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Look of the week: Power dressing on The Good Place
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!
The final season of The Good Place has already thrown several twists into the mix: We expect nothing less from TV’s most inventive sitcom. As part of the experiment to save all of humanity from ending up in the Bad Place, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) has assumed the identity of the architect to the unsuspecting subjects. Jason (Manny Jacinto) is masquerading as Taiwanese monk Jianyu, and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) is free to be her celebrity name-dropping self. As the only one not reprising the role they took in the first season — when they thought this was the Good Place — Eleanor has a makeover with a pop culture twist.
Spoilers ahead for The Good Place.
Rather than mirroring Michael (Ted Danson) with his dapper bow tie, Eleanor chooses a different person to emulate. "It does make me feel authoritative, like that chick from Law & Order," she comments before striking a pose straight out of the long-running NBC crime procedural. Eleanor might not know what SVU means or that Olivia Benson is the name of her new style guru, but she is channeling her power dressing aesthetic as she introduces the test subjects to their new home.
It is notable that she only embraces this change after she has given Chidi (William Jackson Harper) his guided tour — her signature skinny jeans and an oversized striped shirt are no longer going to cut it. Even though he doesn't remember her, there is nothing quite like getting over a breakup than a wardrobe change. And in this simulation of the Good Place, Eleanor's options are endless.
Cosplaying as a TV detective only holds Eleanor’s interest for so long, and over the first four episodes her power dressing ensemble shifts. The black Theory suit is replaced by a less severe one in cornflower blue, switching out office-ready pumps for far comfier Adidas Stan Smiths. The sharp tailoring is a change to what we have previously seen, but the sneakers are more in line with the Eleanor we know.
“Casual professionalism” is how costume supervisor Alexis Jacks refers to this particular style choice on the weekly behind-the-scenes official Good Place podcast. “She wanted to put her own twist on a suit look,” Jacks explains in Chapter 41.
The masculine-meets-feminine trend is one that is (thankfully) not slowing down — especially as it is this versatile. Going full Marlene Dietrich on the red carpet, pulling a Joan Watson from Elementary, the '70s-leaning influence of Russian Doll, and delivering this casual Eleanor spin are all options.
This style shifts once again as she becomes accustomed to not only the team leader role but being around the love of her life (who has no memory of their shared love story). The suit jackets are replaced with bold sweaters that are reminiscent of her costuming from previous seasons. However, they are now fitted and paired with structured collars in a variety of patterns.Costume designer Kirston Mann has incorporated an interesting visual link between Eleanor and Michael as they work together within the role of the architect. Whether Eleanor’s sweater is the same color as Michael’s bow tie or her floral collar is similar to the pattern of his signature neckwear or pocket square, the pair are tethered by their attire.
In this week's episode, “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy,” she questions whether she can trust the reformed demon, but the color coordination reveals the answer before Eleanor does. This mirroring shows a level of confidence and care between these friends, long before Eleanor came to this conclusion.
As this is the final season, there are plenty of fun callbacks to the first year, when Michael was actually lying to the recently deceased gang, but now they are on the same page. Well, almost everyone — poor Chidi. The chaos that Eleanor’s lie supposedly caused in the second-ever episode included matching yellow-and-black zigzag outfits (the colors represent the University of Michigan). They replicate this incident in “A Girl From Arizona Part 2” as they try out this tactic on the terrible Brent (Ben Koldyke) in an effort to make some progress.
As it is October, this blazer is the perfect color combination for Halloween — sign me up if they ever do a Good Place clothing line.
The change in Eleanor from when we met her to now is also evident in the dress she wears to the “A Girl From Arizona Part 1” welcome party. In the pilot, her short black sleeveless Elizabeth and James frock is flirty and fun. When she drunkenly returned home with Chidi she angrily threw her stilettos across the house she hated: How things have changed! At the same event three seasons later, the strapless column JILL Jill Stuart midi dress is all business and is paired with some very sensible block heels. It looks like something out of Scandal rather than the Riverdale vibes of her first frock. Although nothing can beat what Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) wears to this event.
In this heightened landscape of the afterlife, any outfit is possible, but clothing also grounds the characters. As Michael puts on his best Dick Tracy look to go get Janet back — Kirston Mann explained this is how someone not of earth thinks someone should dress — along with a suited-up Jason, Eleanor has leaned into her new role. There were some doubts, but she has found her team leader style groove, and now it is time to save humanity.