What to Wear When Hot on the Trail

Whether solving crime or cracking codes, it's best to do it in style

Fashion has always been filled with mysteries: What is hiding behind Karl Lagerfeld’s sunglasses? How can there be more than 52 fashion weeks in a year? Lotion and denim—meant to be?

Then, there are some things we don’t even need to question. As long as there have been sleuths—whether in fact or fiction—there has been clothing to covet, be it elaborate disguises or the more traditional trench coats. We got our Wornettes to get to the bottom of the case in figuring out who the best-dressed detectives are.

Dr. Julia Ogden (CityTV/CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries)
As Murdoch Mysteries‘ token “New Woman,” Dr. Ogden is a doctor, early forensics specialist, and women’s health advocate. She is also intellectually and temperamentally a perfect match for the series protagonist, Detective William Murdoch, and their partnership is the heart of the show. Her style reflects her position as a woman in a world of men, and she is almost always wearing menswear inspired pieces like ties, vests, and separates. But as the show has progressed and her presence has become more accepted (and she has moved away from the autopsy table), her dress has grown softer and more feminine. In the season 5 finale, she sexed it up completely in a black and red, low cut, sleeveless, beaded and sequined ball gown, the perfect outfit for a woman who is about to leave her husband for another man in 1900. Intelligent, brave, and forward-thinking, she’s the woman I would want to be if I were alive in Victorian Toronto—heck, she’s the woman I want to be now. // Megan Patterson

Hercule Poirot (multiple Agatha Christie novels)
“The neatness of his attire was almost incredible,” Captain Arthur Hastings remarked about his old friend Hercule Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. “I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.” Useful, when one’s job is solving crimes.

Agatha Christie introduced her diminutive, fastidious, and arrogant detective in the ’20s. She couldn’t have known that the transplanted Belgian, with small mincing steps, would follow her the rest of her life. Poirot was laid to rest the same year as his creator, in 1975. By then, his three-piece suits, bowler hats, and patent leather shoes were ludicrously out of date. But it’s fitting that a character that Christie described as a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep,” would stubbornly cling to his jazz age style in the era of punk.

Poirot’s most famous attribute was without a doubt his moustache—a small handlebar, always perfectly waxed. In some Poirot films, he’s even shown wearing a moustache-net while sleeping. When dressing actor David Suchet, the definitive Poirot from the BBC series, the costume designers tested 40 fake moustaches in order to find the most symmetrical one. For costumers, as well as detectives, details are of the utmost importance. // Max Mosher

Jessica Fletcher
(CBS’s Murder she Wrote)
It ain’t easy maintaining a sleepy east coast lifestyle while catching crooks on the regular in rural Maine, but Jessica Fletcher pulls it off with as much flair as guile. Whether she’s unearthing a crime at a Native American archaeological dig, dining with one of her countless nieces and nephews, or sleuthing with Magnum PI on a trip to Hawaii, she does so with an elegance that can only come with knowing that her night out will end up with her talking to the cops (seriously, does nobody question that wherever she goes, reckless murder tends to follow?). With clip-on earrings, jaunty hats, houndstooth jackets and a scarf collection that would earn jealous glares from the likes of Nancy Drew, her mix of belted, shoulder-padded mackintoshes and smart button-down vest combos offer up the best of nor’eastern fashion that makes us all want to curse, “clam dip!” // Whitney Wager

Carmen SanDiego
Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego? We never actually figured that out, but her tomato-red trench coat remains unmistakeable. Sandiego was the title outlaw of the 1980s children’s computer game where players scoured the globe looking for clues of the thief’s whereabouts. SanDiego wore the classic bank robber’s uniform of all black, topped off with a bright red floor-length trench coat and matching fedora, always poised for the getaway. It’s a testament to her stealthiness that she could remain perpetually untraceable while wearing some of the most noticeable clothes, earning her the apt nickname of “The Lady in Red.” Sure, unlike the other names on this list, SanDiego was more a crime starter than a crime solver, but her conspicuously coloured trench was the ultimate subversion of classic detective attire. // Isabel Slone

Mata Hari
Marilyn might have sung “Diamonds are a girls best friend,” but it could have easily been said by the French courtesan Mata Hari, who was executed during WWI for being a supposed double agent. Often seen lavished in exotic diamond head-pieces and decadent silks fit for a bold spy disguised as an Egyptian goddess, Mata Hari’s glamour possessed an intruding sexiness uncommon during the still reserved days of Edwardian Europe.

When Greta Garbo played her in the 1931 film Mata Hari, the velvets, the furs, and the intoxicating amount of bling undoubtedly became one of the strongest focal points in every scene; so exuberant are they that it puts every modern-day Kardashian’s luxury to shame. But it’s not the excess of luxe that makes Mata Hari a fashionable dream—with a hazardous history of prostitution, seduction, and espionage. It’s the way in which all her diamonds are threaded with dangerous mystery, intrigue, and two-facedness that allow her and her style to become the quintessential archetype for dicey femme fatale glamour. Even James Bond called her his first true love. // Paulina Kulacz

Lana Kane (FX’s Archer)
Archer is one of those cartoons in a post-Simpsons world in which you can’t let its animated facade fool you—this is not a show for kids. It constantly straddles the line between delightfully subversive and obnoxious bro-humor with its frustrating Don Draper-meets-James Bond protagonist, secret agent Sterling Archer. Lana Kane (Aisha Taylor) is Archer’s ex-girlfriend and coworker, her no-bullshit attitude providing him much needed foil. And though the way she is drawn recalls ridiculously sexist notions of female anatomy seen in many male-targeted comic books (seriously, her chest-waist-hips ratio makes Barbie look like a stick) she actually gets to fight crime wearing relatively sensible clothing. OK, her high-heeled boots are a little nuts (though impeccably badass), but she’s got a whole wardrobe of these turtleneck sweater dresses that she wears to the office that scream, “I Enjoy Being an Attractive Lady But Also it is Important That I am Comfortable While Doing Behind The Scenes Intel Work Yet if Need be I can Also Easily Kick Your Ass in This Skirt, Also: Check Out My Gun Holsters; I Have Two of Them.” If only my own knitwear could be so badass. // Anna Fitzpatrick

Harriet the Spy (1996 film adaptation of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh)
Forget typical trench-coats and fedoras. Eleven year old Harriet M. Welsch does her best secret snooping in classic ’90s grade-school style. Solid tees are layered over long-sleeved stripes, jeans and hoodies are very baggy, and plaid flannel is never far out of sight. On duty, Harriet (played by Michelle Trachtenberg before she became an evil mastermind) wears a bright yellow raincoat and a matching utility belt (it holds up her massive jeans and carries vintage spy supplies); her ever-present “PRIVATE” notebook is tucked in the front of her jeans and binoculars hang around her neck. Harriet is always ready for action, whether she’s hiding in a rich lady’s dumbwaiter or hanging from her best friend’s window ledge. Most of the time she’s sticking to practical pieces in primary colours—except when she’s dancing to James Brown in an onion costume. // Stephanie Fereiro

Joan Watson (CBS’s Elementary)
Being TV’s first gender-swapped Watson wasn’t enough for Joan—she also had to have a pretty wicked sense of style. As a born and bred New Yorker, I suppose this only makes perfect sense. When we think of Dr. Watson from other adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, we typically think of someone very stuffy and buttoned up, and his style has always reflected that. Jane Watson on the other hand, exudes fresh breath of casual air, in her demeanor and her clothing. Her wardrobe is the exact opposite of the stuffy Victorian gentleman’s—flowy tops, leggings, perfect unstructured jackets, LOTS of New York-appropriate black, and miniskirts (girlfriend loves a miniskirt, and has on more than one occasion worn a leather one). Lucy Liu makes it all look effortless in that infuriating way she has, even the parts that involve dead bodies (which is, of course, most of them). // Megan Patterson

illustrations //
Jenn Woodall
To see more stylin’ detectin’, check out our Nancy Drew inspired editorial in issue 9 of WORN Fashion Journal.

Wornette Bookmarks

What WORN staffers have been reading and loving around the web

Wornettes love to share. It’s just the way we are. And when we find something we love, we also love to share it with each other. Here’s a roundup of some of the things we’ve been into from around the World Wide Web.

A Black Crip’s Perspective on Fashion and Embodied Resistance
By Eddie Ndopu

Eddie Ndopu is a Black Queer Crip. He also loves fashion, and he takes any excuse he can to dress to the nines, because he enjoys it. But he’s noticed that his mode of dress has become a site of resistance against ableist assumptions about his body and ableist standards of being. He argues that his conscious choice to dress in a fashion-forward, non-casual way makes people less likely to assume that he is someone who is deprived or needs charity, and in turn challenges their notions of what the life of a disabled person is like.

On Pins and Needles: Stylist Turns Ancient Hairdo Debate on Its Head
By Abigail Pesta

Janet Stephens is a Baltimore hairstylist who works at a regular hair salon during the day, but in her free time, she is an amateur hair archaeologist, and recreates hair styles from ancient times. Even better, she puts them up on YouTube, so we can see exactly how the hairstyles were done. Despite not holding a degree, she’s even written for scholarly journals about her hypotheses about how these hairstyles were done, which is a pretty big deal. Her vestal virgins video made somewhat of a stir with the fashion set online last month, and it also proved that the vestal virgin hairstyle, which scholars had long thought were wigs, actually probably were not. This is a must read for any history nerd.

ALERT: Your Vintage Clothing is Infected With Demons
By Lexi Nisita

Vintage lovers no longer just have to worry about bedbugs when buying their clothing, at least according to TV minister Pat Robertson. Apparently demons like to attach themselves to physical objects like clothing, so that ‘60s mini dress might be rife with demonic energy. The only way to prevent this is through prayer and binding friendly spirits to the clothing. No big deal. According to this logic, WORN staffers are all probably about 90% demon, so you have been warned.

‘We’re Done Hiding:’ A First Lingerie Line for Transgender Women
Chrysalis, a new NYC-based lingerie designer and the brainchild of Cy Lauz, is the first designed with the needs of transgender women in mind. The basics line will be released this spring, and features a power mesh panty that helps to create a seamless lines, and sleek, modern bras with pockets to accommodate full cup inserts. They’re also planning a couture collection that will bring this technology to other types of garments like teddies, shapewear, lingerie, and even bathing suits. Even better, all the models used in Chrysalis’ advertising are trans. It’s about damn time.

How Men’s Magazines Sell Masculinity to Young, Low-Income Men
By Amanda Hess

The media isn’t shy about talking about what the images in magazines do to affect women’s self worth and body image, but what about men’s? In this Slate piece by Amanda Hess, she examines the influence that advertising in men’s magazines like Playboy and Game Informer, which promote a heavily aggressive male archetype, has on the men who buy them.

How Fashion is Queer

By Alison Bancroft

Alison Bancroft’s short essay does away with the idea that fashion is frivolous flush that subordinates women, and instead examines fashion as a way to redefine and even ignore gender norms for everyone. Think Andrej Pejic, Ru Paul’s MAC ads, Thierry Mugler, Coco Chanel in the ’20s, and the entire concept of the androgynous fad. Almost everywhere you look in fashion, especially now, someone is challenging notions about gender in some way. “Fashion is not about shopping, and if you think it is, you have missed a trick.” We at WORN are of course heartily in favour of this mode of thinking.

The Oscar Red Carpet is Boring

Celebrities are boring. All hail the (mostly) non-celebrities!

The Oscars took place this past Sunday, and with it came the annual critique of what gowns were worn. But guys, this year was SO BORING. Perhaps even the most boring Oscars red carpet ever. Everyone played it pretty safe, and the biggest fashion controversy was whether Anne Hathaway’s last minute gown was showing her nipples or not (My consensus: Just darts guys. Though don’t even get me started on her styling choices, which were obviously meant for a different dress). Everyone wore white or nude or pastel colours, and there was not a swan dress to be seen. Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, and Catherine Zeta-Jones all seemed to be protesting The Great Gatsby being pushed back to May (and therefore not eligible for this year’s Oscars) with their gowns, and that’s really the most interesting thing I can say about them. The night’s most notable gowns were by and large not the ones worn by the major celebs, or if they were, they were notable for reasons that were not sartorial at all. Here’s our best dressed list for the 2013 Oscars Red Carpet.

Jennifer Lawrence, Dior
This is definitely a gown that’s notable not for being particularly interesting or daring, but because of the moments it created. Because let’s face it, this looks like one of those dresses that is made out of toilet paper for charity, though I honestly would not put it past Jennifer Lawrence to actually do this. It was lampooned a bit for being too bridal, but this dress created some of the best moments in this year’s awards show—Father of the Bride jokes, the adorable pratfall when Jen won best actress and both Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman tried to save her, the hilarious press conference moments afterwards when she was asked about the fall. This dress was a real troublemaker, but Miss Lawrence took it all in stride and has cemented herself as my imaginary Hollywood best friend forever.

Salma Hayek, Alexander McQueen
Salma Hayek looks like the tiniest, chicest Bride of Frankenstein, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Melissa McCarthy, David Meister
I don’t really get why so many people were up in arms about this dress. I think it fits her perfectly, and I think it’s a much more modern looking than the standard princess-y gowns everyone else was wearing. People really seem to love getting a bug up their butt when the big girl wears anything remotely different or interesting (See: Adele at the Grammys. You’ll note Adele went back to her trademark black after that, le sigh). Also, Melissa McCarthy is awesome and can wear what she wants, as far as I’m concerned.

Samuel L. Jackson, Designer Unknown
Samuel L. Jackson wins best dressed man of the night in his burgundy velvet jacket, shiny grey silk(?) shirt, and brown pants and bowtie. Men of Hollywood please note: only Sam Jackson can pull this look off. You will look ridiculous. Trust.

Emmanuelle Riva, Lanvin
Oldest Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva did not win Best Actress this year, but she looks fabulous while doing so in her voluminous blue Lanvin. She wasn’t dressed like a single other person on the RC, and she clearly had fun with her gown, twirling and dancing like she didn’t have a care in the world. To me, that’s way more important than making some best dressed list any day. Plus you know she was the most comfortable woman in that entire ballroom.

Sunrise Coigney, Zero + Maria Cornejo
Sunrise Coigney is a former actress who is now best known as being Mark Ruffalo’s wife. This gown isn’t my style, but you can definitely tell it’s hers, and she owned it. The choice of an electric blue bag to accessorize with it was positively inspired for the Oscars. Again this isn’t a look that most people could pull off, but Sunrise is doing it effortlessly.

Mark Andrews, Designer Unknown
Second best dressed man on the RC was hands down Brave director Mark Andrews, who accessorized his traditional blue Scottish kilt with a teal sporran (that would be the bag one wears with the kilt).

Rachael Mwanza, Vlisco
Rachael Mwanza, a 16-year-old actress from the Republic of Congo who managed to get a last minute visa to attend the ceremonies because of her role in best Foreign Picture nominee Rebelle (War Witch), showed her African pride in a traditional Ankara print gown. The gown was designed by renowned dutch textile company Vlisco, who have been around since 1846 and are known for their bright and colourful printed fabrics and supporting young African fashion designers. Ankara prints are typically associated with West and Central Africa, and were traditionally worn for ceremonial purposes. The prints and designs vary from region to region, but all are made with a similar wax print fabric technique, which involves printing the fabric with a pattern made of melted wax. In recent years designers like Diane von Furstenberg have been using these prints, and it’s become something of a trend, with celebs like Solange, Beyonce, and even Anna Wintour seen sporting it.

Helena Bonham Carter, Vivienne Westwood
It’s something of a testament to how boring the Oscars have gotten that this is what Helena Bonham Carter wore. I mean, this is practically tame for her, and it’s definitely something she’s worn before. That said, it was still one of the stand outs on the red carpet, which I think says a lot. DON’T GIVE UP, HBC!! WE LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU TO BE YOUR CRAZY DIAMOND SELF AT ALL RED CARPET FUNCTIONS!!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO WITH MYSELF IF THIS IS ALL YOU’RE SERVING UP NOW!!! I BEG YOU, FOR RED CARPET LOVERS EVERYWHERE, DON’T FALL INTO THE BORING TRAP!!

All The Stars Explode Tonight

Looking at this year's Best Costume Oscar nominees

Whether you decide to hate watch the Oscars this weekend or turn it into a drinking game (is there really a third option?), I know I’ll be tuning in for at least one category. Best Costume Design is one of the few ways achievements in clothing is recognized in the mainstream media that isn’t on a best/worst dressed list. It doesn’t hurt that it is also relevant to my love of movies. So who’s gonna take home the golden statue? Trying to guess is half the fun (drinking games are the other half).

Anna Karenina
Jacqueline Durran

Durran has been nominated for an Oscar twice, once for Atonement (of the infamous green dress) and once for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice (both by Karenina director Joe Wright), but has never won. As an assistant costume designer, she worked on Topsy Turvy (only one of my most favourite costume porn movies EVER), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (seriously), and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Anna Karenina’s costumes are as lush and opulent as you would expect to find a period piece starring Keira Knightley (translation: every Keira Knightley film that isn’t Bend it Like Beckham). Though the competition is tough and I’m not sure if Durran’s work is enough to charm the Academy over her competition, she’s already won my heart. Really, isn’t that the most important award of all? (Rhetorical question, it clearly is.)

Les Miserables
Paco Delgado

This is Delgado’s first Oscar nomination ever, and as costume designer on Les Miserables, he was responsible for making over 2200 outfits (what did you accomplish today?). He’s receiving international acclaim for his work on Les Mis, including nominations for Spain’s Goya award and a BAFTA. In the past he’s worked with Alejandro González Iñárritu on the costumes for Biutiful, and Pedro Almodóvar on The Skin I Live In. This film and has been getting a lot of attention on the awards circuit, and the costumes were featured in the December 2012 issue of Vogue, but everything is pretty standard historical drama fare (with the exception of the Thenardiers, natch). There are definitely more interesting entries in the category this year, which is why I don’t think this will be the winner.

Joanna Johnston

Despite more than 20 years in the business, this is Johnston’s first nomination. She is particularly known for her collaborations with Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,The Colour Purple). Lincoln has also been an award season favourite (because America, duh), and the costumes are pretty good, although it’s mostly just Sally Field’s, and I don’t see it being the winner. It just doesn’t get me excited like any of the other nominees. The majority of the costumes are just old dudes (and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in black wool suits. Maybe there’s a top hat or a patterned vest to spice things up. For the most part, the costumes are booooooooooooring. However, because the Academy is made up of stodgy Olds, that might be a point in its favour. Plus not having it win might be considered treason, I don’t know.

Mirror Mirror
Eiko Ishioka

Remember last year’s Mirror Mirror? Yeah, I don’t think many people did. If you’re going to skip it though, it’s worth at least checking out the screencaps for Ishioka’s fabulous work. She won once before, in 1992 for Bram Stoker’s Dracula—the costumes in that movie are incredible, so justly deserved. She has designed costumes for theatre, film, and print, and was known as Japan’s leading art director and graphic designer. Her first film was Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. She died on January 21, 2012,
and since the Oscars love giving awards to the recently departed, I predict she’s going to win. Plus, even though Mirror Mirror was a total flop, there’s no denying that her ornate, over-the-top costumes are incredible.

Snow White and the Huntsman
Colleen Atwood

Yes, there was more to this movie than Kristen Stewart’s British accent! This is Atwood’s 10th (!!!) Oscar nomination. She has won three times, in 2002 for Chicago, in 2005 for Memoirs of a Geisha, and in 2010 for Alice in Wonderland. The first movie she worked on was the ’80s coming of age film Firstborn (I’ve never seen it, but both Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. are in it, so I might have to). She is a frequent collaborator with Tim Burton, notably working on Edward Scissorhands. (And on top of Edward, her first Oscar nomination was for 1994′s Little Women, which means she is already a winner in our eyes for getting to play dress up with Winona Ryder on multiple occasions). Unlike Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman is a much darker and grittier interpretation of the classic fairy tale, and Atwood’s costumes reflect that. They’re just as dramatic as Mirror Mirror’s, but lack the whimsy (and colour) of Ishioka’s designs. Given her pedigree with the Academy, if Ishioka doesn’t win, Atwood probably will. Call it the battle of the Snow Whites. And yay for fantasy films being nominated!

Who do you want to win? Join us on Twitter on February 24 as we live-tweet the events.