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Look of the Week: The romance of Dani's Bly Manor sweaters
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!
Old buildings tend to be drafty and a nightmare to heat in the colder seasons. Bly Manor might not have the initial foreboding feeling of other Gothic mansions, but the second installment in Mike Flanagan's Haunting anthology fits the tragic pattern laid out by author Henry James in the ghost stories The Haunting of Bly Manor is adapted from. Predominantly set in 1987, the layered luxurious frocks of the original story have been replaced with high-waisted jeans and knitwear to keep the chills at bay.
One of the first images released showed Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) with a scared expression on her face, obligatory '80s denim, and a striking purple knit. The Haunting of Bly Manor is now available to watch on Netflix, and the source of Dani's fear at the end of the second episode has been revealed. Considering everything the new au pair to the Wingrave orphans endures during her time at Bly, it is hardly surprising that she clings to certain clothes.
Spoilers for The Haunting of Bly Manor ahead.
This cozy garment is worn throughout the series, and anyone with a favorite jumper will recognize why this repeat item is beloved by the beleaguered nanny. It isn't just protection against the chilly temperatures or frightful antics — Dani also wears it during a notable romantic late-night rendezvous. Furthermore, from a practical standpoint, it makes sense for her to have a limited amount of outfits, because she packed light when she fled the States for England.
Last year, many words were dedicated to a cream Aran number, but it isn't only Chris Evans who scores highly on the fall-ready apparel front. In fact, horror is awash with notable knitwear, whether to disarm in the case of Friday the 13th's Mrs. Voorhees or to emphasize the relatable Final Girl status of Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The latter's pastel cable knit vest wouldn't look out of place in Dani's closet, which is predominantly pink and purple in hue.
Frequent Mike Flanagan collaborator and Haunting of Hill House designer Lynn Falconer also created the Bly Manor costumes — keep your eyes peeled for our forthcoming interview. While time, place, and setting are different, one visual thread uniting Hill House's Nell Crain with Dani is a penchant for denim jackets. And while the silhouette changes shape, it is a timeless casual staple garment for both characters played by Victoria Pedretti.
As with Olivia Crain's fantastic Hill House beautiful peignoir — that I still think about often — Dani's '80s ready style is drawing attention. While the specific color is up for interpretation, with both pink and purple being cited, I would personally call this shade lavender. The inclination to land on this hue is that it reflects a botanical connection to gardener Jamie.
In "The Jolly Corner," Dani makes an early morning coffee gesture to Jamie in her greenhouse sanctuary after an awkward misunderstanding. She wears this familiar lavender sweater, which emphasizes their close bond despite Dani not knowing how to articulate her feelings — before their flirtation is interrupted by Bly drama.
Later, in the same episode, the pair have a soul-baring conversation while taking a late-night walk, and this is the garment beneath her furry hooded coat. The moonflower show-and-tell breaks down the barriers that Dani has erected around her heart as she navigates her sexuality at a time when prejudice runs rampant. The thread of lavender and pink motif reflects her femininity while never negating her fearlessness. For a contemporary version of the mock turtleneck, & Other Stories has a selection of options that embrace this aesthetic.
The morning after sleeping together for the first time, she opts for the dark pink ribbed sweater — the other repeat jumper — while Jamie still slumbers. Again, the mood is broken by Flora's unexplained jaunts out into the grounds, in which she seemingly stares into the abyss. At Bly, garments of love are entwined with scares and tragedy. Color might have drained from the Lady in Lake all in white or Miss Jessel doomed to spend eternity wearing black, but those living embrace the dominant pastels of this late '80s era.
This garment is also worn in moments of despair, such as the moment when Dani gets locked in Flora's closet in Episode 1. This small enclosed space traps the au pair with her guilt, anxiety, and the glowing glasses boy reflected in the mirror. When she is released, she follows the muddy footprints down the stairs and runs outside, looking in horror at the two small children staring back. This diabolical trick is actually a form of protection against the wandering Lady in the Lake.
While Dani isn't a Final Girl as such — this is a Gothic romance, so her journey is predicated on tragedy — she dresses like one. The two signature sweaters, jeans, and sensible brown pants reflect the tendency to lean toward classic items rather than fads. Chunky gold earrings are more trend-based, an additional sartorial flourish that Dani leans into. She might be fleeing personal ghosts, but her jewelry shows a throughline to her past. Clothing acts as armor, and Dani's consists of statement earrings worn with pink and purple outfits. These hues are also favored by Flora and Miss Jessel in her early days at Bly before she was enveloped by darkness.
A trunk full of expensive dresses plays a pivotal role in centuries-long haunting, but Dani's '80s sweaters make a strong case for the reliability of inexpensive cozy knit favorites. The lavender and blush tones can't protect her from the Lady in the Lake's indiscriminate hand, but Dani's casual costumes reflect (no pun intended) both the horror and joy that can be found in a location as haunted as Bly — and the romance of these old clothes will not try to kill you.