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 facts are these: a whimsical show that was canceled far too soon is also the source of some much-needed spring fashion inspiration 10 years after it last graced television screens. Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies debuted October 3, 2007, on ABC and while there are episodes set in the winter, everything about this show, from the costumes to the notion of rebirth, screams spring.
Ned (Lee Pace) possesses the ability to bring people/animals/plants back to life with nothing more than a touch, but if they stay alive for more than one minute, something of a similar size will pay the price — and if he touches the recently resurrected again, they die for good. After Private Investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) discovers his unique talent, Ned goes into business with him, solving murders and collecting the reward money. It's a plan that seems pretty fool-proof until the murder victim is Ned's childhood crush, Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles (Anna Friel). Ned, unsurprisingly, has intimacy issues, thanks to his 'gift,' but having Chuck back in his life opens him up in a way he didn't think was possible.
A mini gold crochet dress is not particularly incognito though, so Charlotte spends a lot of the pilot wearing headscarves, trench coats, and sunglasses resembling a character from a Hitchcock movie. There’s also the button-down shirt she borrows from Ned to sleep in, which is typically a move utilized to show a couple has had sex, but the whole no touching thing rules that out. (Also, if you were unaware of just how tall Lee Pace is, the dress-like fit on Anna Friel goes a long way to show this difference.)
Narrative and character cues are inspired by noir and hardboiled detective fiction, but instead of a landscape draped in shadow, this one resembles the ‘50s and ‘60s in my imagination (if you ignore all the MANY social injustices, coupled with the fear of atomic war, which occurred during those decades).
Costume designer Robert Blackman switches up Chuck’s look on an episode-by-episode basis as she leans into whatever murder they are investigating, whether it is going undercover at a car manufacturer or leaning further into the whole Hitchcock aesthetic. Chuck has not met a hat, pair of oversized shades or retro dress she doesn’t want to wear.
As with more recent shows including Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Umbrella Academy, this world looks a lot like the one we live in with some playful twists. The retro fashion market is huge including brands such as ModCloth and Lindy Bop, vintage sellers on Etsy, as well as the many brick-and-mortar thrift stores. There are plenty of options when it comes to indulging your inner Chuck. Muted colors are out, floral prints and primary colors are in. Fit-and-flare dresses dominate, but there is a dash of Mod which calls back to the gold shift crochet dress of the pilot. Pants aren’t completely absent, as with her frocks, these garments — such as lemon capri pants and high-waisted plaid — are colorful.
Pushing Daisies is available to stream on Prime; it is 22 episodes of pure escapist fantasy that also deals with issues of identity, intimacy and a love story for the ages. When anyone asks “What TV show would you bring back if you could?” my immediate answer is always Pushing Daisies. There is a conclusion of sorts at the end of Season 2 if you are hoping for a semblance of closure, but there is still a lot more story to tell (see also, Hannibal). Despite the many grizzly deaths, there is something so pure and hopeful about Ned’s world that Chuck crashes.
And while the show has been off the air for a decade, the bond between the cast is strong, as best demonstrated by Anna Friel’s post celebrating Lee Pace’s recent 40th birthday. In this world, they can touch each other (his response is equally heart-melting).
Inject a bit of whimsy into your spring wardrobe and viewing, courtesy of Pushing Daisies. It is time to resurrect feel-good frocks and television; it might make the world a little brighter.