Preacher

Look of the Week: Tulip's mix of feminine and edgy costuming on Preacher

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Jul 8, 2018

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!

Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) has been given a mission from God. After getting shot in the chest at the end of Preacher’s second season, she spent time in Purgatory before getting pulled back into the land of the living. There is a price to pay for this transaction; for Jesse (Dominic Cooper), he is back in the clutches of his Gran’ma (Betty Buckley), while Tulip has been asked by the latex dog costume-wearing God — the God they were looking for throughout Season 2 — to “get those sons of bitches.” Not that God was specific about the subject of this request.

Preacher
The world of Preacher is chaotic and violent, but a constant is Tulip’s status as one of the best dressed characters on TV. Death does not diminish this. Leather and florals could read as opposing textures and patterns; however, this mix of hard and soft is much more complimentary than contradictory. Leather has been a staple of Tulip’s costume since the pilot — costume designer Karyn Wagner was behind the looks in Season 1, Jill Ohanneson from Season 2 on.

This isn’t a case of one jacket is the jacket; instead, Tulip has a seemingly endless rotation of colors and styles. If I can suspend my disbelief at the shenanigans that take place in the world of Preacher, I can also ignore Tulip’s bottomless leather jacket closet. And while leather is dominant, there is also room in the trunk of her car for silk bombers and an unusual denim trench coat.

In the most recent episode, “Sonsabitches,” Tulip gets back into her shooting groove almost immediately. In fact, target practice is how she attempts to return to normalcy as quick as possible. Part of this involves the right outfit, switching out the girlish pink toweling bathrobe post-shower into black top, black pants, boots and an ox blood leather jacket with a shearling collar. Leather is Tulip’s armor, so it is no surprise to see her turn to this garment as soon as she has returned to the land of the living. The power of a strong red lip color can also not be denied. The sunglasses that have been a staple part of her look are also back; a tangle of plastic and metal they are both aviator frames and wayfarers. Tulip is always more than one thing.

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Tulip’s already got another jacket at her disposal in tonight’s outing, “Gonna Hurt,” switching ox blood for cream. Pairing it with petals is on brand for Tulip, and the jeans and boots are also staple items. Right now it looks like Tulip is eschewing frocks for pants (maybe because she died in a dress).

Earlier in “Sonsabitches,” she wears an entirely more Tulip robe than the borrowed pink number. Just like her name, it is floral; it mirrors the shirt Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) has on. While Cassidy and Jesse are very much at odds, there is still a connection with Tulip. The central love triangle could put Tulip in a position of being just the love interest, but thankfully this character is not reduced to this role. At the moment she is being kept in the dark about Cassidy and Jesse falling out over matters of the heart, though if the writers are not careful this could become a tiresome obstacle.  

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But for now Tulip is “not anybody’s lady anything. My name is Tulip.” She is very much her own person: a ball of contradictions with agency and a new sense of purpose. In Purgatory, Tulip watches a version of her childhood told in a typically bizarre Preacher fashion, on a stark black theater set with exits and entrances cued up as if it's an old sitcom. In it we see the O’Hare family curse doomed to repeatedly fail, letting down loved ones. It's a very real fear that Tulip verbalizes after she messes up Jesse’s plan to get his soul back, echoing her father by saying, “Why can’t I do one right thing?”

Tulip’s hard exterior is matched with a softer side, the side that deeply cares about her friends. Her costuming isn’t all leather and black attire. Throughout Preacher, Tulip has switched between feminine ‘50s silhouettes and harder edges, tough durable materials with delicate garments, a number of which have definitely been ruined by all the blood that sprays around the place — not to mention bullet holes in the middle of a frock. That isn’t an easy repair job.

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Tulip has a sense of fashion and color; a leather jacket can look just as good with jeans as it can with a dress. As both Season 1 and 2 have demonstrated, the latter is not going to prevent her from running and jumping, with or without heels.

Effortless is one way to describe Tulip’s look, and part of this comes from the mix of casual street style with dressier garments. The other part is that actress Ruth Negga's sartorial prowess is hard to ignore. Negga didn’t win the Oscar for Loving in 2017, but she was a red carpet highlight throughout that award season. Recent appearances on The Late Show in vintage Valentino and wearing floral Michael Kors Collection while visiting the AOL Build Series are just two examples of Negga’s bold fashion choices from this promo tour.

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One character that is definitely not carefully curated in how he picks out his outfits is Cassidy. His method of transporting his wardrobe around is probably as old as he is — a cloth bag instead of suitcase — and the likelihood that any of these items have ever been hung in an actual closet is pretty slim. There is a punk sensibility to Cassidy in the threadbare and ripped quality of his attire. Nothing matches, he probably found most of it on the floor — and yet it really works. There is no point in wearing nice things when you get shot as much as Cassidy does.

There is also the matter of protecting his skin from the sun because of that whole vampire thing; as we saw in Season 1, the result of exposure to UVA is not pretty. Umbrellas are vital, and in “Sonsabitches” Cassidy has fashioned himself a hands-free version so he can also fire a weapon. Just because most of his clothes come from the lost and found or donations to the church doesn’t mean he won’t be on theme, as his paint splattered camo jacket proves. Meanwhile Jesse sticks to the black of his profession. If it ain’t broke.

One final thing that is worth noting about Tulip O’Hare, despite her recent predicament and the dudes that are fighting over her; she is far from a damsel-in-distress. She had to figure her way out of Purgatory, and she is the one with the new sense of purpose from God while Jesse flounders. Jesse has ended up back at the place he escaped from. Meanwhile, Tulip is trying to avoid the O’Hare family fate. The past has a way of drawing these characters back in. On Preacher, the slate is not as easy to wipe clean as a leather jacket is.