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Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Many Wigs of The Americans

11 Dec

Continuing TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2013″ costuming series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items that we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking, we want to look at this year’s TV through the prism of costume.

The Americans debuted in January and like all good spy shows disguise is a key element to the costuming. Today we will be discussing the variety of looks that both Philip and Elizabeth Jennings wore throughout season 1 and how this reflects some of the key issues of the series.

the Americans ClarkOn the surface The Americans is a show about two Soviet spies in an arranged marriage infiltrating the US; this means plenty of missions and costumes. This set up leads to the exploration of broader and deeper themes such as identity, family and marriage. Compartmentalizing is a big part of how these characters deal with their jobs and yet it is impossible to completely deny all feelings especially when a fake family contains two very real children and a connection that goes beyond regular co-workers. Elizabeth and Philip take on a variety of roles throughout the first season, for minor missions and long cons such as Philip’s Clark persona – in the shot above ‘Clark’s’ sweater vest/turtleneck combination is several levels of incredible, as is Elizabeth’s Velma wig.

Picture1The wigs are vital to the disguise and they serve a variety of purposes. This blonde wig in the opening scene of the pilot (TUSK!) is all about seduction and as soon as Elizabeth is in the car out of view, she rips it off as if she’s disassociating herself from the sex act she has just performed to get the information she needs. Ah yes, they must have some super strength Soviet glue as none of the wigs ever come off during these physical entanglements.

The Americans Clark and MarthaI was convinced that Martha would find out the truth mid romp, but Clark’s cover is still safe for now. Clark is the only repeat disguise and in a way he does feel like his own character. Clark is now actually married to Martha, when not even Philip is really married to Elizabeth. There was no ceremony, no real vows beyond those to the country. So the real marriage is fake and the fake marriage is real. Of course Martha is blissfully unaware and she will become collateral damage at some point whether it’s a broken heart or something more grave than that. When it comes to matters of seduction, the methods are similar it’s just the time scale that is different. Philip has built up his relationship with Martha because she is an asset they can use for the long term, whereas most of Elizabeth’s targets involve a brief post bar hookup. It’s all about finding the best way to gather information and they are both using their bodies to do so.

The Americans weddingClark’s fake family is made up of his fake wife and his handler and they share similar hair and glasses style. It’s a testament to the show that one of the biggest emotional gut punches comes in a scene featuring glasses this oversized.

The Americans all that hairOther than wigs that have the power to stay on during rigorous activity, the other magical element is how all of Keri Russell’s glorious hair fits into some of the super short wigs. A state of the art wig cap is the only answer. Dramatic cascading hair fit for a shampoo commercial is on display from time to time.

The Americans goateeFor Philip he gets the bonus disguise option of facial hair and the variety of characters he can take on with all the beard and moustache types is huge; Philip can flip between super sweet Clark to a dirtbag in several easy steps.  For Elizabeth she can rock a hat, but they have to get creative with any additions such as facial scars. Most of the time it is about distraction and the accessories they wear draw attention away from their real features.

The Americans two sketchesThese are sketches of two of Elizabeth’s disguises and while some in the FBI aren’t convinced it is the same person, Stan is. This is based on his experience and having an opponent in law enforcement that is actually smart adds tension to this game of cat and mouse. The stakes are raised and it actually feels like Philip and Elizabeth are in danger going into the final episode of the season.

The Americans mom jeansThe endless stream of wigs and costumes adds to the early ’80s aesthetic and Keri Russell can even make a pair of high waisted ‘mom’ jeans look good. Everything they wear is a disguise in one form or another and this includes when they are at home with their children and it helps create an image. The role of parent is very real even if the foundation it sits on is fabricated and this is one of the most thrilling aspects of The Americans; the spy shenanigans are fun and yet the emotional punches come courtesy of this fabricated life that has become their reality.

The Americans finaleFamily is what matters and it’s scenes like this one in the finale that emphasize the conflict between their duty to their country and the one they have created as part of their job. There are so many different versions of identity in The Americans and at home with their children is the most honest of them all. You know, aside from Henry and Paige thinking their parents work in the travel business.

Season 2 begins next year and we can’t wait to see what treats it will deliver us.

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13 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Many Wigs of The Americans”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. First Look at The Americans Season 2 | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 13, 2013

    […] this week we showcased the costuming and wig work of season 1, talking about how identity and marriage is just as vital to The Americans as any of their covert […]

  2. Best of 2013 TV Costuming: Group Discussion | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 31, 2013

    […] far as 2014 goes for me I’m hoping to get some inspiration from the new season of The Americans (seriously I really want their son Henry’s rainbow jacket) and blend it with some Felicity […]

  3. Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Collection | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 1, 2014

    […] The Many Wigs of The Americans  […]

  4. Tales from The Americans Season 1 Blu-Ray and DVD Launch Party | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 21, 2014

    […] restaurant and bar known for its vodka box and occasional Real Housewife spottings. As Emma has written about, The Americans has a very strong aesthetic–its early ’80s suburban look coupled with […]

  5. Music Monday Rewind: The Americans and TUSK! | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 24, 2014

    […] Americans was a 2013 highlight and while we spent a lot of time discussing the wigs and costuming (because of course), the soundtrack should also be singled out for adding something extra to the […]

  6. Best of TV Costuming 2014: The Marriage Disguise on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 4, 2014

    […] about the best covers of season 2 earlier this year) and instead of focusing on the spy attire as I did last year, I want to take a look at the mask they wear daily and the blurring of who they were/are. This […]

  7. The Americans 3.01 “EST Men” Review: “Got to be Objective to do Your Job” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 29, 2015

    […] blonde Velma wig returns! And even though Elizabeth ended up with a very close call I did enjoy her attempts to […]

  8. Behind the Insta-Scenes: Photos from the Set | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 2, 2015

    […] lot has been written about the amazing collection of wigs on The Americans, but the hair department also needs a shout out for this major volume and waves […]

  9. Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 11, 2015

    […] with this. The Americans is a repeat player in the “Best of” costume discussion with wigs (of course) and the ‘marriage […]

  10. Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 14, 2016

    […] upping the stakes/tension levels. In previous end of year essays about this show we have discussed wigs, the marriage disguise and the act of removing and revealing the […]

  11. Maggie Gyllenhaal Does ‘The Deuce’ Press Tour | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 8, 2017

    […] There is also a discussion about picking out her Candy and that is something I am always down for. […]

  12. Best of TV 2017: ‘The Americans’ and the Meaning of Marriage   | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 20, 2017

    […] the personal angle. It is also become an annual tradition to deep dive into The Americans at this time of year. One of my favorite episodes of 2017 was “Darkroom” which brought together so many […]

  13. Saying Goodbye to The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 30, 2018

    […] episode since the season one finale. I dread to think how many words this adds up to. I have talked best wigs, the marriage disguises, the vulnerability of Elizabeth, the huge season three truth telling […]

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