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Look of the Week: Leti's sartorial Lovecraft Country armor
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!
A closet packed full of glamorous garments greets Leticia "Leti" Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) at the start of Lovecraft Country's second episode. Blissfully unaware of the events that led to this so-called refuge in the middle of nowhere, she steps out of the shower without a single care in the world. OK, she has one concern, and that's what fabulous outfit to settle on from the many options available — all of which fit her as if they were custom-made to her measurements. Leti tries on a selection of fun frocks and fur-cuffed cardigans before settling on an equestrian ensemble that is far from subtle, all while dancing up a storm as the theme song from The Jeffersons, "Movin' On Up," accompanies her jubilant reaction.
Leti's taste reflects the trends of the 1950s setting, including high-waisted cropped pants, tie-front tops, halterneck dresses, and nipped-in waists. So far she hasn't repeated a costume, which shows how deep her collection is while also nodding to the number of her clothes that have been ruined by violence. High turnover is to be expected with this much bloodshed — and some stains are never going to come out.
Spoilers ahead for Lovecraft Country.
Based on Matt Ruff's novel of the same name, Misha Green's adaptation features monsters both imagined and real in Jim Crow-era America. A clockwatching sheriff with a gun in a sundown town is just as terrifying as a multi-eyed bloodthirsty shoggoth. Fleeing a diner after realizing what its white paint cover-up job implies, Leti proves she is quick to react and flee even while wearing impractical white heels. It is at this moment she rebrands herself as "Leticia F***in' Lewis."
Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) spend the first two episodes on the hunt for Atticus' father Montrose (Michael K. Williams) across a dangerous landscape. Leti accompanies them on this trip and has packed enough outfits to deal with the bloodstain issue. Concern over Montrose's whereabouts bubbles beneath the surface, a perpetual dread that grows with each mile driven.
Leti's sense of adventure ensures that she is at ease while never letting her guard fully down, but she also refuses to hide or tone down her fashionable attire. When Smollett spoke to SYFY FANGRRLS about Lovecraft Country, she spoke of her grandmother who wasn't treated well by her white employers but still went to work "with her dress ironed, with her hair done, with her lipstick on because she knew she was a walking example of the dignity and the pride of her race." Leti's perfectly applied lip color and impeccable wardrobe are much more than a sartorial statement. "It is part of her armor. It's her way of saying, 'F*** you.' Truly. She knows that it's a weapon that she can use."
The camera Leti wears around her neck is also more than an accessory, allowing her to document the truth and also becoming an important distraction tool when they are attacked at night in "Sundown." In the third episode, a malevolent ghost tries to communicate through the images Leti has taken, but she takes the power back with a little help from the spirits of the Black people he tormented, tortured, and killed.
After only three episodes, designer Dayna Pink has already delivered a series of unforgettable costumes, mixing familiar vintage silhouettes with striking prints and textures (including the vest below). She wears cute summer frocks — without stockings, much to her sister's dismay — bold color pants, pedal pushers, and leg-baring sailor shorts to ward off the heat. Cat-eye sunglasses and berry nails matching her lipstick only elevate her style.
On Instagram, Smollett has been quick to point out the team behind these covetable looks, including Pink, hairstylist Brian Badie, and makeup artist Sandra Linn Koepper. About the "Whitey's on the Moon" equestrian ensemble she wrote, "No actor does it alone!! There's always a team of brilliant people, who work in collaboration with the actor and infuse the character with so much life and detail. This look was so much fun!!!"
Dialing into the decadence of the location, Leti has no idea what monsters they witnessed in the wood the night before. The combination of patterned pussy-bow blouse, tails (which she removes), vest, riding breeches, and boots is wonderfully out there and matches the heightened environment. The second episode swings between fear and desire, playing on the nightmares and dreams of Leti, Atticus, and George for sport.
Pink uses color to tell a broader costume story, including the thread of red and white that runs through Leti's clothing. After she sleeps with Atticus at her party in Episode 3, she later reveals this was her first time, so the previous emphasis on red and white suggests passion and innocence at odds. From a visual point of view, white also suggests blood is going to be spilled — one reason being how well it stands out. Seriously, if someone is wearing white in horror, it is going to get covered in blood in one way or another. Leti is shot (and killed) in the second episode before this is reversed — while wearing white — which has a big impact on her state of mind when she returns to Chicago. Red and white are still present in her casual attire, but the jaw-dropping frock at her housewarming party is a jewel-toned stunner.
Moving into a white neighborhood does not bring out the welcome party; bricks tied to car horns are one method of trying to make Leti up sticks and leave. She cannot be intimidated easily — she's Leti F***in' Lewis, after all — and she reaches her breaking point when a burning cross is left on her lawn. Picking up a baseball bat, she goes all out on smashing the car windows and headlights, a moment reminiscent of Beyoncé in the "Hold Up" video when the icon wore a ruffled off-the-shoulder Roberto Cavalli maxi dress.
For Leti, fringe provides the striking choice, moving in synchronized motion with every commanding swing. Earlier in the episode, the knee-length teal dress has aided in a provocative dance before Leti hooks up with Atticus. When she steps outside, it feels like this dress was made to elevate the centerpiece scene. Custom-built by the designer, the fringe is purposeful. Before her arrest, a friend runs up with a borrowed oversized men's jacket to protect Leti from the violence they know she will suffer at the hands of the police. It's a moment that encapsulates the fact that every garment on Lovecraft Country is infused with meaning. Sometimes, battle-ready attire doesn't have to be made of metal or leather.