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill. Karen is perhaps the most widely known Jewish mob wife for being portrayed by Lorraine Bracco in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film “Goodfellas.” In a real-life photo of Karen from her wedding day, she dons a ‘60s bouffant hairstyle covered by a short veil and flower applique. Also incredibly ‘60s is her cat-eye make-up and the collared bridal suit she appears to be wearing. 

Meanwhile, the most notable looks from Lorraine Bracco’s Karen Hill are decidedly more ‘80s. During the wedding scene in “Goodfellas,” Karen’s hair is teased up but softer, she wears a string of pearls around her neck and another around her wrist and a simple, textured, floral dress. Later, as Karen’s character becomes more entrenched in the mob life style, her style becomes both more extravagant and more hardened. She wears Emilio Pucci dresses, fur coats, large golden earrings and when she starts dealing drugs, leather.

Between Fran Fine and the real-life Jewish mob wives, the gap between their styles is a bit hard to reconcile into just one Jewish mob wife aesthetic. But who says there can only be one Jewish mob wife aesthetic!

If you’re going for historical accuracy, I would stay closer to ’20s, ’30s and ’40s fashion trends and refined elegance. Go with a black dress with a large Peter Pan collar, silk stockings, a strand of pearls, red lips and nails and style your hair in loose curls or waves that you pin back. But if you’re going for the more ’80s, ’90s, 2000s or 2010s look, use Lorraine Bracco’s Karen Friedman Hill and Fran Fine’s Mob Wife Aesthetic with chutzpah as your guide. Tease your hair up, thrift an eye-catching colored suit and mini-skirt set, get your hands on a fur coat, lean into leopard print and sequins and always wear lipstick. And you can really pull any look together with Jewish accessories. Wear a giant Star of David, chai, hamsa or evil eye necklace. Get a sequined headband from Jewish designers like Susan Alexandra or Lele Sadoughi. If you wear a kippah everyday, add one with a bright color or pattern into your rotation. The possibilities are truly endless.

With that, please enjoy this mood board/starter pack to help you embody Jewish Mob Wife Aesthetic:

Design by Avital Dayanim

This piece was updated to include Karen Friedman Hill, with thanks to our vocal readers.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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