SNARK WEEK: TV Sleepy Hollow’s Katrina


The TV show Sleepy Hollow tells the story of the 18th-century Ichabod Crane who has mysteriously turned up in the current day and has teamed up with a policewoman to stop the apocalypse, including the Headless Horseman. My husband is into it, mostly because he likes horror … And every time there’s a flashback to the 18th century, he calls me in to look at the costumes and snickers at my responses.

The costumes were designed by Kristin M. Burke, a talented designer with a background in horror who also writes the FrockTalk movie costume site.

Now, I think the show is pretty successful as genre horror/supernatural/crimefighters. It helps that the lead actor, Tom Mison (who played Bingley in Lost in Austen) is very cute. It’s definitely not trying to be Masterpiece Theatre, so we probably shouldn’t judge it on its historical accuracy … but it’s Snark Week, so let’s have some fun mocking Katrina’s costumes!

Katrina (previously Van Tassel, now Crane) is Ichabod’s wife. She’s in purgatory, but gets to come out occasionally to liven up the story (it’s complicated, and I haven’t watch more than the first few episodes, so go with me here). Also, there are flashbacks to Revolutionary War America that explain Ichabod’s and Katrina’s past. So, we definitely get some “18th century” to analyze … or as the husband would say, “Come and look at this!! snigger

Katrina was both a Quaker and a witch … not in the 18th-century sense of the term, but as in she’s part of a coven called the Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart. Yeah, that kind of witch. If you’d like to know more about her, check the Sleepy Hollow Wiki.

Katrina hangs out in purgatory a lot:

Katrina’s black “purgatory” gown is from the pilot [which a different designer handled]. It’s a look that leans heavily toward “fantasy” as opposed to the period, but she is, after all, a witch! Her backstory costumes have been very diverse: Quaker, nurse, noblewoman, widow… We go with the scripts and try to make it all happen! Katia is a real sport and she wears the period silhouette so well; she’s built for it! We are always excited when we get a new opportunity to do something new with her. –Kristin M. Burke, Clothes on Film

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Purgatory = 18th century Steampunk, apparently! What would that be, Candlepunk?


Again, Katrina used to be a Quaker and was a nurse in the Revolutionary War:

Q: So when you see Katrina is supposed to be in a ball gown, your mind goes, “Oh the ball gown I could make, except, oh, the ballgown I can’t make.”

Kristin M. Burke: Absolutely. The ballgown we can’t make, because budget restrictions say we can’t make it. But Katrina the Quaker gown? That was nowhere to be found. Something THAT plain. Nowhere. Like, all of the eighteenth-century stuff is beautiful prints or, you know, each one has a little something to it. There was very little that was that simple in her size. And so for us, on a practical level, it was like, you know what, let’s cut bait, let’s just do it. We’re getting to two weeks, once that two weeks point has been hit, we’re screwed and we have to invent something. Making a ladies ensemble for this period takes at minimum two weeks. So, once we get within that two week period, we can’t solve the problem by making something. And so there, we were coming up on that two weeks where we couldn’t find anything and I thought, “Okay, well, let’s make something.” — Go Fug Yourself

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would mock her red hair, but I guess Quakers probably weren’t too into powdering their hair. I can mock the hair down, though! Also, as someone who dyes her hair a similar color, I’ll tell you that that shade of red ONLY comes from a bottle.

Of course, it’s the “18th century” costumes that are the most entertaining. Again, the show isn’t trying to be Real History, and I think that’s pretty clear to the audience:

Q: There are a lot of military flashbacks during the show featuring Bluecoats (colonists) and Redcoats (dastardly British). Have the re-enactment police been onto you about anything yet?

Kristin M. Burke: Surprisingly, we haven’t felt that. Although since this is a fantasy show, and not Horatio Hornblower, we are probably attracting a different, more forgiving type of audience. We do not have a technical adviser for these flashbacks, so most of the research is done by the individual departments on our show. When things don’t line up, we powwow and try to work it out. We all need to be on the same page in order for it to be acceptable. I can’t tolerate sloppiness in research or execution, so I am usually the one heading up the “technically accurate” brigade. We do what we can, and I have learned a lot on this show. But I do realize that there is so much to know that I will never be able to know it all, and that history is oddly not always factually similar when you compare accounts of the same event. Many interpretations of the same events lead to different conclusions, and history is written by the victors. It’s a bit ‘bendy’, as our writers like to say. — Clothes on Film

But nonetheless, let’s take a look at what Katrina wears in the 18th century:

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This green dress is actually quite nice! I like the shape, the ruched trims… I can’t really find anything to snark!

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Looks like it’s a francaise…

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Her hair is very faux, but at least it’s UP. I’ve also seen some memes making fun of her hair, so clearly they have to balance what a modern audience thinks is attractive.

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This burgundy ensemble is a little more cheesy to me. Sure, it’s nice and gothy, but all that black lace and undersleeves just seem heavy handed.

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I don’t love the buttons on the side of the stomacher, but that’s a nitpick.

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Here is where it all starts to go downhill. Maybe she’s feeling casual and so left off the stays? Is that crushed velvet I spy? Does she need to borrow a rubber band for her hair? I’m sure I have an extra around here…

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Princess seams (nope), no corset or wrong corset shape (nope), hair down (nope). Her opponent (Mary, in the yellow) has a much better outfit!

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Drink in those princess seams, baby. Let the art wash over you.

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The pièce de resistance — a Victorian corset complete with curvy bust, Steampunk clasps, and later 19th-century style busk opening… SIGH.

What she should be wearing: a back lacing, straight fronted, tabbed set of 18th century stays.

What she should be wearing: a back lacing, straight fronted, tabbed set of 18th-century stays. These beautiful stays were made by The Staymaker.

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The Sleepy Hollow corset was made by Puimond, who writes, “The shows costume designer, Kristen Burke, requested the py04 Victorian style corset made with straps cut from 100% cotton coutil and brocade fabric so that they could age dye the hell out of it.” My emphasis on VICTORIAN. They certainly did a nice job distressing the corset, even if it’s COMPLETELY WRONG FOR THIS ERA. Also, those are some WIDE, load-bearing straps.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with this image of Katrina’s 18th century headstone:

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In what 18th-century world would someone burned for witchcraft have that on their headstone, let alone HAVE a headstone at all? Oh right, an era where we have a Sisterhood of the Radiant Heart.

18 Responses

  1. Katy

    I don’t actually watch the show, but I do remember reading that the Victorian corset was actually for when Katrina is transported to modern day. She finds it and chooses it for her new, contemporary outfit, maybe because it reminds her of the past? Not 100% on that bit but I am pretty sure that the Victorian corset was specifically for a modern day look.

    • Bronwyn

      Yes, you’re right. When Katrina is transported to the modern day, she ends up in the hospital. Ichabod and Abby find some clothes for Katrina in the hospital lost and found. Then mention something about the corset being left behind by a goth teenager. Presumably, they chose it for Katrina because it is reminiscent of her era. Ichabod also has an aversion to modern clothing, and has a local reenactor make new duds for him in the 18th century style he’s used to.

  2. Dorothy

    Does she get brownie points for wearing a cotton gauze chemise w/ elastic cuffs and satin ribbon trimming in pic #4 (worn under the beige dress)?

  3. Gloria Quincy

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the actress or someone else who asked to have her hair down versus the costume designer’s choice to have it down in those scenes. That sort of styling might be something that people beside the designer could influence. And some people might think having their hair down makes them look more glamorous.

    And yes, as mentioned above, the Victorian corset is worn in modern scenes, not in the 18th C scenes.

    Some of the worst 18th C costumes look like off the rack costume stock to me. Probably had to be used due to time and budget. Although I agree, still very snark-able.

  4. JDV

    I admit I love this show, it’s entertaining and that’s why I watch it. Plus every week we can bonus-snark Katrina.

    However this week’s episode she actually wore a rather nice modern little black dress while Ichabod was still whining about modern clothing and wore his hair up in a bun–which for the majority of the show we kept wondering if we were being punked because it looked like a french twist.

  5. Michael L. McQuown

    I’m still puzzling over the weird hats the militia were wearing in one episode. They looked like nothing military until the 19th century Hardee hat. As to Katrina’s Puritan outfit, the Puritans were out of the picture by the end of the 17th century. Their descendants today are the Congregationalists.

  6. Yvonne

    I watch the show religiously and I have to admit that even I who are normally unruffled by costume accuracy was a little bothered by some of her dresses. Though maybe it was her bottle red hair that made me cringe lol :)

  7. mmcquown

    Yes, Adam! Bothers me, too. Well, I hope you’re all happy: Katrina is dead, never to be seen again, except maybe in flashbacks. The sadistic souls writers are, they’ve also killed off Juliette in Grimm. Boo! Hiss!

  8. Alissa

    The modern Victorian corset story is hilarious! Well, in this case Puimond is a really good choice (I own one)) Although the movie logic is still doubtful: if this is a modern corset, why is it distressed? Also, it is too fancy for a goth teenager who would rather wear an Ebay corset top, and certainly not a thing you can leave behind… :)


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