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Out of the Box: Look of the Week – Part 2

30 Dec

Rounding off the Best of 2016 series with Part 2 of our favorite “Out of the Box” moments. Last week we dedicated the first part to the magazine covers that stood out and now it is time for style highs from red carpets, events, awards and panels.

The only rule was they had to appear as part of “Out of the Box” and we’ve got a good mix of casual, fancy and everything in-between.Evan Rachel WoodBest LadySuitWatch2016

So many fantastic Evan Rachel Wood ladysuit moments in 2016 and it was super hard to pick a winner. This red one is incredible, but the collar, lipstick and metallic pumps from back in June take the prize.Yara Shahidi

Tracee Ellis RossBest Sequins: TV Mother/Daughter Edition

Yara Shahidi is not only 2016’s best dressed teen, but an overall style icon for the year. This super sparkly sequin Tracy Reese dress that she wore to the BET Awards gives me so much joy as does Tracee Ellis Ross at PaleyFest in March.julianne-mooreBest Sequins – Awards Edition

Continuing the sequin love and we’ve got the whole year covered as this was pretty recent; Julianne Moore in Tom Ford to celebrate Tom Ford at one of the many film award season events. Alicia VikanderBest Post-Oscar Party

It is not just the Oscar that makes Alicia Vikander’s post-Oscar Louis Vuitton much better than the yellow Beauty and the Beast style gown she wore to the actual ceremony. Everything about this is incredible and just because it is black it is far from boring; so many fantastic sequins in 2016.Brie LarsonBest Pattern – Eyes

First up Jacob Tremblay is 2016’s best dressed kid and he also outdid a lot of his older male counterparts. At the pre-Oscar photocall his tie matches his onscreen mom Brie Larson’s super fun Emilia Wickstead skirt and blouse. An instant standout style moment that brings much needed whimsy. Mary Elizabeth WinsteadBest Pattern – Lips 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead was not only one of the best dressed characters on TV this year, but she also brought it on the red carpet. This Victoria Beckham red lip patterned dress is very high on my covet list.Kirsten DunstBest Cannes 

Serving on the jury at Cannes this year meant so many amazing Kirsten Dunst ensembles from the fancy to casual chic; it is this yellow Dior daytime perfection with an A+ red lipstick that was my favorite. Lupita Nyong'oBest Pattern Clashing 

Pleats tend to make me want to twirl and Lupita Nyongo’s colorful Prada frock at the Obie Awards is giving me those feelings. It could look like a lot against the equally bold floral backdrop and yet Nyong’o is totally pulling this off.Aubrey PlazaTatiana Maslany ColbertBest Talk Show Entrance 

Aubrey Plaza is a forever style icon and has featured in these end of year lists in the past. First she started my pleated leather skirt obsession and in June 2016 she arrived at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in pretty much my dream casual outfit. Tatiana Maslany on the other hand is doing the sneakers with heels in her hand thing while also arriving at The Late Show and she is another casual dress queen. caitriona-balfeBest Black and White 

Everything about Caitriona Balfe’s Burberry gown is a dream at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards showing that she looks fantastic in any era. I’m excited to see what she will wear to the Golden Globes in a couple of weeks.mads-mikkelsenBest Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen looks really great in a suit and this is the first Best of year without any Hannibal. Thankfully at the Doctor Strange premiere Mads is wearing a suit that wouldn’t look out of place on the famous cannibal he plays. matthew-rhys-and-keri-russell-operaBest Cape 

Serving up so much drama at the Met Opera in September and Keri Russell has worn Stephane Rolland for three very dressy events this year – the other two being at the White House and Emmys – and this black caped number is my overall favorite. A very fancy date night with Matthew Rhys. constance-zimmer-and-shiri-applebyBest Friends 

Thankfully things are a lot better IRL between Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby than their UnREAL counterparts and while season 2 was super messy/missed the mark in places, the subsequent promo tour and red carpet appearances always delivered.

This is from the Elle Women in Hollywood celebration at the end of October; they are giving off metallic dress and flaming hot jumpsuit excellence.Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Elisabeth Olsen, Michael B. JordanBest Sunglasses

As the Fug Girls like to say “Everybody looks hotter in sunglasses” and the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic helps prove this theory. Summer wardrobe delights from Elizabeth Olsen, Michael B. Jordan, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.TCA You're the WorstBest TCA 

Panel outfits are an “Out of the Box” fave as they tend to deliver on the casual cool. With Aya Cash she also delivers on great lipstick and she also let me know what brand and color (Inglot 13). I picked it up while on honeymoon and it is fantastic. Thanks, Aya!2 Dope QueensBest Crown

To my favorite podcast of the year and two women that made 2016 a whole lot better (including the time they were there for me when I traveled home on the train after my dad died in July). This fabulous shot of Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson from The New York Times puts the crown in 2 Dope Queens.Sarah Paulson and Sterling K BrownBest Look of the Week

I said this at the time and I’ll say it again, but the way Sarah Paulson is looking at Sterling K. Brown is how I would look at Sterling K. Brown. Marcia and Chris 4EVA.

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Best of TV 2016: The Best Songs

29 Dec

End of year lists can focus on various things – performances, costumes, episodes, overall show – and one of my favorite things to look back at is the best use of music on TV. Song can transport us to those all important standout moments or introduce us to new music; over the last few years I have compiled playlists from TV to celebrate this. Last year I focused a single show as You’re the Worst is particularly strong in the end credit department, whereas in previous years I have done a general playlist of the year in TV music.

For 2016 I have returned to the latter format going all in with 28-tracks and you can find the full breakdown and playlist over at ColliderfleabagSongs and music from 21-shows were chosen with some getting two tracks (including the above Fleabag) because I just couldn’t chose and a variety of genres feature. There are songs to dance to, induce tears and all other kinds of emotions and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

You can find instrumental pieces from Westworld and Game of Thrones, tracks that have appeared on “Music Monday” from the melancholy to fun cover versionsMr. Robot was messy in season 2, but nailed the soundtrack once again and shows like Atlanta and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have music ingrained into the very fabric. You will find songs from The AmericansHalt and Catch FireGirlsBlack Mirror and American Crime Story as well as a literal earworm from BrainDead. Plus many, many more.

Costuming is my first love, but soundtracks is a close second and I am so glad I got to compile such an extensive playlist and discuss the best of 2016 over at Collider. Check it out here and get your dance on.

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Best of TV Costuming 2016: Work in Other Places

22 Dec

So 2016 has been bit of an emotional roller coaster on a large global scale and a personal one with moments of so much joy and immense sadness.

Writing wise this has been my best year yet as I finally got over my pitching fears (well, mostly) and have a weekly TV and Style column at The Observer where I have discussed numerous shows and costume moments beginning with Girls back in February. I have also contributed to Collider with several Americans essays and a TV themed gift guide (still time to buy!).

Here is a selection of my favorite pieces of work from 2016 including a personal essay, topics I have been obsessed with for a long time, discussing so many different shows from this year (with a dash of the ’90s) and I also got to interview two amazing costume designers.Outlander Season 2 2016Kicking off with the essay that was incredibly hard to write, but also gave me great comfort after my father passed away in July. I got married in September and in the lead up I knew it would be a very happy day tinged with sadness and writing about Outlander, my father and our shared heritage helped.

I don’t tend to be someone who is good with sharing my deepest feelings and personal essays are an uneasy prospect: however connecting to the work of Terry Dresbach and the Outlander team led to an outpouring of words.the americansI wrote about The Americans a lot in 2016 both here and other places. I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish at the start of the fourth season about Coach, the many coats and other costume design disguise secrets.

For Collider I went deep about Elizabeth Jennings and motherhood, why the teens on this show don’t fall into the usual annoying obstacle trap and looked at how the Cold War is making a comeback on TV (this was before other significant events).westworldOne of the most fulfilling experiences of 2016 was talking to Westworld costume designer Ane Crabtree after the season finale. Part of this is because I have been writing about Crabtree’s work since TV Ate My Wardrobe started with Masters of Sex and because of all the anecdotes and insight I got from this phone conversation.fleabagOne of the first pieces I wrote on TV Ate My Wardrobe was about lipstick on TV/film and I expanded upon this idea while discussing the Empire CoverGirl line and how powerful make-up can be.

Other key lipstick essays include two of my favorite shows of the year with how Fleabag paints over the cracks and the portrayal of women working in the tech industry in the ’80s on Halt and Catch Fire. And the time jump on Halt and Catch Fire allowed me to address my own nostalgia and one of my favorite style decades.img_4381In a similar vein, but at the end of the scale the build up to new Gilmore Girls was the perfect time to address all the fashion mishaps of the early ’00s.

BrainDead is one of my favorite shows of the year for being fun, weird, having so much flames chemistry and rethinking how to do a “previously on.” Plus it gave me so many outfit goals and I got to expand on this further heregame-of-thronesAnd now for my most viewed article, which also happens to be one of my favorite costume moments of the year when Sansa made sure Jon knew he was family by making him a very Ned fur.

Also on the subject of Game of Thrones I previewed the “Battle of the Bastards” with a ‘Who wore it better?’ competition and went all in on Cersei’s power move ensemble.

On the pieces I have wanted to write about forever track; Angela singing on Mr. Robot let me go all in on the sadness karaoke essay that has been itching to come out since Eliza sang “Chandelier” on Selfie.

The second season of Mr. Robot was messy in places, but the women delivered and it gave me plenty to write about from a costuming perspective. Oh and everyone looks hotter in sunglasses as the Fug Girls always say.felicity-and-marciaA tale of two haircuts and I am very proud of finding a very strong link between Keri Russell’s infamous Felicity haircut and Marcia Clark’s mid-trial makeover. American Crime Story’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” is one of my favorite episodes of TV this year and exploring the legacies of a style change was incredibly fulfilling.

I binged the first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the week after my dad died and it was a much needed distraction so I will forever be grateful for Rachel Bloom and Rebecca Bunch. Season 2 has also provided some very interesting talking points including portrayals of lady friendships and makeovers. Plus Rebecca’s imagination delivers on plenty of fun costume changes.

Here’s to more in 2017 and for my author pages at The Observer and Collider head here and here.

For individual costume highlights check out Best of the Rest Parts 1 and 2.

 

 

 

Out of the Box: Look of the Week – Best of 2016 Part 1

21 Dec

Taking a TV costuming break for this installment of our Best of 2016 series for a midweek “Out of the Box” special focusing on the best magazine covers of the year.

Each of the covers below has appeared on “Out of the Box” and while publications like Teen VogueBust and Variety have featured on multiple occasions we have picked only one cover per magazine. The twelve chosen don’t quite work on a one per actual month, but it is a good snapshot of what was on offer throughout 2016 and this is the order they were published in.

In fact three of them were from the same “Out of the Box” column in October; this was a very good week for magazines and made the disappointing September issues a distant memory.

A study by Fashionista shows that diversity of cover stars is much improved in 2016 and this is evident from the entries below, although there is always room for improvement especially from certain publications who still lean heavily towards a certain look (oh hey Harper’s Bazaar).

Composition and color that standout were important in how each one was picked and styling was also an influence; I would be more than happy to have any of these issues on my coffee table (and quite a few of them have).Amandla Stenberg Teen VogueTeen Vogue has had a very influential year and they kickstarted 2016 with this stunning Amandla Stenberg cover; this one appeared on the first “Out of the Box” of the year and the direct look to camera is full of self-assured confidence.

Almost 12 months later and I am still mesmerized.bust-jessica-williamsBetween the bold lip color, the super expressive smile, the backdrop and the lip hair clip this Bust cover featuring Jessica Williams is enough to make anyone feel happy.Kirsten DunstPairing a bright yellow with black and white is instant cover catnip and Kirsten Dunst is giving me a look as if to say she knows this. I’m not normally a fan of the wet look hair trend, but here it works with the casual denim jacket number.

My one magazine purchasing regret this year is I didn’t find an outlet that sold this issue of The Gentlewoman.oscar-isaacWhen this cover of Rolling Stone was unleashed on to Twitter it very much distracted from the work I was in the middle of because, well you can see.

Oscar Isaac hugging a dog in his coat is very much in my wheelhouse.A #LadySuitWatch2016 entry and Elle is very good (with certain beauty shot caveats) at these multi-cover celebrations; this one looking to women in comedy with the Ghostbusters cast getting their own covers.Nylon WinonaThis has been the year of the Winona Ryder comeback with several publications featuring Ryder front and center. Nylon goes old school with a ‘zine like shot and Winona Forever indeed (she definitely has a portrait in her attic). Gina Rodriguez Latina magThe haircut of the year is showcased on Latina Magazine with Gina Rodriguez’s Annihilation half buzz cut; this is another case of staring directly at the reader, which is both disarming and enticing. The accompanying editorial is just as stunning. Thankful for wigs on Jane the Virgin so she could do this during its hiatus.variety-laverne-coxA super ethereal image of Laverne Cox for Variety and this is how to do striking pastels beyond the Hollywood Reporter’s stagnant drama actress roundtable sartorial choices (see also the seriousness of putting everyone in black/white or blush tones). So dreamy.

michelle-obamaIt is no surprise that Michelle Obama has appeared on a vast array of magazines this year and The New York Times gives the most original with an incredible beauty shot rather than sharing the focus with a fabulous outfit at the same time. emma-stoneNovember issues were so full of hope and this Emma Stone Vogue entry is bittersweet now. I still love it though and the whole composition coupled with the pixie cut, stripes and color palette is so good that the crop top is something I can get on board with.thr-ruth-neggaRuth Negga has had a very good 2016 and the “Out of the Box” column this Hollywood Reporter cover was part of also featured Negga’s Vogue editorial and she is also the first face of Vogue’s 2017 issues.

This is a great shot with Negga commanding the focus and the Saint Laurent floral pussy bow dress is something I covet in both this and blouse form (as seen on Keri Russell).

michelle-williamsEnding the year with something sparkly and my forever fave Michelle Williams wearing Michael Kors for Porter. The photo shoot inside is just as fabulous and something in the interview caused me to go full klaxon on Twitter. Someone make this happen.

Stay tuned for more “Out of the Box” 2016 highlights next week and for the regular column on Friday.

Best of TV Costuming 2016: Best of the Rest Part 2

20 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2016” 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 we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

First up we took a look at our best show of the year and how the Jennifer disguise on The Americans points to Elizabeth’s emotional journey. This was followed by the first part of the “Best of the Rest” list, which featured costumes from Game of ThronesStranger Things, Halt and Catch FireBroad City and Good Girls Revolt. Today we will be adding to this with some standout costume moments from some of our other favorite shows of the year including FleabagOutlanderCrazy Ex-GirlfriendJane the Virgin and Westworld.

For a slightly different end of year ‘Best of’ that I am taking part in check out the Observer tvDownload Superlatives series kicking off with Cutest Couple, Most Improved and Class Clown.fleabagLike Looking in My Own Wardrobe Award

Fleabag is a Top 3 show of the year and it tops the ‘comedy that is also a gut-punch‘ category. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character (also Fleabag) also happens to dress pretty much as I do with stripes and collars like the one above (which bears a strong resemblance to my Twitter profile pic) dominate my own wardrobe. This is a pretty self-centered award.

The lipstick used on the show – “Dare You” by MAC – is now in my collection and also featured on the Gift Guide I produced for Collider.timelessBiggest Range 

On Timeless they travel to different decades and centuries with very little time to prepare so it makes sense to have racks of clothes from different periods on hand. Getting a peek at the way their costume department is laid out is a fun meta nod to the IRL costuming team and so far their missions have included Union garb, WWII era ensembles, berets, Bonnie & Clyde styling, ’60s, ’70s and revolutionary attire. westworldMost Exciting Wardrobe Change

There wasn’t much room for character clothing changes on Westworld so when Dolores ditched her blue dress for the more appropriate cowgirl pants look I definitely clapped my hands. This costume by Ane Crabtree also proved to be quite symbolic romantically in regards to Dolores’ relationship with William and was another key to the mystery of Westworld.Best Non-Cowboy Cowboy

iZombie was one of my favorite catch-ups of the year and this very fun show gets to mess around with costuming thanks to the brains Liv ingests. In “Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues” Ravi plays the supportive friend as Liv embarks on a brief singing career and he very much dresses the part.OutlanderFanciest Gown

Outlander went all out in season 2 in the incredible gown department to match the lavish French location and this dress by costume designer Terry Dresbach was used as part of the striking promotional material; it was somehow even more jaw dropping in the second episode of the season “Not in Scotland Anymore.”the-crown-1-08Most on Point Accessory 

Quite literally as Princess Margaret is wielding a sword in this scene from episode 8 “Pride & Joy” of The CrownThe Crown is Netflix’s most expensive TV series to date and it is quite clear as to why from what we see on screen.

The costuming by Game of Thrones maestro Michele Clapton is exquisite from the intricate formal gowns to the more casual looks such as the blouse and skirt combo in the above scene. The way lighting is used in this shot is equally impressive and everything Margaret was the most compelling part of this first season.img_4201Wardrobe Most Coveted 

BrainDead is a special show that barely anyone watched; it was the kind of show 2016 needed and in a way it makes sense that is over after one season. The chemistry between Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Tveit earned all the flames emojis I used when talking about this show, it was funny, weird and had the most bizarre sex scene I have seen on TV.

Laurel also had a closet full of pattern clashing delights, super cool office wear, pussy bow blouses, blazers and ankle boots. All of which I would like in my own wardrobe and The Good Wife’s costume designer Daniel Lawson continues to crush the jacket game. img_3696Best Kroll Show Tribute 

Krystal was a new clone on Orphan Black last year and she appeared on the 2015 version of this list because of the Kroll Show influence; technically this is a repeat, but I miss Kroll Show’s PubLIZity. Plus, Tatiana Maslany is so good in this role (as she is in all of them) giving Krystal so much personality while also nodding to the original influence particularly in her choice of drink. Most Dapper 

So technically this is a 2015 TV moment, however this amazing song and dance number from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend scores a place because I only caught up with this show in 2016. In a very hard week in July I sat down and binged the first season and TV really is the best distraction.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes inspiration from numerous genres; on this occasion looking to Fred and Ginger in styling as Greg proposes an offer to Rebecca. The whole sequence blends the funny with the charming and it also won an Emmy for the choreography for this song (and I’m So Good at Yoga” and “A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes”).img_4650Dangerous Yoga Position 

This year I also finally watched all of Gilmore Girls in preparation for the big revival Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. One of the main highlights in this new batch of episodes as well as in the original series is Paris Geller; her bathroom meltdown including this impressive in heels maneuver almost made up for the Rory Gilmore’s stunted character growth.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant back on the lot. #JaneTheVirgin #YouThoughtYouKnewYouHaveNoIdea

A post shared by Gina Rodriguez (@hereisgina) on

 

Show That Made Me Want to Watch Rear Window

Okay so Rear Window is on my most watched list (I find it weirdly soothing and is my ultimate bedtime movie) and the Jane the Virgin midseason finale looks to Hitchcock as part of the fantasy sequences. Where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend understands a huge range of music genres better than any other show on at the moment, Jane the Virgin is an expert in storytelling techniques using this to explore Jane’s creativity and expand on the telenovela.

As you can see from the outfits above, costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin has got the Kelly and Grant thing down (even if I’m more partial to Kelly and Stewart).]

For more from the TV Ate My Wardrobe Best of 2016 series head here.

Best of TV Costuming 2016: Best of the Rest Part 1

16 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2016” 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 we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

This week we kicked off our end of year coverage with a deep dive into the Jennifer disguise on The Americans and how it encapsulates the vulnerability that is creeping in.

Today we’re going to switch things up and take a broad look at some of the individual costume standout moments with entries from Game of ThronesPreacherBroad CityGood Girls Revolt and more.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week.img_4802img_4801Most on Point Family Accessorizing 

Sansa and Jon Snow did not appear on screen in conversation with each other before season 6 and yet when these two Stark children (cousins not siblings) were reunited the room got very misty all of a sudden. Starks finding each other has been a long time coming as there have been so many near misses over the seasons. To show loyalty Sansa gifted Jon with a fur just like their dad/uncle wore and made herself a fetching new dress complete with wolf sigil. The Starks are back and their little sister/cousin is also hopefully on her way home too.

Okay so things got a little messy with Sansa withholding important information, but in this moment at Castle Black they were at one with each other and their family heritage. For more on this Game of Thrones season 6 moment check out my essay at The Observer.

img_2888The Most Ilana Wexler Use for a Dog Hoodie

I remember seeing this dog hoodie in American Apparel about two weeks before this Broad City season 3 trailer came out and also initially thought it was for an adult (I put the small size down to it being American Apparel). This sight gag was perfect; right down to Ilana thinking the ear holes were for her hair and this sums up Ilana’s carefree (and cropped top loving) attitude toward fashion.

img_4411Best ’90s

The big ’90s fashion resurgence continued with gusto this year and Halt and Catch Fire delivered on a very time specific ensemble that wouldn’t look out of place in a current Topshop display. Ah, the cyclical nature of style.

Also this shot is great as it shows that costume designer Kathryn Morrison linked Cam and Joe together in black and white, but put distance between them as their outfits are the negative image of each other.img_3326 img_3325The Felicity ‘Queen of Sweaters’ Award

There is no doubt that Felicity Porter is the Queen of Sweaters and Keri Russell takes this title once again on The Americans. As this is a winter set show the knitwear levels are high and when I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish she explained that cable knits were one bump concealing solution. And for when the Jennings family go bowling, Elizabeth looks like she borrowed this one straight from Felicity’s closet.img_4617Bringing the Black Turtleneck Drama

Everyone needs a black turtleneck and Queen Judith Light (official title) delivers on the drama in this black turtleneck in front of a black backdrop on this season of Transparent. Yes I would buy tickets to her one-woman show (both IRL and Shelly Pfefferman’s).good-girls-revolt-1-02Cape Most Coveted

I love a cape. I love late ’60s fashion. I love knitwear. It is not surprising then that as soon as I saw Cindy’s green number in the second episode of Good Girls Revolt I wished for knitting skills. Amazon sadly hasn’t renewed this show and I’m hoping it will find a new home elsewhere; it still feels like there is a lot of story to tell and it was only just getting going. Plus I need my fashion fix from this era (especially as Masters of Sex has now also come to an end).tulipSunglasses I Need in My Life: The 2016 Edition

This year I picked up some very Gretchen sunglasses and there is another shades wearer to look to; Tulip from Preacher joined my list of TV style icons and Ruth Negga is also high up on the IRL style icons list after a run of red carpet and Vogue sartorial highs. Part of Tulip’s cool as fuck look is down to her choice of frames and her mix of feminine florals, cropped tops, cute formal wear and edgy leather makes her a costume standout in 2016.img_3965

Teen Bedroom Photo Accuracy 

N.B. This is more an interior/production design award, but definitely worthy of a mention here.

There are a couple of reasons this very small moment in Stranger Things stood out to me; in part it is down to the very teen bedroom photo collage thing that always hits those nostalgia points and the other is because they took photos and didn’t just rely on stilted promo shots. There is nothing that takes me out of something quicker than awful photoshop on a picture (see Spectre for a recent offender) or if they have just taken a still from the promotional department; it really doesn’t take long to get results like this. Although I am now wondering why Nancy has two identical sets of the same photo booth shots. Oh hey, Barb those orange framed sunglasses are cute.

Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise

14 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2016” costume 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 we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

Kicking off with the show which would be top of my list (and has been for the last few years) and The Americans continues the impossible task of somehow getting even better each season and 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 truth.

This year is a combination of all of those things as we take a closer look at costume designer Katie Irish’s work with a focus on Elizabeth Jennings, the Jennifer disguise and where we find her at the mid-point of season 4 in the episode “Travel Agents.” 

Performance wise it doesn’t get much better than what Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright are doing this season (and the ones before) and this episode showcases the best of this very complicated dynamic.

the-americans-4-07The implications of Philip removing his Clark cover in the penultimate episode of season 3 (discussed in detail here) are huge; for whom Philip and Elizabeth are as partners in both the professional and personal. By showing his real face he risks the identities they have crafted and lived over twenty years and this act could be read as one of betrayal. It doesn’t help matters that Elizabeth finds out what Philip did when she turns up at the safe house all dressed up as Jennifer (Clark’s sister) – lovely Jenny – and sees her husband without his disguise on.

What he did was an in the moment choice, but he could’ve at least given her a heads up rather than reveal it in this bombshell manner. Three weeks is a long time to be sitting on this secret and Philip’s sheepish reaction is very much their version of getting caught in the act.

Without Clark, Jennifer is nothing and it becomes apparent to Martha that their relationship is definitely not brother and sister; but the Jennifer disguise stays on because they can’t risk her face being seen by someone who has no love or loyalty toward her. It is a humiliating moment for Elizabeth and not just because the Jennifer cover isn’t entirely flattering.jennifer-the-americansAs the seasons have progressed Elizabeth’s tough exterior remains tough, but through falling in actual love with her arranged suitor she has become emotionally vulnerable and the Martha situation brings all these feelings of jealousy to the surface. This isn’t a conventional love triangle and the last time Elizabeth showed outward signs of Martha curiosity/envy was back in season 2 when Martha referred to Clark’s bedroom prowess (not a good conversation point with a sibling or as it turns out in this case his wife) and yet this is about more than just sex. They have both slept with so many other people as part of their job and this goes much deeper than that.

Sex does play a role and it is a form of communication when the words are hard to find or speak; Elizabeth does attempt to stamp her position as wife (and give them both a much needed release) and yet there is a nagging feeling that can’t be subdued.

The thing about the Jennifer look is that she is meant to be unassuming and like a lot of the spy costumes she is meant to be unmemorable. The glasses swap her face and her clothing is pretty ‘Plain Jane’ and she is very much the original Barb. These granny frames are all kinds of endearing, however there is no glamour here; which is in strong contrast to Elizabeth’s other main cover from this season as the super ’80s stylish Patty. The Americans 4.08 Young Hee and ElizabethAlso RIP to this look as Patty ‘killed herself’ and I am looking forward to whatever new creations costume designer Kate Irish comes up with for the forthcoming season (check out Irish’s Instagram for shots of her research and more BTS from The Americans).the-americans-4-07-travel-agentsSo not only does Elizabeth have to watch her de-wigged husband interact with this woman who he also calls his wife, but she has to do so all while dressed in a confidence crushing appearance (Keri Russell talks about the Jennifer disguise as part of 92Y Americans panel and explains that it is a “little rough” on her self-esteem).

Plus she gets questions like this from Martha “Are you sleeping with my husband?” and rather than go for an “Actually” truth response she takes the much easier road of lying to prevent a figurative gut punch. Quickly followed by a literal one.The Americans 4.07 ElizabethEmotional devastation comes in many forms over the course of this season and The Americans level of romance isn’t one coated in chocolates and flowers. However as a show about marriage it nails the ups and downs of romantic love with Elizabeth uncharacteristically laying out her fears for Philip to see, all while dressed as Clark’s sister Jenny. She is so exposed and it doesn’t matter that her mane of hair is stuffed in that wig (another amazing feat).

The glasses are removed because you don’t want to have a conversation like this with half your faced covered, but the wig and ill fitting pink coat remains (the coat and layers is pure Jennifer, but also act as an IRL bump concealer). Elizabeth poses a hypothetical question where she wonders if Philip would go with Martha if he could; she dreads he’ll say yes because he wants the easier life with a more emotionally available woman, but of course this couldn’t be further from how Philip actually feels and he responds with a hint of confused anger at such a thought.

So much gets said with a look and one of The Americans’ strengths is economy of words; this scene delivers on the complexities of this marriage, how hard it is to show this level of vulnerability and how you can be mad that the person you love could even consider such a thought. Ending with a passionate embrace as Elizabeth still clutches her glasses and the realization that he needs to stay cements what we already knew; these two are made for each other and there is no hypothetical situation Philip would be happy with that doesn’t involve his wife. The first one.The Americans 4.08 argumentIt is also fun viewing this scene in juxtaposition to the very honest marriage discussion (okay screaming match) in the following episode. Here Philip is reassuring his wife that this is the life he wants and she is the one he loves, cut to their big hallway blowout which brings up the names of betrayals and former lovers they haven’t forgotten. The Martha situation is a sticky one, but this has nothing on Gregory or Irina. No wigs or glasses present in this trip down romantic rival memory lane.

This episode directed by Matthew Rhys is the best of the season, but this scene in “Travel Agents” is the one which is the true standout for me; the fact that it involves Elizabeth dressed as Jennifer answering a question she won’t be able to take back and Philip is so emphatic with his answer underscores how good every level of The Americans is from the acting, writing, directing to the costuming and hair/makeup.

Watch the scene below and The Americans returns for season 5 next year and if I had to guess I’d say March again, but I’m sure we’ll find out the date next month during TCA.

For more essays on The Americans by me in other places from 2016 check out:

Big Coats, New Disguises: Secrets From ‘The Americans’ Costume Designer

Personality Crisis: How ‘The Americans’ and ‘Orphan Black’ Blur Identity

Born to Run: What TV Characters Reveal While Working Up a Sweat

‘The Americans’: Motherhood, the Motherland, and Elizabeth Jennings

How ‘The Americans’ Portrayal of Teenagers Puts Other Dramas to Shame

‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Americans,’ and Why Cold War Fears Are Making a Comeback

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