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Look of the Week: Eleanor Shellstrop's sweaters belong in The Good Place

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Feb 10, 2019

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 Good Place doesn’t always play by traditional sitcom rules, but the costume design very much fits the comedy color palette. These kind of shows are not going to make you question the lighting of a scene because the production design and costumes are often on the brighter end of the scale. The sunny disposition doesn't always match the terrible circumstances these characters find themselves in, however, it underscores the levels of hope and optimism that run throughout a Mike Schur venture. The Good Place gang strive to be better people in what often feels like a hopeless world.

This is the third show costume designer Kirston Mann has worked on with creator Schur; whether it is small-town government (Parks and Recreation), the NYPD (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), or the afterlife, the costumes fit a comedic world, but also stay true to each character trying to be their best self. 

Spoilers for the end of Season 3 included below.

The Good Place, Eleanor and Chidi

Credit: NBC

Eleanor (Kristen Bell) has gone through several changes in style since we first met her. In Season 1, the plaid shirts and peasant tops were part of the overall deception. They belonged to "good" Eleanor (Tiya Sircar), not Arizona's semi-decent grifter. Flashbacks revealed her penchant for tighter attire, as well as ruining her roommate's clothes that she borrowed without permission. It is easy to see how Eleanor racked up so many negative points.

This season things took a sartorial turn for the better; Eleanor is back on Earth and she has toned down her DGAF attitude toward clothing. Costume designer Kirston Mann explained to Fashionista that this season Eleanor “wanted to learn to be good and to be a student. So we dressed her like a cute student."

Cute student translates to many striped sweaters, hoodies, and T-shirts — A.K.A. my wardrobe. Throw in bold block color sweatshirts and this is the Season 3 Eleanor Shellstrop go-to look. On Episode 11 of the excellent Good Place podcast, Mann discusses the color rules of Season 1; green stood for good and red was a huge no-no in the Good Place (which was actually the Bad Place).

These rules are no more in Season 3, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that Eleanor is wearing fuschia when she kisses Chidi (William Jackson Harper) in Janet’s (D'Arcy Carden) void. While red is of course linked to passion, on this show it is tied to the Bad Place, whereas pink is also the color of love. Eleanor has opened her heart up and her clothing is telling this particular story.

Eleanor's stripe-heavy closet goes beyond classic Breton; colorful retro rainbow-infused sweaters, tees and hoodies dominate. She has become a better person, her clothing matches this change in her behavior. When Michael (Ted Danson) explains the Jeremy Bearimy notion of time in the afterlife, Eleanor's pink sweatshirt has a stripe and star motif. Time is no longer linear, but the clothing Eleanor wears is all about the colorful lines. There is an optimism in her clothing that was previously lacking; in the Season 3 finale when she says goodbye to a Chidi who is in love with her, the rainbow tee puts a happy face on the grim situation.

The Good Place S3 finale via official website 2019

Credit: NBC

If stripes are Eleanor’s go-to, then Tahani (Jameela Jamil) has never met an off-shoulder floral dress she doesn’t want to wear. She is glam full-time, no matter what mess they are in. Even a slug-like creature gets turned into a fancy scarf to complement her Eliza J frock. This is pure wedding season attire, but somehow she never looks out of place. On the red carpet and at events like SDCC, Jamil indulges in her inner-Tahani, but unlike the character she plays, she will resort to wearing jeans under her dress, as she did at the recent Golden Globes.

Tahani has you covered for fancy parties, while Jason (Manny Jacinto) has got you set for leisure in a number of matching tracksuits. Chidi's rigid sweater vests and button-downs have been replaced by a too-tight impulse purchase — that he bought mid-meltdown — and a mailman uniform, which was for Eleanor’s benefit. Indulging in fantasy attire is something Chidi did not seem capable of in the past, but his relationship with Eleanor has impacted them both on a deep level. But now all of that is gone, his academic garb is back and the mailman shorts will be relegated to the back of his closet.  

The Good Place

Credit: NBC

When The Good Place returns for Season 4 it will be interesting to see how this simulation will impact the clothes the four humans wear. Michael and Janet have both been pretty consistent in their retro styling; Michael’s penchant for bow ties adds some whimsy into his wardrobe, whereas Janet has a dependable costume that rarely changes. Her purple skirt and vest are paired with a cloud-print blouse, which Mann noted were inspired by flight attendants from the 1970s on The Good Place podcast.

There have been so many versions of each character across the number of reboots, back on earth and in the afterlife that subtle changes act as Easter Eggs for the audience, as well as pointing to the progress Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi and Jason have made. Buying clothes in the year 2019 will definitely land you in the Bad Place — because the point system is flawed — but if you look to the characters of The Good Place you will be in mother forking excellent company. 

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