Masters of Sex 1.12 “Manhigh” Costume Review: Reaching for the Stars

16 Dec

The first season of Masters of Sex uses space exploration as mirror to the pioneering research occurring in exam room 5; Bill and Virginia want to know everything about the act that can create life, whereas the notion of space travel is looking at life beyond Earth. Both include scary prospects and the potential to reveal things that could change the way we live, but only one of these is on prime time while the grand unveiling of the other is met with horror and aversion.

Ane Crabtree’s costume design for the whole of the first season has been tremendous and adds another layer to the storytelling as well as influencing my own sweater purchases. Each character has their own signature style and this reflects not only their attitudes towards sex, but also shows there is a lot more to this era than being buttoned up.

Masters of Sex 1.12 BillThe look of Bill Masters has been consistent throughout and there have only been a few occasions where he hasn’t been in his standard bow tie, suspenders and jacket attire. This is Bill’s uniform and it gives the impression of tradition, but the small polka dot detail on his bow tie hints at something slightly less repressed. Over the season we have seen Bill loosen up in private; his public demeanor is still pretty much the uptight dude that we met in the pilot. In the final scene Bill doesn’t cover Virginia’s eyes as he did last time he choked up and he openly admits that he needs her; I don’t think Bill has ever admitted that he needs someone other than himself. Bill is making that all important grand gesture.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Incredulous BillA slightly different bow tie/shirt combo (polka dots and check) and he’s pulling his best incredulous face. Bill throws himself under the bus to protect Barton’s job and says “Fuck them” in the process. The one thing he remains blind to is Libby, despite her attempts to be part of the project he is so passionate about.

Masters of Sex 1.12 dinner no showThe Masters home has never looked more lonely and cramped all at once as not a single person turns up to the post lecture dinner party celebration. Libby asks Bill who the woman in the video is and tells him other people think it is Virginia. Bill denies this without ever saying that it isn’t Virginia, he simply leads Libby’s questioning to get her to come to that conclusion.

Masters of sex 1.12 Virginia and JaneIn an ugly exchange one of the male doctors (the same doctor who raised his Martini glass to the notion that size doesn’t matter) tells Virginia that it was more of her than he needed to see in the presentation.  Both Jane and Virginia are appalled at this accusation and it doesn’t matter that we know it was Virginia, what matters is that as soon as it turned to female sexuality the attitude changed from frat house to nunnery. Jane is in the bold yellow we have come to associate her with and despite the reception to the study, she isn’t going to change who she is nor fade into the background in muted tones. Virginia has favored dark colors throughout the season, but color has all but disappeared since the time she started sleeping with Bill (except in his fantasy version of her last week).

Masters of Sex 1.12 Virginia close upThis close up comes after the presentation has been shut down during the provocative Virginia film. Virginia marches to the elevator and as with The Good WifeMasters of Sex has used this space for moments of escape (as with Margaret Scully in “Brave New World“), to show the disconnect between Bill and Virginia last week and as a place where Lillian attempted to get more money for her study. Here it looks like Virginia has been punched in the stomach or as if she’s going to throw up.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Virginia collarHere’s another shot from the same scene as I want to highlight the collar detail and the bold white lapels of this dress as they cross over each other on the back. Pretty much all of Virginia’s work clothes are smart and chic; embellished collars are incredibly popular during this time period and Virginia always appears to be one step ahead of the other ladies who work at the hospital. Virginia’s time working as a singer in a variety of music halls definitely impacts her costuming choices.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Lester and JaneI’ve already mentioned the yellow of Jane’s post presentation outfit and even though she isn’t going to lose her golden glow because of the reaction to the study she’s still embarrassed by how much of her has been aired in public, particularly as everyone is calling it dirty. Jane has been instrumental throughout the study and she thinks that her vaginal walls have brought down the whole kingdom. Lester does a good job of reassuring this isn’t the case and she should also remember her words to Bill earlier “It was just the insecure men who didn’t want to hear about how women are you know, sexually superior.” This statement really gets the heart and hypocrisy of the matter and it looks likes the Chancellor et al are similar to the MPAA.

Masters of Sex 1.12 LesterThe Lester/Jane relationship is very sweet and Lester’s earthy tones compliment the sunny disposition of Jane’s predominantly yellow wardrobe. Lester’s concern for how much masturbation is too much leads to one of the funniest lines of the season with Bill telling him “I can spot a statistically average masturbator from a mile away.” That’s a special skill to put on your resume now you’re out of a job Bill.

Masters of Sex 1.12 AustinAustin propositions Jane as they discuss how the study started with them. Austin comes across as confident (even though we know he has had performance issues in the past) and he’s suave whereas Lester is awkward. Costume wise they are incredibly different with Lester’s sweater vests and glasses and Austin’s well tailored expensive suits. Lester is the one who ends up getting a smooch and he’s definitely more relationship material as I can see Austin coasting from woman to woman without ever being truly satisfied.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby and JaneThe Libby/Jane working partnership continues as they sort out handouts, Martinis and canapés. Libby is dressed predominantly in baby blue this week and this is yet another beautiful maternity dress. As I have previously mentioned, Libby’s character progression from housewife to now has been exciting to watch as she has become so much more than the lazy option of the nagging housewife.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby baby blueIn an even lighter baby blue ensemble Libby is boxing up supplies for the Urban League and this points again to Libby as non-prejudicial. Libby goes into labor in this scene, as they can’t get hold of Bill and the baby is coming fast there’s no option but to take Libby to a different and predominantly African American hospital. This the second time this season in which Libby has gone to a different hospital accompanied by an African American and the main thing this is suggesting is that Libby is not a racist; the pilot episode touched on racial prejudice in Bill’s hospital and I wonder if season 2 is going to deal more with Civil Rights beyond this surface level next year. The giant white lapels on this woman’s dress mirror Virginia’s, showing that it’s a popular style, just not necessarily one that Virginia’s co-workers share.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby babyLibby is perfectly content after giving birth to a baby boy (as the blue blanket suggests) and she turns down the offer to call Bill right away; the conception was a solo effort (with the aid of Ethan) and the birth mirrors Bill’s absent role so far. The writers have altered the timeline of the Masters’ children for dramatic purposes and as we go forward the relationship between Bill and Libby is going to shift; will Libby fight for their marriage or is this child enough for her?

Masters of Sex 1.12 Lillian lunchWhat is enough for Lillian with her research? She attempts a different strategy to try and get more funding; this time there’s no awkward flirty banter and instead Lillian goes in hard. The result is still the same and she comes away empty handed. Lillian’s clothes are still rigid and functional and most women don’t want to be seen by a female OB/GYN despite Lillian’s attempts to keep her gender out of her performance as a doctor.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Dr DePaulOn two separate occasions we see Lillian taking off her lab coat – the first is prior to the lunch where she gets no funding and the second comes as Virginia suggests a different approach. Virginia thinks that Lillian needs to look beyond Pap smears; she needs to aim big to get the money she requires. At first Virginia suggests breast cancer, followed by the contraceptive pill. Virginia does her homework (it’s how she knew about the Pap smear when she first met Lillian) and the contraceptive pill is going to revolutionize medicine for women. Spoiler alert it doesn’t go on the market until 1960 and yet I can see this linking into Lillian’s work next season. This is if Lillian is still around and I really hope she is as Julianne Nicholson has brought something special to this season.

Masters of Sex 1.12 MargaretAllison Janney is another Masters of Sex MVP and in the season finale she confronts Barton regarding his sexuality and later visits the doctor who is going to ‘cure’ him. There are similarities between Margaret Scully and Libby Masters in their marital situations –  Bill isn’t gay, but he doesn’t love his wife in a sexual way – and this is reflected in their costuming as Margaret also wears baby blue this week. This is yet another beautiful and ornate broach in the Margaret Scully collection, rivaling The Good Wife’s Diane Lockhart.

Masters of Sex 1.12 closetBarton essentially steps out of his closet when Margaret confronts him about his sexual preference by using a headline in the paper as a segue. It’s a frank and honest chat; this surprised me considering how long Barton has been keeping it a secret (around 40 years) and it’s pretty calm and collected at first. Margaret explodes due to how long Barton has known he has feelings for men and she accuses him of stealing time from her. It’s an incredibly complex and heartbreaking scenario, even more so when Margaret hears what options are available to stop Barton feeling this way towards men.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Barton and MagaretThe shot above comes from the moment where Margaret tells Barton to not have electro shock therapy as the risks far outweigh what it might do. The memories that she mentions are not grand life altering ones, but small moments that add to their 30 years together and she doesn’t want to lose that. Barton tells her he won’t go through with it and this is yet another lie. It’s a stunning composition as Margaret is in the light of the bedside lamp and Baton is in darkness as they embrace on the bed they haven’t shared for years.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Bill prepThis is another moment that uses a bold light to enhance the framing of a character; this time from a natural source as Bill prepares to go out and make his presentation. In this moment he is still in darkness and he’s about to unleash his work on the world.

Masters of Sex 1.12 EthanEthan spends most of the episode away in California where he is having a job interview. It’s all going well between Virginia and Ethan and he even proposes to her in this scene while he is staring at the ocean in sun kissed California. This is in contrast to the rain soaked St. Louis, Missouri and the declaration that Bill makes in person. Ethan has definitely changed from the jerk we met in the pilot and he is great with Virginia’s kids and yet he can’t offer the stars in the same way Bill can.

Masters of Sex 1.12 the studyLike the heroes of Project Manhigh who have reached new heights, so have Bill and Virginia and they have done so together. The envelope full of money was Bill’s ill judged reaction to his guilt induced by Libby’s pregnancy and in this final scene of season 1, Bill emotionally undresses and lays out the truth. It’s not the work Bill can’t live without, it’s Virginia. So that’s not one but two propositions for Virginia as we end season 1 and while it’s easy to guess which way she will lean, the episode overall is a very satisfactory resolution to an excellent first season.

5 Responses to “Masters of Sex 1.12 “Manhigh” Costume Review: Reaching for the Stars”


  1. Masters of Sex Season 2 Promo: “Keep Your Heart Out Of It” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 30, 2014

    […] things are getting far more intimate after Bill’s rom-com like rain soaked declaration at the end of season 1. Virginia is indispensable to both Bill and the study, but there are obstacles aplenty including […]

  2. Masters of Sex 2.01 “Parallax” Review: Going off Book | TV Ate My Wardrobe - July 14, 2014

    […] big rain soaked grand gesture that ended season 1 of Masters of Sex is revisited in the form of flashback from both Bill and Virginia’s […]

  3. Masters of Sex 2.11 “One for the Money, Two for the Show” Review: “Stake Your Claim” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 22, 2014

    […] that didn’t exist at the start of this season despite the grand rom-com like rain gesture at the end of last year. With only one episode left it is unclear just where these characters will end up, but it is clear […]

  4. Masters of Sex 2.12 “The Revolution will not be Televised” Review: Leap of Faith | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 29, 2014

    […] first season of Masters of Sex ended in an unlikely rom-com fashion; boy stands in the rain telling girl how […]

  5. Masters of Sex 3.12 “Full Ten Count” Review: Save Yourself | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 28, 2015

    […] catching Virginia just in time. Masters of Sex has already done the big rom-com ending back in season 1 when Bill showed up on Virginia’s doorstep in the rain and it is Bill’s decision to […]

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