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Look of the Week: Dolores' adaptable Westworld party attire
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!
“They use plumage to identify themselves, which makes them easily fooled,” explains Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) in Episode 4 of Westworld this season. Her experience in the Delos theme park has taught her the meaning of appearance and clothing which was used to denote who was good and bad, who should be saved, and what station in life someone has. The power of appearance is something she understands better than most, so it should come as no surprise that she wields clothing as another weapon in her arsenal.
Spoilers for Season 3 of Westworld ahead.
The year is 2052, but fashion hasn’t taken a wild leap in terms of silhouettes and style; after all, in 2020 we still wear clothes that take reference points from 100 years ago. From the first Season 3 teaser, it was clear the costumes of the privileged out in the real world favored elevated tailoring. In the past, we have seen characters including Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) dressed head to toe in business-ready garments fit for Vogue, which she continues to sport as part of the overall ruse. The minimalist approach of the costumes designed by Shay Cunliffe this season matches the sleek lines of this futuristic world, a world in which Delores navigates her way through the different socioeconomic groups with ease. She has spent enough time around the wealthy to mimic their aesthetic.
When she takes Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) shopping for an expensive suit so he can also blend in, she points to clothing as a mask to assimilate, although actual masks come into play later on. During this sequence, Caleb gets fitted for a new suit without having to get changed out of his less fancy attire. A computer program that looks like an advanced version of Cher Horowitz’s Clueless wardrobe-selection software is part of the high-end retail experience. Caleb is concerned the missing money used to pay for this disguise will be noticed, which once again shows how little he knows about the rich. Thankfully, Dolores is a perfect teacher in this department.
Throughout these first four episodes, Dolores has worn a nearly all-black collection of skimpy frocks and practical attire. She is both James Bond and a Bond girl rolled into one, wearing tactical leather and black bodycon dresses — get yourself someone who can do both. In the first episode, she delivers a gag-worthy dress change worthy of Ru Paul’s Drag Race when her LBD is transformed into a glitzy gold floor-length gown in just one smooth tug of the top. She doesn't even break her stride.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Cunliffe explained this was not a special effect and the garment was held together using snaps. “It’s not enough that the dress transforms, but it had to go from two dresses that look good and plausible on her, in their own right and could be stand-alone costumes,” said the designer about the jaw-dropping moment.
For her trip with Caleb to the bank to drain former beau Liam's (John Gallagher Jr.) account in the recent episode “The Mother of Exiles,” Dolores' slightly oversized suit is expensive without drawing too much attention. She looks like she belongs even if Caleb is less convincing at selling the charade (there is a handkerchief ready for when his digits perspire too much). Being prepared for any and all outcomes is essential if her plan is going to work.
Traveling from the bank to a charity sex party doesn't require much of a change for her, either. A black strapless jumpsuit paired with a delicate black mask allows Dolores to move around freely. Ultimately, the mask is superfluous as she isn't too concerned with her presence being known. The jumpsuit allows her to fight without being burdened by a tight hemline against Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), which sees neither host holding back before Dolores gains the upper hand.
Before this confrontation, she has quipped to Caleb that this world is not all that different from the one she came from. People are up for auction, and while the money is going to charity, the commodity factor and decadence are just as pronounced. Instead of the Wild West, this is themed to look part Eyes Wide Shut, part Dangerous Liaisons. Who needs pants and a shirt when you have a ruffled collar and sleeves? The auction orgy is less violent than the Westworld park behavior, but Dolores' contempt is no less potent just because everyone is wearing tuxedos.
Sharing a sartorial flair, Maeve came face to face with the deadly and dapper Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is now actually Dolores. Like her host counterpart, Maeve is also in pants for her fight scene. The big "Mother of Exiles" twist reveals that every other host Dolores activated is just another version of herself; who better to rely on when executing a plan to take down those at the very top? Riding high at the moment, she has found her footing in the real world — whether in a jumpsuit, transformative dresses, or sleek tailoring. She knows how to peacock when necessary, and so far, it is paying off.