Costumed in Color: Why this (mostly) middle-aged cast makes me happy to be alive

For the most part I’m happy I don’t have the good kind of cable TV, because otherwise I’d never leave the house.

At times, though, I realize my deprivation means I’ve missed a show that everyone else has been merrily watching for eons. Which results in a frantic search to see if said show is available to rent via DVD, followed by watching past episodes in decadent binges, succeeded by invariably falling asleep when my greedy little eyes can’t…stay…open.

So it was with TNT’s “The Closer,” which I only just discovered in any but a vague, pop-culture sense. And 4 seasons into it, I am really questioning my cable-having so-called friends. Do NONE of them watch this show? Or are they watching it and NOT telling me? Having 160 channels comes with certain responsibilities, people.

Now prior to glueing my retinas to the television screen, I knew enough about “The Closer” to file it away as a police drama where the show’s star, Ms Kyra Sedgwick, had accumulated critically strong reviews for her performance. But as its radio ads made the series sound like a tedious Dirty Harry rip-off, I didn’t delve any deeper.

And NOT ONE PERSON I know said,

Hey Vix—

Have you seen this show about a scatterbrained, floral-print-loving, non-rule-abiding Southern woman who gets hired to run a homicide unit in Los Angeles and ends up kicking serious criminal and office politic-al arse?

“The cast is full of guys over 40 who tend to look like they keep a copy of Color Me Beautiful next to the can, but they are supposed to be in LA, after all. And gee, do they look sharp when they’re wearing ‘their’ colors, so I guess I’m not really complaining.

“Oh, and while I hope I’m not giving anything away, Ms Sedgwick’s ‘Brenda Leigh Johnson’ wardrobe undergoes a gradual makeover and she ends up wearing a lot of ridiculously stunning vintage pieces.

“Despite your past environments and present loves, I doubt you’d like it. I just thought I’d mention it, is all.”

Even if I hated every character, every plot, and every line of the series, I’m confident I’d have to hit mute and watch it play out. Because between the actors, the settings, and the clothing it’s well nigh impossible to escape the pretty.

Permit me to enter into evidence Exhibit A:

…and Exhibits B–RRR (pay particular attention, if you will, to how Lead Costume Designer Greg LaVoi and his team flatter diverse skin tones):

Although I must say I feel very strongly that Robert Gossett (above left and right) looks much more handsome in pale yellow than bright gold—while his colleague Corey Reynolds (below left) REALLY suits the more intense shade.


But I stand by my verdict.

Besides, I often have excellent opinions. Like when I was trying to edit these photos down to fewer than a cornucopia but finally realized, “There’s a reason Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors: it‘s fun to choose a favorite.

As if the bevy of handsomely dressed men weren’t enough eye candy, it’s hard to miss that LaVoi puts Deputy Chief Johnson in ultra-feminine and/or strikingly powerful vintage pieces that are altered to fit Sedgwick’s frame like a proverbial glove—a process he’s kind enough to share on his “Fashion File” blog.

[Nevermind that BLJ would probably hem her pants with duct tape if left to her own devices.]

While I’m sure that anyone competing for Lilli Ann, Irene Lentz, or other superbly designed creations finds Mr LaVoi’s love of vintage unfortunate, the rest of us are blessed. Because his preference means that those of us who enjoy seeing beauties of the past in motion on an intriguing character from the present are in HOG HEAVEN.

However: In an effort to sound 0.0627% less like a slavering fan, I will say that every once in a while there’s an (exquisite) costume in a shade that makes Ms Sedgwick look like she was bitten by a Hep C-infected lowlife.

But generally when the team’s not swathing their star in vintage or accessorizing her with an FBI agent who’s rather easy on the eyes, one spies an awful lot of cashmere in colors that make the actor/character glow.

But please—don’t take MY word for it. Those DVDs aren’t going to watch themselves….

All photos c TNT

PSA #1: As an avid fan of the vintage-focused CoutureAllure, I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from Jody’s generous sharing of her knowledge and abundant advertising collection. Check out her info and images on San Francisco clothing brand Lilli Ann here.

PSA #2: See images and sketches of designer Irene Lentz’s work in this family-member-run effort.

O no not you again: of closets and color capsules

As a recovering blacktextile-a-holic, I’m always looking for ways to pat myself on my now-more-brilliantly-hued back about my expanded color horizons. Too bad my smugness usually tends to be premature at best and delusional at worst!

[Not to mention annoying any way one slices it.]

Thanks to my DNA-derived ability to deny what’s transparent as new crystal, however, I’m generally able to happily co-exist with my fictional wardrobe until just-try-to-rationalize-THIS proof to the contrary arrives. And right around this time last year, “to the contrary” arrived with reinforcements when I blithely divided my brisk-weather clothing into “color” and “white-to-black” and found something startling: a blatant tonality teeter-totter.

Sometimes reality bites AND barks.

So before buying any new clothes for Fall/Winter 2010, I resolved to go into my closet with toothpicked-open eyes and see how I might best and most fearlessly allocate my resources.

I felt just like Napoleon, but taller!

Luckily, August’s emergency business suiting crisis and late-breaking heat wave gave me good reason to procrastinate over actually DOING any of the scut work I had so solemnly swear’d to undertake.

By early September, though, I grudgingly set aside time to fling open drawers, drag items off hangers, and paw through cedar-sheltered wool. Having tripped into—and subsequently enjoyed—a 5-piece, colorful-for-me capsule in 2009, I was keen to replicate my relative success.

But after cataloging the contents I saw before me in a semi-organized jumble, I whoa-nellyed. I knew I had best cast my increasingly beady eye on trend forecasts (goose-stepping moto-leathered knit-laden minimalistic 50s debutantes in vivid or bleached-out shades!) to better understand where the fashion juggernaut had placed its stakes in the seasonal landscape.

The landscape I would be dear god! trying to avoid or embrace in some way/shape, no matter how mutated my results might end up.

Having already decided to pursue winterized versions of the cool-toned blues and greens I now wear quite often in the summer, I took a moment to silently congratulate Pantone Inc for its good taste in selecting “Lagoon” as one of 10 key colors for fall. Especially as I had some blue/green items kicking around from spring that I could carry over.

[None were highly textured cocktail dresses, alas.]

Left: My closet’s fall/winter colors now include tropical blues and greens. Right: Pantone’s Fall 2010 “Lagoon.”

And then I moved forward. Between custom and retail choices, I ended up with 4 new items that sit pretty neatly into my Contrarian Classicist zone…and a 5th outlier that defiles its cool-hued majority with a few “tobacco” and “sunshine” blobs:

Top: Fall/winter purchases in what I’ll pretentiously term Palette 1. Bottom: Blue/green flings from Spring ’10.

Buys that will keep me from feeling blue:

The wool skirt works with all the tops; most of the tops work with each other; and so on and so forth. Throw in my denim pencil skirt, jeans, and spring’s green/blue shawl and I think even the purists would call it a fairly flexible, 8-piece tone-on-tone capsule.

And technically the blue jersey’s detachable cowl/stole can double as a miniskirt, bringing me to 9 items.


While of course I’m pairing the new duds with the usual grey/black/brown to knock the vibrancy down a notch, I’ve actually happily starting wearing the above together; for some reason, I never mind standing out in head-to-toe color-color if the hue in question is blue and/or green.


With paradise’s main colors covered, it seemed prudent to base Palette 2 on the buys I’d made last winter—items heavy on the rose and purple/plum, items that play well with my bitter chocolate and reddish browns. Despite my investigative reporting showing that a Pantone Fall ALWAYS seems to have bright purple, I’ll pretend the inclusion of the vivid “Purple Orchid” in the company’s forecast helped sway my decision…

Left: This season’s closet will also be taking up where last winter’s buys left off. Right: Pantone’s Fall 2010 “Purple Orchid.”

…even though I think it’s pretty obvious I was more influenced by the costumes of Young Victoria.

Above: The Queen Victoria costumes share a little something with my Palette 2 buys.

Purchases that bode well for a purple half-reign:

Now unless one is a strumpet/free spirit who eschews wearing bottoms, it’s cheating to call the above a self-contained tone-on-tone capsule. But by pulling in two below-the-belt members of my Accidental Capsule—a brownish-plum wool skirt and prune-y cords—I bet it qualifies.

Left: Last winter’s below-the-belt picks—a brownish-plum wool skirt and prune-y cords. Right: Pantone Color Report’s Fall 2010 choices.

As for more sedate capsules? No worries. There’s certainly no shortage of deep brown, grey, or coal-colored items round these parts. It’s just that when the sun’s vanished and dirty puddles lap at my feet and I’ve had it with those around me, it’s nice to know I can sport a shade that puts me more in line with—if not exactly over—the rainbow.

Next: See my green-blue revue in action in Marine Drive