Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Many Looks of Orphan Black and Tatiana Maslany

19 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.

I came late to Orphan Black this year and an article discussing the incredible performance(s) of Tatiana Maslany is long overdue. Same applies to the costume design work, as this plays a part in defining each clone and how we perceive them.

Sarah Orphan Black We could do a Spice Girls categorization of each character boiling them down to one part of their personality through their clothes and hair styling:

  • Rock Chick Clone
  • Hippy Science Clone
  • Suburban Clone
  • Crazy Clone
  • Fashionista Clone
  • Serious Cop Clone

Reducing these characters to broad categorizations could be viewed as either a disservice or high praise; each individual clone has a distinctive look and on the surface level this reveals a certain amount of information about who they are. Of course their inner world might not be reflected by these outward characteristics which is why this might seem too reductive.

Tatiana Maslany plays each version and for practical reasons having a variety of strong looks helps when they share the same face. Hair, makeup and costume all help with this process, but without an actress as gifted as Maslany it would be a hard task to pull off. Luckily, Maslany produces a variety of performances that often makes me forget that I’m watching the same person play all of these roles and it takes a special talent to do this. Costuming does play an important role and while each character can be broken down into a ‘type’ it doesn’t come across as contrived or like they’ve gone through a lookbook of archetypes.

Sarah Orphan Black pilotColor isn’t a big part of Sarah Manning’s wardrobe and black leather is a staple. Sarah begins the season on the outside when it comes to her clone origins and her demeanor is a reflection of her difficult upbringing. It’s a look that projects an “I don’t give a shit” attitude and it’s Sarah’s way of protecting herself from the world. Posing as Beth requires a wardrobe change and Beth’s style is far more traditional and functional.

Orphan Black clash t-shirtClothes are part of how we reveal who we are to the world and Sarah slips up by not letting go of part of herself with her “London Calling” tee, prompting Paul to question why Beth is wearing something so un-Beth like. Sarah is browsing through Beth’s Ann Taylor/J. Crew looking wardrobe in her Clash shirt instantly reflecting how different these characters are. It’s hard for Sarah to completely lose herself to this new persona even if the initial endgame is to get a buttload of cash. By wearing Beth’s clothes it helps fool people on a surface level and in cases where those questions become too much there are other methods; she uses sex to disarm and distract Paul.

Alison and Sarah Orphan BLackThroughout the first season of Orphan Black we see a variety of impersonating combos; Helena as Sarah as Beth, Alison as Sarah and Sarah as Alison. On each occasion one wears the clothes of the other (and Helena hides her mass of her under a beanie) and they fool most people because external factors like clothing is something we use to identify who someone is. This is why Sarah’s Clash shirt arouses suspicion in Paul.

Helena as BethHelena’s trip into the police station in this attire should have triggered more questions as the red around Helena’s eyes is pretty distinctive. It helps both Sarah and Helena that Beth has been going through some things and her general behavior has been different lately; certain character ticks don’t register as particularly odd.

Switching coats is a quick way to temporarily look like someone else and each character’s style can be summed up in their outerwear.

HelenaHelena’s oversized parka conceals her gender at first and a Helena/Sarah coat switch later in the season is part of a grand plan to gain the upper hand, but it also reveals Kira’s identity to Helena and this sets off a chain of events that almost ends in tragedy.

KatiaThe clone we barely knew and Katia is all about a flamboyant statement in her oversized sunglasses and fur coat.

CosimaCosima’s red funnel neck coat is my personal favorite and would feature high on the coat covet list. Cosima’s look is heavy on the accessories with chunky jewelry and scarves. Dreadlocks and tattoos also point to her free spirit and she’s the only one of the clones who hasn’t been impersonated by another so far.

AlisonBIOOn the other end of the spectrum lives Alison and on the outside she is pure suburban soccer mom. It’s all Lululemon, gillets and pastels as Alison projects this image of modern day Stepford Wife. Ah suburbia, you have many secrets and Alison is so tightly wound that she starts to question which parts of her life are fake and which are real.

Alison pjsThis includes torture by glue gun in a matching pair of gingham pajamas. Alison is definitely resourceful in an almost Jason Bourne use your surroundings kind of way.

FelixIt’s not just all the Tatiana Maslany’s that can pull off multiple looks and Jordan Gavaris’ Felix plays multiple roles throughout Orphan Black’s first season. His regular style mirrors Sarah’s as black is a defining feature and considering how close these two characters are it makes sense that they mimic each other in this way.

Felix Orphan BlackWhen required he can play a part and whenever he interacted with Alison and her family it produced some truly memorable moments. From playing dress up with her kids to his role as suburban bartender – the jumper draped over the shoulders is everything – to saving Alison from the intervention in her living room Felix livened things up. Felix is an important emotional tether for Sarah and a grounding point for the clone dramaz; Felix is part of the emotional core without being sentimental and he doesn’t sugar coat his feelings telling Sarah “Is every man in your life a complete wanker besides me?!”

Orphan Black is one of the most thrilling shows I have watched in 2013 and Tatiana Maslany’s is exceptional throughout. It’s also a testament to her as an actress that her Parks and Recreation guest star stint delivered yet another style of performance and a completely different look. Set those calendars to April 19 when Orphan Black returns for season 2.

Photos courtesy of BBC America


9 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Many Looks of Orphan Black and Tatiana Maslany”


  1. Orphan Black Season 2 Teaser Trailer | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 23, 2013

    […] To find out what we had to say about Orphan Black and star Tatiana Maslany as part of the TV Ate My Wardrobe Best of 2013 head here. […]

  2. How TV Ate My Wardrobe: Holiday Edition | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 26, 2013

    […] with the outerwear and I am so delighted to get a Cosima-esque red funnel neck coat. This is my first ever red coat and I’m in love. These past few months […]

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

    […] of the big shows this year for me has been Orphan Black and all the many versions of Tatiana Maslany. That’s why it’s also on my 2014 list of things to look forward to. I’ve written […]

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

    […] The Many Looks of Orphan Black and Tatiana Maslany […]

  5. Orphan Black Season 2 Trailer: “There’s Only One of Me” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 11, 2014

    […] Black featured on TV Ate My Wardrobe’s Best of 2013 Series and so any new trailer is going to cause a stir here, especially one with this much new footage. […]

  6. The Wish List: The Cosima Coat on Orphan Black | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 22, 2014

    […] the return of Orphan Black so comes my obsession with the red Cosima coat and it made a very important appearance in “Nature Under Constraint […]

  7. Hand-Me-Downs, Helena and Identity on Orphan Black | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 23, 2014

    […] I discussed in the Best of 2013 Orphan Black article costuming plays a big part in establishing who these women are; it helps to identify through […]

  8. The Wish List: Sarah’s Leather Jacket on Orphan Black | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 21, 2015

    […] As with most leather jackets this one is pricey, but (and I apologize for how wanky this sounds) it is an investment piece. Sarah’s is the ‘Assembly’ biker jacket from All Saints and this look is so synonymous with Sarah’s style that she is also wearing it in Helena’s dream (with her Clash tee!). […]

  9. Saying Goodbye to Orphan Black | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 11, 2017

    […] Maslany’s double Kathryn Alexandre).I’ve written about the Orphan Black costume design many times over the past five seasons and the work of Laurie Drew and Debra Hanson has been incredibly […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis


If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots


We rock a lot of polka dots

Just another site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns


We rock a lot of polka dots

The Frisky

We rock a lot of polka dots

Tell Us a Story

stories about true things

%d bloggers like this: