Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Some characters go through multiple costume changes because they are time travelers, others because they are spies. On iZombie, Olivia "Liv" Moore’s (Rose McIver) wardrobe is influenced by the brain she has consumed. The Season 4 finale aired last week, which means this is the perfect time to dissect some of Liv’s outfit choices, both her own and ones predicated by the personality of the recently deceased. Spoilers for iZombie ahead.
Zombies with agency that extends beyond looking for a human to consume are now a TV staple. As with other supernatural creatures, there are variations on the rules of surviving. On Santa Clarita Diet, Sheila (Drew Barrymore) must consume human flesh, but unlike Liv she doesn’t take on their personality—a good thing, considering how many Nazis she has now had for dinner.
Liv works in a morgue, assisting the police in murder cases. What gives her the upper hand is ingesting the brain of a murder victim, which gives her access to their memories. She can't exactly control when that happens, or the specific recollections that ensue. Experiencing the person's likes/dislikes is another side effect, often with hilarious results.A pick-up artist, someone looking for love, a LARPer, an older socialite, a football fan, and a hockey player have all been on the menu in Season 4, and Liv has altered her attire based on these brains. Sometimes it can lead to an extreme change in style. In “Blue Body,” she wouldn’t look out of place hanging out with Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) in a tasteful cardigan, Chanel-esque jacket, and perfectly coiffed and voluminous hair. A change in accessories is often one of the big sartorial shifts. A fedora adds to Liv’s skeezy persona, and when paired with a 3.1 Phillip Lim striped bomber jacket it is noticeably different from her usual hoodie/leather jacket/pea coat choices.
Liv’s non-brain-influenced style is casual. At work under her lab coat, patterned sweaters from J. Crew, the CW costume staple (i.e. a henley), button-down shirts, jeans, and long-sleeve tees are in steady rotation. This everyday uniform helps form a connection with the audience; she dresses in a way that is relatable.
It is also one way costume designer Michelle Hunter differentiates between Liv’s regular clothing and when she is under the brain influence. Liv wouldn’t normally wear Seahawks apparel, but she would if she has tucked into a super fan’s amygdala. Ice hockey is not a sport she plays, unless the murder victim partakes in this activity. All of this impacts how Liv presents herself to the world. There is often a closet divide.Even when a persona doesn’t call for an extreme change in style, there are subtle shifts. A Carrie Bradshaw-type romantic leads to a cold-shoulder frock by Club Monaco. Liv doesn’t lean into fashion trends. A bodycon dress is a sure sign she isn’t in control of her clothing choices.
It isn’t just Liv who gets to experience a big shift in outfits. This season saw Ravi (Rahul Kohli) consume an Instagram Influencer brain, which led to a hilarious trip to The Scratching Post—the hottest zombie nightspot in New Seattle. Ravi was less inclined to button his lace shirt; it would ruin his put-together look.One role Liv took on in Season 4 was impacted by someone's death, but this was no brain-eating side effect. Mama Leone (Dawnn Lewis), under the pseudonym Renegade, was smuggling sick humans into New Seattle in order to save their lives by turning them into zombies. When she was killed for this illegal act, Liv stepped into her place and became the new Renegade, leaning into the military attire theme with several army-style jackets at her disposal.
In the '70s, anti-war protesters adopted the wardrobe of the very machine they was fighting against. When Liv wears this kind of jacket, it has a similar vibe. She is going against authorities. She is fighting for what she believes in, even though it is incredibly dangerous. The army jacket is her armor.It's a stark contrast from the Stepford Wife dress she ends up wearing in the penultimate episode, when Major (Robert Buckley) kidnaps her. It's considered as an act of kindness as he is trying to save her life, but it also takes away her agency, her choice to make this sacrifice. Instead, she ends up in wedded bliss heaven, which later turns into married hell. The dress is a symbol of domesticated ideals, of the life they could have had if Liv hadn’t become a zombie back in the pilot. It's a dream that easily becomes a nightmare, because there is nothing real about this set-up.
Liv ditches the dress, returning to jeans, sweater, and a trooper jacket by Talula at Aritzia. The day is (mostly) saved. Instead of running away or becoming human again, she instead embraces the title she tried to reject. The Equipment bird sweater suggests a desire to fly away, but New Seattle is not that easy to quit. Liv will be back to fight another day, with a revolving closet of styles, to solve more murders in a fifth and final season of iZombie next year.