From Victorian London to modern America to the Emperor’s palace in 18th century China fashion is as important to television as any script or scene setting. What an actor wears in a scene sets the character’s mood and draws the audience into a suspension of disbelief. Using colors, lines and a piece of well-placed jewelry an audience can be swayed for or against a character and never realize the subtle reason their opinions have changed. This list will cover 15 shows where the wardrobes deserve their own fan base.
1. The Paradise
Set in a Victorian London department store The Paradise demonstrates the transition from one of a kind clothing to off the rack merchandise. The increased impact of international trends on fashion is displayed well in the wardrobe of wealthy Katherine Glendenning who transitions from light creams and white gowns with color accents made of light layered fabrics to the rich satins and silks of deep purples, rustic browns and greens popularized by Paris and trade with Asia countries
2. The Moon Embracing the Sun
Bright colors know no bounds in the beautiful hanbok of this Korean historical drama set in the 1800s. With single costumes costing over $1000 to create from rich fabrics laden with hand embroidery this show is not one to be missed by lovers of historical period clothing.
3. Pretty Little Liars
From high school student to housewife this is a show that delivers fashion. This shows tendency to push past the conventional to simply amazing is practically a weekly occurrence and you never know what someone may wear next.
4. That 70’s Show
A parade of vintage clothing from band tees to cocktail dresses. This show demonstrates the incredible wardrobe one can build shopping at the thrift store, if you know what to look for. With the changes in fabric of the last several decades the differences in the materials can be clearly seen and make you appreciate that jeans now stretch.
5. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
The 1920’s was a time when women’s fashion drastically changed from corsets and floor length dresses to unrestricting leg displaying outfits full of flair. Marion Boyce, the series costume designer, clothes the cast with a mixture of vintage and modern reproduction that embraces the both bold and demure natures of the decade. Using patterns, color blocking, furs, beads and scarves Miss Phryne Fisher’s bold personality is displayed in her clothing choices.
6. Lost Girl
From Bo and Kenzi’s bold gothic wardrobes of corsets, leather, straps, and heels to Dyson’s collection of vests and Vex’s bondage wear this show is a feast of alternative fashion done properly. The gothic industrial elements are balanced with the professional chic worn by characters such as Lauren, Tamsin and the Morrigan, who bring a lighter mainstream flair of style to the show.
7. Bomb Girls
The refinement of the 1940’s shines through in this series set during World War II. After the excess of the previous decades this show demonstrates the restraint imposed during an era of war, but people still strived to create a distinct style. Big shoulders, big hair, and the return to the hourglass shape without the confinement of a corset
8. Death in Paradise
In this show Sargent Camille Bordey never shies away from colors embracing the vibrancy of the tropics. This character’s wardrobe tends towards bright oranges, vibrant teals and deep bold blues. This surge of color is a refreshing change from the tendency of leading females in crime shows to wear neutral shades to appear professional.
9. Cunning Single Lady
A South Korean show whose premises partly is the main character’s focus on her outward appearance. Fashions that are seemly inspired in part by American fashions of the 70’s feature a wide range of adorable sweaters and coats frequently worn with embellished collared blouses, flattering skirts and stylish jeans. This show has found itself as a weekly go to for what to wear and how to wear it in South Korea.
10. Once Upon a Time
A bold blend of modern chic and fantastical outfits straight from a story book. This show never disappoints when it comes to the wardrobe department. With its play upon good and evil, the wardrobe of various characters demonstrates to the audience the complexity of human nature. The clothes definitely help form the characters for this show and Regina’s Evil Queen’s gowns frequently steal the spotlight of any given episode.
11. Vampire Diaries
Lead actress Nina Dobrev effectively plays six different roles on this series and wardrobe makes it all possible. The difference of personalities between vampire and human play out in the varying risqué nature of outfits with a practiced ease. With flashbacks that allow for a wide use of period costumes this show likes to mix things up.
12. Witches of East End
A show with four leading ladies typically will have similarities in its characters’ clothing but not here. Confident Freya tends towards bold bright reds and figure hugging outfits while her more demure sister, Ingrid, loves earth tones that compliment her red hair and flowing materials that suit her librarian nature. The sisters’ mother style suits her sophisticated no nonsense nature and their aunt’s flowing gauzy over shirts and chunky jewelry fits her free spirited personality.
Set in 1700s Salem, Massachusetts costume designer Joseph A. Porro’s creations for this series have made it off the television and into a museum, being featured at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum in 2014. With gorgeously detailed dresses that include intricate metalwork and lace, beautiful cloaks and lush leathers this period piece never disappoints the eye.
14. Aguila Roja
This multi-awarded winning Spanish adventure sent in 17th century Spain holds nothing back in its exquisite depictions of upper and lower class garb of Madrid. From the rough textures of peasant shirts to the brocade inserts of a wealthy lady’s corset to the fine velvets on a nobleman’s doublet this show pulls the audience into the period.
15. Empresses in the Palace
Finishing this list is the incredible mid-1700s Royal Chinese apparel that is beautifully and meticulously recreated for this historical drama. The immense budget allows this show to become feast for the eyes with a wide range of costumes from gowns and headdresses to full period armor. The lead actress Fan Bingbing has over 260 outfits to play Wu Meiniang, a concubine who manages to navigate her way to Empress of China!