Lovecraft Country

10

I’m not really one for the horror genre in general, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch Lovecraft Country (2020), the recent horror offering from the brilliant team of Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, based on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff. What drew me in to the otherwise totally-not-my-jam show was the fresh take on the horrors of racism in the 1950s, pitted against the classical horror underpinning of supernatural monsters and vengeful spirits. I haven’t read the book, so I can only go off what the show presents to viewers, but despite my misgivings about the ridiculous level of gore and jump scares, I have to admit I’m hooked. And rest assured, if you are an aficionado of the classic horror genre, there are a lot of Easter eggs, reference points, and inside jokes crammed into every scene (I know this because my boyfriend is constantly pointing out the references as we watch).

So far only three episodes have aired of a total of ten for the series, but I think there’s enough for me to talk about when it comes to the costumes, because there’s a lot of excellent 1950s clothing to discuss. The show’s costume designer, Dayna Pink (whose design credits to date are mainly on non-historical TV shows and films), does a fantastic job clothing the cast in stylish, yet realistic clothing for working-class Black Chicagoans in the mid-1950s. The show’s central female character, Leticia “Leti” Lewis (played by Jurnee Smollett), gets the most varied and fashionable wardrobe, and it’s clear that Pink is having a blast with Leti’s outfits.

“We found Leti, and we got to really play with her because she uses clothing as an armor. She’s dressed beyond her means. We don’t know where she got those clothes and it doesn’t matter where she got them, because she’s a girl that gets what she wants. So we just went with, ‘What would she want to wear?’ And that’s what we did.”

Dayna Pink, costume designer, Harper’s Bazaar

Leti’s first outfit in the first episode is a fitted red blouse with a plunging neckline and a full navy blue skirt.

 

She gets on stage to sing with her sister, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku). I am so in love with Ruby’s dress … the color, the fit, everything. I just can’t find a better photo of it than this online.

 

Ruby is really skeptical of Leti’s idea to move into an upscale white neighborhood and renovate the rundown mansion with a mysterious history. Ruby, as the responsible older sister, is often depicted wearing more professional clothes (when she’s not performing with her band), showing her desire to be taken seriously and to better her circumstances. Leti, in contrast, wears a lot of more fashion-forward clothing, often with a bit of a Beatnik flavor to them.

 

In the third episode, Leti gets a teal satin dress for the party she throws at the crumbling Winthrop Mansion, which she has just purchased and intends to turn into a boarding house. The dress has a semi-fitted skirt and is covered with fringe.

Pink also notes that the clothing designs, particularly concerning Leti’s outfits, were in large part based on “Black designers and Black fashion from the time period,” referencing the book Vintage Black Glamour, as well as photographs by Gordon Parks, who focused on the lives of Black people during the Civil Rights Era.

Dayna Pink’s designs combine the silhouette of the 1950s, some vintage pieces, and then she throws some contemporary fabrics in the mix to create a sometimes jarring mash-up that seems ever-so-slightly out of place, underscoring both the fact Leti is out of place in a white world, and increasingly out of place in the natural world as well.

 

Compared to Atticus (Johnathan Majors) who re-wears much of his wardrobe in the show, Leti never repeats an outfit. Pink states, “She’s dressed beyond her means. We don’t know where she got those clothes and it doesn’t matter where she got them, because she’s a girl that gets what she wants.”

 

But lest you get the impression that Leti is just a pretty girl who doesn’t get her hands dirty (and in many cases, downright bloody), she’s also a character that is incredibly pragmatic and adaptable to any new and increasingly weird situation she’s pitted against. Also, be afraid if she picks up a baseball bat…

 

One of my favorite outfits Leti wears is the black sweater with hook-and-eye fasteners at the front, paired with pink pedal pushers. Of course you only see it for a few scenes and then it’s gone forever as she’s on to the next fabulous outfit.

 

Have you been watching Lovecraft Country? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Tags

About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

10 Responses

  1. Shashwat

    Leti’s costumes looked so gorgeous,but a bit too expensive and glam for everyday wear.If they intended to make her dressed up above her means,they nailed it.Those denims look so comfortable.
    Irrelevant,but Jordan Peele and Keegan had some sketches set in the 16th century and the twentieth century,along with a couple of them set in a 50s office.We don’t generally get to see such different hair textures in period setting,especially on men(they weren’t necessarily accurate but were always beautiful and skilfully blended with real hair,I think they were nominated for Emmy and critic guilds).

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    Love it! Might get me to watch a horror series–also not my usual thing . The draped neckline on Leti’s gorgeous “teal satin party dress” is just the neckline that was used in the draped party dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the famous Philippe Halsman photo on the cover of Life Magazine in 1952. A sort of Easter egg homage to the styles and sexy norms of the era, perhaps? Cool.

    Couldn’t get a photo to “copy” here in the text box, but here is a website with the famous picture of Marilyn.

    http://www.artnet.com/artists/philippe-halsman/marilyn-monroe-on-the-cover-of-life-magazine-kEjBcUbMcsrYquBP6QFu8A2

    Love how you explore different eras and types of clothing! When do you write a book?

    Sarah

    Reply
  3. Nzie

    Glad to see the costumes.. not much of a horror person but have been hearing about this show some. It sounds super interesting but I’m just not one for the gore. Love some of those dresses–especially on Ruby; nice to see that attention to detail, fit, and style isn’t just for smaller sizes. She looks super glam.

    Reply
  4. Saraquill

    Squee! I wasn’t expecting the show to be covered here so soon. SO far I’m enjoying the story, performances and outfits quite a bit.

    One detail that warms my heart is the equal opportunity fanservice. Leti and her tight pants/shorts, and Tic in tight shirts, no shirts, etc.

    Reply
  5. Maggie May

    Loved the book and am really enjoying the show. Our characters face eldritch horrors out of the pulps–which included horror, SF and heroic fantasy before weird fiction was respectable. And they face horrors with historic roots.

    The depth of clothing design is evident beyond our principals. The series begins with an amazing scene revealed as a dream when Tic awakens in the back of a bus. He begins a conversation with a lady sitting next to him, then walking down the road with him as they are not allowed on the truck sent to pick up passengers from the broken down bus. She wears a hat and a dress with snappy details that make the white women in the scene look dowdy.

    I could go on but do not want to spoil anyone who hasn’t been watching. It is a history show, a mystery show and a family drama. With definite scary and gory bits. I am not a horror fan but this show has a lot to offer.

    Reply
  6. Bootzey

    Letty makes her own clothes. She said that to her sister in episode 3. When you make your own clothes…. You can have what you want

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Good point. Women used to do that; I remember a kid in 5th grade admiring a dress my mother had made me with the words, “Wow. It looks store-bought.”

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Sarah Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.