Costuming sometimes feels like an under-appreciated part of TV shows. When it’s done poorly, the show looks amateurish and thrown together, but when it’s done well it can illuminate characters, sell the setting and enhance tone. It can also occasionally make the fashion-minded pause the TV and gape at the screen in pure sartorial lust. So, here are ten of the best-dressed characters on TV this season.
10) Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson), Pretty Little Liars
The entire cast of Pretty Little Liars is ridiculously trendy, to the point of surrealism. This is especially true of the eponymous liars of the main cast- most high school girls are still mastering the art of walking in high heels, not strutting around in six-inch spikes and flawless dresses, while trying to solve a deadly mystery. But since Ashley Benson‘s Hanna is the ‘fashion-obsessed one’ in the clique, so she’ll have to represent the whole show. The show designer, Mandi Line, makes no apologies for the extravagance of the costumes, pointing out that high school is “jeans and sweatshirts, and that’s not what people want to see”. And if you’ve fallen in love with the over-the-top looks, then you’re in luck: the designer’s partnered with Get★This, where she’ll be providing style tips to get the looks from the show, as well as Aeropostale on a line of Pretty Little Liars-esque fashions.
9) Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), How I Met Your Mother
The show’s over now (and people are still fuming), but Barney Stinson’s (Neil Patrick Harris) adherence to the suit deserves a mention. He was so devoted to them that he even delivered an Emmy-nominated, full musical number about his love for the suit in season five. Reiko Kurumada, the show’s costume designer, explains that her goal with the characters was to capture a little bit of New York’s timeless elegance through their costumes, and she definitely succeeded with Barney. His suits were predominantly Dolce and Gabbana, with the occasional Prada and YSL thrown in to shake things up.
8) Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi), The Good Wife
Kalinda, Lockhart/Gardner’s private investigator has a personal style that’s all femme fatale. She achieves this look through her now standard combination of boots, skirt and leather jacket. Basically, her look seems designed to ooze cool, with Daniel Lawson, The Good Wife’s costume designer, dressing her to send of the message of “strong and tough and really sexy”, which they’ve more than achieved. The boots in particular have become essential for Kalinda, with actress Archie Panjabi shooting down a costume involving a simpler pair of pumps, in favor of the knee-high leather boots, since the costume didn’t feel like the character without them. The toughness of the boots and jacket, are evened out through the use of color- Kalinda often wears bright, vibrant colors, or through the use of more traditionally ‘feminine’ fabrics, like chiffon blouses.
7) Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Justified
Justified‘s main character, Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) placed highly on GQ’s most-stylish lists in 2011, but he was quickly eclipsed by his friend/nemesis, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) in the subsequent years. Which is only fair- Raylan might look like a walking Guess advertisement with his jeans and cowboy hat, but you get the sense that Boyd is more concerned with his image, from the hems of his slim-tailored pants to the tips of his wild hair. His looks evolved over the seasons, from the humble, born-again ‘ex’-criminal to the rising star of Kentucky crime, but mainly it’s been a question of formalizing by swapping out buttoned-to-the-throat flannel shirts for buttoned-to-the-throat white ones. Patia Prouty, Justified‘s main costume designer, says she spends one to two weeks shopping for each new season, combined with cleaning out the character’s closets of worn-out clothes and ones that no longer fit the tone of the show. She also ages items, so that they don’t look too new and shiny, which would be undeniably out of place for Harlan County.
6) Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), Sherlock
Really, any version of Moriarty could be on this list, apparently being a snazzy dresser is as integral to the character of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis as the criminal empire. And since the end of season three- spoiler alert- it looks like his placement on this list isn’t too late! Sarah Arthur, Sherlock’s costume designer, really likes her suits, costuming the actors in a combination of British standbys like Reiss and Gieves & Hawkes, alongside bigger labels like Dolce & Gabbana and Vivienne Westwood. While Sherlock‘s version of Sherlock Holmes dresses well, it’s also somehow careless. Moriarty, on the other hand, is a clothes-horse. His first appearance saw him in a blue Westwood suit (which he name-dropped), a Spencer Hart shirt and an Alexander McQueen tie with a delicate skull print. Later appearances were equally high couture, with suits by Riess, Gucci shoes, and Kooples boutique shirts and coats.
6) Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), Revenge
While all the women on Revenge are wonderfully dressed, it comes down to, like with most things on the show, a battle between Victoria Grayson ( played by Madeleine Stowe) and Emily Thorne. And in this case, Victoria wins- while Emily portrays the ‘casual wealth and intricate vengeance plot’ look exceptionally, Victoria takes and owns every single stereotype of the ridiculously wealthy high-society matriarch. Even her pajamas are designer, or at least look the part. Jill M. Ohanneson’s Emmy-nominated costumes are sumptuous, perfect for the lush revenge drama. Ohanneson prefers European designers for Victoria’s refined luxury fashions, and often alters the pieces so they fit the actors perfectly. Victoria, as one of the wealthiest women on the show, also gets some of the most expensive pieces, from the Vera Wang dress she wore to Emily’s wedding (inky black and $12,000), to an $8,000 Burberry trench coat.
4) Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), Scandal
Olivia Pope’s style is crisp and clear, and she’s very obviously committed to a theme. Her moral goals, to be one of the good guys, one of the ‘white hats’ is clear with her adherence to a monochrome wardrobe heavily comprised of whites and creams. Lyn Paolo, the costume designer, explains it as being partly a reaction to the trend of putting strong women in dark suits. Instead, she dressed her in cool, pale colors, in a look she calls ‘elegant femininity’, one that Kerry Washington immediately loved. She also explains that, in the world of Scandal, all this white is a relatively new style choice for Olivia, as seen in flashbacks that put her in darker clothes, a deliberate choice so that the character arc can be traced in her clothing choices.
3) Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), Hannibal
There’s a line in Warren Zevon’s song Werewolves of London that goes ‘stay away from him- he’ll rip your lungs out Jim! Huh, I’d like to meet his tailor’, and that pretty much sums up Hannibal Lecter in the Red Dragon prequel series. The man might be a cannibalistic serial killer, but he’s always well dressed. Hannibal is far showier than the other men on this list, wearing full three piece suits and eschewing simple, classic blacks and navys in favor of a range of colors and patterns: plaids, paisleys and checks all run riot through Hannibal’s wardrobe, and are often combined in ways that need killer confidence to pull off. Luckily, Hannibal is plenty confident. Costume designer Christopher Hargadon figures there are about fifty suits in his closet. His favorite, he reports was a charcoal grey with a red grid pattern, that was beloved not only by him and Mikkelsen, but also show-runner Byran Fuller, who liked the suit so much he had one made with the same fabric!
2) Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), Elementary
Joan Watson’s (played by Lucy Liu) wardrobe is a subject of supreme envy to women everywhere. Her combinations of skirts and casually elegant draping tops is stunning, and can only be qualified as ‘casual’ in the sense that she couldn’t wear her everyday clothes to court. When Rebecca Hofherr took the job as the costume designer of Elementary, she was looking forward to working on a procedural where the two main characters weren’t cops, and so were freed from the standard suits and uniforms usually seen on the heroes. Instead, a character like Joan Watson is able to wear exciting, fashionable clothes. Hofherr states that Liu sometimes contributes to Watson’s wardrobe choices, like helping button up Watson’s style a little bit by sticking a white collared shirt underneath one of her dresses. Watson’s wardrobe was built by combining staples from stores like H&M and Zara with a handful of more expensive pieces from brands like All Saints. This combination of price-ranges makes Watson’s wardrobe, aside from being gorgeous, feel like a real person’s, who supplements their wardrobe with a few higher-end treasures.
1) Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), Game of Thrones
Sorry, Cersei. But Margaery Tyrell’s costumes have consistently wowed viewers, stimulating both interest and debate, from her first appearance at her then-husband’s jousting tourney, in a gown cut down practically to her bellybutton. Her clothes have many of the hallmarks of modern fashion, from structured McQueen-esque necklines to midriff cut-outs. Margaery’s costumes are designed by Emmy-winner Michele Clapton, who waves away those who call Margaery’s outfits anachronistic by pointing out that a wealthy, ambitious woman like Margaery would experiment with style. And in Westeros, where much of the power that women are allowed to wield is tied up in appearances, Margaery’s says something quite clear: that she’s nowhere near finished her spiral up. So far this season, the biggest sartorial hit of the show was Margaery’s wedding dress, an extensively embroidered and rose-adorned stunner that took weeks to make.