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!
Time travel opens up a world of costume possibilities, and this week we are going to the past by staying in the present, celebrating Lucy (Abigail Spencer) and Jiya’s (Claudia Doumit) early ‘80s style on the recent episode of Timeless. Just in time (no pun intended) for Sunday’s two-hour season—hopefully not series—finale. There aren’t many shows that get to play with this many iconic style moments. One week Lucy wears a gown straight out of The Philadelphia Story, the next week she could be the star of The Crucible.
Timeless has established certain time travel rules, and one is you can’t go back to a year in which you already exist. There will be no conversations with a younger version of yourself, and a trip down ‘90s nostalgia lane is not in the cards. The 1980s is almost off limits, but there is some wiggle room. In “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” the team head to Washington D.C. on March 30, 1981, the day, as the episode title notes, that John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Reagan. In Season 2, the Lifeboat has gained an additional seat, which means it is no longer just Lucy, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) making these trips through history. Flynn (Goran Višnjić) can’t go on this occasion because he was in first grade in 1981, so Jiya steps up, despite the side-effects from her last experience in the Season 1 finale.
They also no longer have racks of period-accurate clothes to choose from. Old Navy provided their attire when they went back to the ‘50s. Jeans, tee and plaid shirts have been rather ubiquitous for over half a century. Even if the fit and cut wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, they had to make do. Now, they obtain their cover attire through theft off-screen. Whether it is a department store in 1940s Los Angeles or acquiring the perfect Pilgrim look—the details are often vague—they can’t look too inconspicuous in their contemporary clothing. But a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is to be expected when time travel is a central plot point.
Jiya didn’t get to play period dress-up in the Season 1 finale, having spent most of the episode semi-conscious. When given a second chance, she doesn't squander it. As they strut down the street in their finest ‘80s government employee looking attire, with the strains of Hall & Oates singing “Kiss on My List,” Jiya waxes lyrical about this decade, while getting praised for her shoplifting skills. She even nabbed some extras including leg-warmers and blue eyeshadow. As Lucy, Jiya, Wyatt, and Rufus walk with purpose to their destination, this could be the opening credits to a law enforcement show. If they cancel Timeless—please don’t—can they get the cast to do this instead?Beige has never looked so good. Jiya’s matching brown check blazer and vest paired with a white ruffle collar blouse and beige skirt somehow looks effortlessly cool while still being incredibly period appropriate. That is quite the sartorial talent.
Lucy’s classic trench coat, pink stripe pussy-bow blouse, and red skirt is an outfit—minus the big hair and glasses—that wouldn’t look out of place in 2018. There really doesn’t seem to be a decade that Abigail Spencer doesn’t look perfect in — costume designer Mari-An Ceo works her magic whether it is Suffragette-era high collars or old Hollywood glam.
Here Lucy is part Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, part Lynda Carter as Diana Prince. Unlike Diana, there is no reason for Lucy to be wearing those over-sized frames. It is very much in keeping with a look from this period, but she doesn’t have to protect her identity with a pair of glasses. But Lucy doesn’t waste this opportunity to wear face-eating frames.
Cover names are taken from famous people and pop culture characters. Here, Jiya goes for Cagney and Lacey. Lucy notes that Cagney & Lacey debuts later this year, but Jiya is having too much fun out in the field to worry about this minor detail. After being stuck ruminating on her new premonition special skill, being out in the open is a breath of fresh air, even if the very fabric of their existence is at risk. Not only do they have to stop the younger version of Agent Denise Christopher (Karen David) from getting killed, but they also have to convince her to not go through with an arranged marriage so she can meet her wife and make sure she ends up on the same path to becoming an FBI agent. Otherwise, the team is never assembled, and her family will disappear from time. Every mission is dangerous, this one is personal.
Each episode of Timeless delivers on a different decade’s style, sometimes a century from long ago. It is quite the mammoth task for the costume design team, which should be applauded, and not just for the principal cast, but all the background actors too.
It would be remiss to not mention Denise’s beautiful red sari, or as Lucy puts it “OK, still not hitting on you, but you look amazing!” But above all else, “The Day Reagan Was Shot” gives us Lucy and Jiya lookin' ‘80s fabulous in 9-5-style office wear. What a way to make a living. Long may Timeless keep delivering these intimate snapshots from history.