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A critical look at the wardrobes of today’s TV sweethearts

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

Creative styling just doesn’t seem to be a priority anymore.

In the age of Netflix and binge-watching, creating visually appealing television is more important than ever. Sure, it’s possible to drop an entire season of a show in one day. But, if producers don’t give the people something interesting to look at, how can we be expected to stick around for eight consecutive hours? 

A lot of that power comes down to styling, since a character’s wardrobe adds an important show-don’t-tell layer to their personality and narrative. Unfortunately, for a lot of shows premiering recently, creative styling just doesn’t seem to be a priority.

So, here’s a critical – and I do mean critical – look at the wardrobes of some of today’s TV sweethearts.

To better limit my potential victims, I’ve chosen to only discuss shows that have recently appeared in my ‘Popular on Netflix’ list. This also limits my guilt over being harsh, because by involving themselves in my algorithms, these shows have made their business my business. 

Riverdale

I know picking on Riverdale has become a cliché, and I hate to jump on the bandwagon. But I will.

While Betty dresses like an insecure librarian’s assistant – and not in an eccentric thrift shop way – Veronica looks constantly ready to snag a role as an ageing presidential candidate. I’m all for creating a contrast between two characters through their wardrobes, but at least make one of them look like somebody I’d want to speak to at a party.

The only character who gets close to impressing me is Cheryl, solely on the grounds that she’s not afraid of some occasional drama.

With a show this campy and over the top, there’s so much room to push the style envelope. So less pearls, button downs and circle skirts, more capes and mock-Victorian nightgowns, please.

You

It’s hard to even comment on Guinevere’s style since she is, in essence, a very ordinary person with a very small amount of money. Her wardrobe reflects this, and while that’s not very fun, I’ll give You points for realism.

My issue, however, is with her rich, rich, so incredibly rich, friends.

These side characters’ big, almost caricatured personalities are not reflected at all in their homogeneous pretty-girl wardrobes.

And, when rich young socialites can no longer be counted on to wear blinged up, borderline-gaudy clothes that cost more than a year’s rent – à la Gossip Girl – it’s a sorry reflection of the world we live in.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Oh, Sabrina. Sabrina, Sabrina, Sabrina. All through the first season I sat waiting, desperately hoping you’d wear just one thing I actually liked.

Witches are so cool. Therefore, shows about witches should be cool. So please, explain why we’ve been handed a protagonist who dresses like a low-budget Victorian doll?

The occasional vintage-style collared blouse had me wishing for a few cheeky nods to OG Sabrina’s ’90s style. Instead, CA Sabrina brought us dowdy mum cardigans, Peter Pan collars and that ever-present headband.

Speaking of – if I were a witch and had magical powers, my first priority would be ensuring my hair looked good all the time. All I can say is that, obviously, Sabrina feels differently. 

Sex Education

I’m totally on board with the pseudo-’80s vibe of Sex Education’s styling. It’s colourful, kind of weird (I love you, Lily) and, overall, fun to look at.

Which is why Maeve’s wardrobe, in particular, leans so far towards disappointing. This might be nit-picky because she’s definitely dressed to suit her age, budget and social pariah status. But I feel like we’ve seen this particular version of the rebel who’s ‘not like other girls’ so many times before that it’s gone stale.

Because her character is such a driving force in the show, it would have been nice to see a more inspiring interpretation of the bad girl look. Leather jacket plus badly-coloured hair isn’t the only way to achieve cool, mean and sexy.

The Good Place

This is a show about real grown-ups – without a teenage identity crisis to fall back on when it comes to their bad wardrobe choices.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with these characters’ clothes. For the most part, they all have consistent personal brands (with the exception of Eleanor, who switches so often from flannies to flowy boho blouses and back that her supposed scumbag credentials come seriously into doubt).

I guess my real problem with the show’s styling is that this is meant to be the afterlife. You’re dead, anything is possible, and thats what you’re choosing to wear?

Maybe your lack of imagination and style is the real reason you’re in the bad place. 

Dynasty

Personally, I’m of the opinion that Elizabeth Gillies can do no wrong. I might have said the same thing about the stylist dressing her and her co-stars on Dynasty until Kirby arrived.

Where Gillies’ Fallon Carrington is the power suit-wearing hero we all need, Kirby’s carefree bad girl look falls so flat it borders on embarrassing. It’s impossible to be invested in their lifelong rivalry-turned reluctant alliance when forced to contend with her Insta-baddie-gone-wrong aesthetic.

The show runners can redeem Kirby’s character all they want, but they’ll never make me love her collection of ugly pants.

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