Lost

Look of the Week: How to dress for a flight to a mysterious island on Lost

Contributed by
Sep 23, 2018

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.

Lost premiered 14 years ago, landing on ABC on September 22, 2004. The pilot is still an exhilarating and terrifying ride, the finale is still incredibly divisive, but the introduction to this world remains one of TV’s most triumphant. On Oceanic Air Flight 815, the passengers didn’t know their destination was going to be a mysterious island rather than LAX. If they had, then maybe they would have dressed differently — or, more likely, booked an alternative flight.

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A man lying in the jungle wearing a suit is the jarring image that kicks off the episode. He then stumbles to the beach, revealing the carnage of the plane wreckage. Lost pulls you in from this very first moment, taking the audience on this disorienting journey alongside Jack (Matthew Fox). A suit isn’t completely out of the realm of reasonable flying — people do it every day, particularly when it is a business trip — but this is a 15-hour flight, and who wants to wear a tie for that long?

Costume designer Kathryn Morrison uses this ensemble to both reveal and hide something about Jack; in the pilot, we don’t know why he's wearing a black suit, but the way he utilizes his tie as a tourniquet reveals his expertise. He is also quick to ditch his jacket, running from one person in peril to another amid the chaos.

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On the outfit practicality scale, this falls in the middle of the pack; the tie is useful, but the suit is not ideal island attire — particularly for ventures into the jungle to find the cockpit. Not that anyone in the main cast is really dressed for this terrain at first. Kate’s (Evangeline Lilly) cargo pant fugitive ensemble fares better, but the white vest and shirt are not going to hide those inevitable mud stains. She switches out her non-hiking shoes for a pair of boots from a faceless corpse, which leads to one of the most striking disturbing visuals of the pilot when Locke (Terry O’Quinn) appears to grin at her with an orange segment in his mouth.

Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) rounds out the team that makes this initial trek into the unknown — the heroin he stashed in the plane's bathroom awaits. A hoodie, jeans, long-sleeved striped tee, and checkerboard slip-on Vans is the nearest to my own long-haul flying outfit choice. In my case, a hoodie is perfect for hiding one's face when trying to sleep, whereas Charlie used it both as a form of protection and a place to bury his head while in a drug-induced high.

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As this is 2004, the jeans in question are rather flared, not the best for running in, as Charlie soon finds out when running away from unseen horrors. Those Vans are also going to soak up the rain rather quickly; the practicality of this outfit falls apart in a downpour.

Most of the guys are wearing some version of a button-down shirt, including Jin (Daniel Kim) and Michael (Harold Perrineau). Others, like Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Boone (Ian Somerhalder), Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and Locke, have a shirt on over a T-shirt or vest; layering is good for traveling and also gives a different costume visual simply by removing the top item. Sawyer is doing the very mid-'00s trend of wearing a short-sleeve tee over a long-sleeve one; this casual look sets him apart from the rest of the group.

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The comfort factor is one that doesn’t factor into Shannon’s (Maggie Grace) costuming; the mini-skirt, tank, and pink leather jacket could easily be a going-out ensemble. She is also very much in denial about this predicament; when she finds her luggage she takes this opportunity to soak up some rays in a bikini lying among the wreckage and bodies that still litter the beach. When she goes on the hike that is far from leisurely she changes into denim shorts and another tank, which is the Shannon version of practical.

Sun (Yunjin Kim) also has a skirt on, but her costume reveals how controlling her husband Jin is after he tells her to do up the buttons on her cardigan when Michael stops by. This scene speaks volumes despite the language barrier between the couple and the rest of the survivors.

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For practical reasons, there can only be so many costumes in the non-flashback scenes, as there is only a finite amount of clothing. Hurley washes his plaid shirt in the sea in the pilot, as this island doesn’t come with a Laundromat. Finding some luggage solves this issue in the same way ransacking houses on The Walking Dead lets characters have a costume change — but this is not the kind of show dripping in high-end fashion or outfits that will inspire “where to shop the look” articles.

On Lost the story is fantastical, but the clothing is grounded in reality. And this is why the UK promotional campaign for Season 1 is so striking, because the characters are dressed in garments that would never feature on the show. The trailer — which also played in theaters — features the regular cast members dancing among the wreckage of Flight 815. Locke, wearing an undone bow tie, acts as a conductor alongside Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), and Kate’s eye makeup is smudged as she switches between Jack and Sawyer. Charlie dances alone in vaudeville-inspired attire, Claire is not pregnant, and Hurley drags a suitcase through the sand. It is surreal, beautiful, and features a voiceover with sentiments like “one of us is a junkie” and “one of us is a murderer” but “all of us are lost.”

An ad campaign that doesn’t simply use pre-existing footage is rare; there is a sense of occasion here. The first season debuted on UK television in August 2005, nearly a whole year after the US air date, and 13 years after seeing this on a theater screen it still resonates. It has the feeling of a music video, which makes sense, as director David LaChappelle has an extensive music résumé. There are two versions of this trailer; the shorter, with the voiceover, features the song “Channel 1 Suite” by Cinematic Orchestra. The voiceover is stripped from the two-minute extended cut; here Portishead’s “Numb” provides the soundtrack. It is surreal and disorienting, much like Lost.

Back when commercial flying had just taken off (pun intended), there was a sense of occasion and glamour matched by the clothes people wore. Now you are more likely to see pajama-adjacent attire than someone’s Sunday best, but in the case of the passengers of Flight 815, they quickly learned that dressing comfortably is better suited for running away from polar bears and smoke monsters.

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