HBO's Veep has been on the air for three weeks now, and though it's sparked some interesting conversations about women in politics, it's sparked some even more interesting conversations (in my circle, anyway) about costuming. Now, this is probably due to the fact that the show is deliberately vague when it comes to political parties and rhetoric, but that doesn't change the fact that I can't get through an episode without exclaiming aloud that a woman in the oval office would never be allowed to wear something form-fitting, low-cut, and sleeveless without the media having a total field day. Look at the whole "Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare arms?" frenzy that occurred when the First Lady ventured out sans cardigan!
At any rate, there are plenty of shows on television right whose characters sport highly realistic wardrobes, and there are just as many that definitely don't. I crowdsourced (read: asked people on Facebook and Twitter) some examples of both recently and have ranked 10 shows based on a completely unscientific wardrobe believability index. My only criteria were that the show in question: A. is currently on the air, and B. takes place in 2012 (sorry Mad Men and Game of Thrones, I love your clothes but I don't know how believable it is for Jon Snow to be wearing a yak fur). Check out the rankings below, and be sure to add your own in the comments!
The Wardrobe Believability Index operates on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most believable. And speaking of believable...
Plenty of virtual ink has been spilled already about HBO's Girls, but love it or hate it, you've got to admit that the clothes are completely conceivable. I recognized Hannah's chartreuse cardigan last week from the J. Crew outlet store! Girls gets a 10 here because the fit (or lack thereof) of the outfits also seems pretty accurate. Hannah's Madewell dresses and Jessa's Urban Outfitters palazzo pants—even Marnie's DVF gallery-opening dress—are clearly off the rack, and are at about the right price point for young women from well-off families who get some financial support, but not enough to have things custom made.
Parks and Recreation: 9/10
Not only does Parks and Recreation boast one of the best ensemble casts on television, its characters dress like they work for a mid-sized city parks department. From Leslie's T.J. Maxx-style pantsuits and printed tops to Tom's off-the-rack (the Brooks Brothers Boys rack, of course) workwear, these getups are super buyable (I've already gone over Donna's killer-yet-credible style in a previous post). Even the details—like Leslie Knope's scented waffle necklace—make sense. The only thing keeping Parks and Rec from a 10 is some of the fits. Sure Leslie's running for city council (KNOPE 2012!), but a woman with her busy schedule and tight budget isn't likely to own so many tailored items—and you know some of Jerry's sweater vests would've stretched out by now.
Look at Ann's shoes! She'd so buy those.
Eastbound & Down: 8/10
Did you know you can buy a Kenny Powers Halloween costume? Why you'd fork over $29.99 for it is beyond me though, since all you need to be La Flama Blanca is a pair of sunglasses and a t-shirt from your local thrift store (sleeves cut off, natch). Kenny's longish jean shorts and trashy tees (yes, you can buy a blink if you want me shirt), Stevie's short-sleeved button downs and cargo shorts, April's v-neck workwear—the clothes on Eastbound & Down serve to develop the characters without requiring any suspension of disbelief. Well, except for Ashley Schaeffer's Colonel Sanders getups, maybe.
Not pictured: Jorts.
I have mixed feelings about Portlandia, but as a Portlander I can tell you that the costume designer on this show won an Emmy for a reason. Sure some of the characters get a little out-there with their wardrobes, but hey, so do some Portlanders.
This bookstore is down the street from my apartment and let me assure you: Someone is wearing those sandals there right now.
New Girl: 6/10
New Girl gets a mixed review because, on the one hand, the male characters' wardrobes are on point. Nick, a bartender, would definitely wear those collared shirts when he hits on college girls, and Schmidt, fashion-conscious semidouche that he is, would most certainly drop the coin required for his slim-fit slacks and sweaters. On the other hand, Jess' dresses are harder to swallow. She's an elementary school teacher, so most of her shorty hemlines wouldn't fly at work. She's also working with a limited budget, and though much of her wardrobe is quasi-affordable, she never repeats an outfit. We're supposed to believe that a public school teacher can afford a different $177 Aqua wrap dress for every day of the week? Doubtful.
Wear that dress again next week and we'll talk.
The Killing: 5/10
The Killing is the anti-New Girl: These characters never change their clothes! While I get that Holder is a down-and-out sort, he's also AT WORK. Change that hoodie, man! Same goes for you, Linden: that sweater might be keeping you warm, but you're gonna have to take it off to wash it at some point at least.
This photo could be from literally any episode of the show.
The Big Bang Theory: 4/10
How many "I'm a nerd!" shirts can one nerd own? If said nerd is on The Big Bang Theory, enough to spawn an online store and then some. While shows like Eastbound & Down use costuming to develop characters, The Big Bang Theory uses costuming to hit us over the head. These guys are geeks! We get it! We don't need to see another wacky, mismatched ensemble or "I Heart Vulcans" shirt from them—real geeks probably wouldn't spend that kind of time and energy on their wardrobes anyway.
Check the matching jeans and mock turtleneck: HE'S A DORK!
Disclaimer: I don't work in Washington, D.C., and I know that some people have praised Veep for its costuming. However, given the media's tendency to scrutinize the shit out of every female politician's appearance (Hillary Clinton's hair, Sarah Palin's new suits, Nancy Pelosi's lavender pumps, Michelle Obama's triceps, etc.) I can't imagine that a woman would end up in the VP seat without being shamed or cajoled into a jacket. Either that or every other headline would be about Selina Meyer's legs, cleavage, arms, and blingy accessories.
That guy on the left knows what I'm talking about.
Hart of Dixie: 2/10
Is anyone watching Hart of Dixie on the CW? Just me? Well, if you were watching, you would see consistently outlandish outfits, especially on the women. Jaime King's Lemon Breeland—constantly in formal dress, hair, and makeup—is a prime candidate for the take one thing off rule, and Rachel Bilson's Zoe Hart is known for black leather formal shorts. Affordability issues aside (I'm not sure what a small town doctor makes but I doubt it's enough to afford $1,335 shorts), Dr. Hart is in Bluebell, Alabama, where it is presumably 1000 degrees out with 1000% humidity. Who's wearing black leather on a day like that? I don't buy it. (Note: I do buy the colorful, tailored wardrobe of NFL star-turned-mayor Levon Hayes, who is a complete delight and wears the best clothes.)
Two characters in black leather and another two dressed for the prom! Levon Hayes is the only one who knows what's up here.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE CLOTHES ON GCB!? I get that these characters are meant to embody rich stereotypes, but does anyone actually have the money to dress like a rodeo princess every day? Whenever something wacky happens on this show (which is every week), the characters have full wardrobes to match. A Gone With the Wind-themed wedding? Break out the hoop skirts. A church musical? Grab that winged angel costume with the real feathers and the wiring! A hunting trip? You know all of these ladies own camo jumpsuits.
Have any shows you'd like to rank on the Wardrobe Believability Index? Share them in the comments!