Best of TV Costuming 2013: Revolutionary Styling of Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod Crane

17 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.

One of 2013’s breakout hits is Sleepy Hollow and it has become a “Look of the Week” regular. The storytelling is fast paced and it delivers episodes soaked in crazy with a big side helping of heart as Ichabod adjusts to his 21st century setting. Ichabod Crane’s present day costuming has been called into question and I want to look at why it makes sense for him to still be in his Revolutionary threads.

Sleepy Hollow baseballSuspending disbelief is something we constantly have to do when watching TV; whether it is because a headless horseman is roaming the streets or that a man who died in the past wakes up over 300 years later. The line is apparently drawn when it comes to what Ichabod is wearing in the present and why he would still be wearing the clothes he woke up in.

Aesthetically, if Ichabod had undergone a makeover and was now dressed in jeans and t-shirt he would lose part of the visual ‘fish out of water’ element; he’d look like a generic hot dude solving mystical problems. The late 18th century garb is a constant reminder that Ichabod is not of this time. There are other cues of course like his issues with computers and his disgust at historical inaccuracies that are being taught and these are used sparingly is from.

102SH_101_0552.jpgFlashbacks show Ichabod’s uniform in its natural habitat if you will and within this part of the story he is far from being a stranger in a strange land. Thanks to battle conditions he still looks somewhat rugged, but there is a more polished quality to the costuming as it is being worn in its original setting.

Sleepy Hollow red coatWe also get to see Ichabod in his original red coat before he defected and this is a rather jarring experience as the blue is a constant part of the Ichabod that we see in the past and present. Red is used sparingly in Sleepy Hollow and generally means the side of evil and this is why it looks so alien on Ichabod. This is Ichabod Crane at his most polished and the tricorn hat adds distinction to this look, even if we associate the color red with all things diabolical.

Sleepy hollowIf he smelt so bad would Abbie be hugging him like this?

The pilot episode shows Ichabod washing his clothes in a sink and recently Tom Mison joked to TV Line “Would you like to see him maybe at the Laundromat, just sitting on a bench in his 18th-century pants? That would be nice. One of Abbie’s bathrobes and a face pack – watching High School Musical. Just make a weekend of it, me and Abbie!” Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see that and all potential makeover montages, however the Revolutionary attire is part of what makes Ichabod who he is. It’s a tangible part of his past and it’s one of the only physical reminders of who he is and where he came from. There’s the question of letting go and it would probably be considered an unhealthy attachment if the present wasn’t so strongly connected to the past through purgatory and Katrina. The world is a very different place for Ichabod upon his return and to maintain a sense of self and identity his clothing acts as a tether.

Sleepy Hollow costume designer Kristin M. Burke has answered questions about Ichabod and Abbie’s costuming at her excellent TV and film costuming site Frocktalk

4 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2013: Revolutionary Styling of Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod Crane”


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

    […] Revolutionary Styling of Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod Crane […]

  2. Sleepy Hollow and Skinny Jeans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 14, 2014

    […] The Sleepy Hollow 21st-century makeover scene has occurred and it involves skinny jeans. In the Best of 2013 series I wrote about why Ichabod’s revolutionary styling was so integral to his character and […]

  3. Sleepy Hollow Finale Review: Whaaaaaaaat? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 21, 2014

    […] It’s safe to say that the old misty eyes were induced several times over this double bill. Ichabod’s costuming has been a big discussion point here at TV Ate My Wardrobe and after last week’s brief foray […]

  4. Best of TV Costuming 2014: The Year of the Leather Jacket | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 22, 2014

    […] jackets are to Abbie Mills’ attire as Ichabod’s trusty colonial coat (and his new replicas) is to his wardrobe on Sleepy Hollow. Abbie’s costuming is relatively […]

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