Aliens, witches, spies, superheroes and teenage girls don’t necessarily approach clothing choices in the same manner, but one thing the following TV characters all have in common is a really great wardrobe. Covering a period of over 50 years, these looks stand the test of time — or at least elements of them do. Fashion is cyclical, and so is television; some of the costumes here have influenced others, some mirror current trends, and some take after looks from the past.
Whether you're fighting vampires, looking for that perfect school ensemble, going undercover, traveling through time, in need of some office-ready attire, or want to show off your best power-grabbing threads, these are some of the best fashion moments in genre TV from the 1960s to the present day.
Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) - Bewitched (1964-1972)
Witches don’t just dress in black, as Samantha Stephens’ wardrobe on Bewitched can attest. Paisley is often the pattern of the day, with this witch opting for housewife attire. Samantha is married to an ad man, so she has a closet to rival Betty Draper (January Jones) on Mad Men. Even though she wanted a normal life (thus choosing a normal ‘60s wardrobe), she still ends up still looking glamorous. You don’t need spells to make Elizabeth Montgomery look good, as Vi Alford’s costuming proves.
Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, and Pugsley Addams (Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax) - The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Black is very much a wardrobe staple for this family. Each member brings some sartorial flare whether it is Gomez’s double-breasted pinstripe suits, Morticia’s super sexy long gown, or Wednesday’s white collar and cuffs frock. Even Pugsley’s stripe tee and shorts are a classic. Ranging from casual to fancy ensembles, the Addams family has you covered for a variety of occasions, not just for Halloween.
Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) - The Avengers (1965-1968)
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is not the only person Diana Rigg has sparred with on TV. Before Olenna Tyrell’s perfect put-downs, she kicked ass as Emma Peel, assistant to the bowler hat-wearing John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in the British spy classic The Avengers — no, not those Avengers. For all those quintessential ‘60s styles that featured in the recent Man from U.N.C.L.E. reboot, Emma Peel’s costuming has that and then some: jumpsuits with hip cut-outs for a pocket watch, over the knee boots and a signature black leather catsuit. Designer John Bates played with silhouette and texture including this turtleneck, vest and beret ensemble. It is perhaps one of the more low-key looks, even if it is not the most covert, but this is pure fun with spy costume design.
Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) - Star Trek (1966-1969)
The thing about wearing a uniform is it can be hard to include some sartorial flair. Uhura does just that in the original Star Trek television series with statement jewelry in the form of bold gold earrings to match the gold detail on her sleeves and the Starfleet insignia. A Star Trek style legend, Uhura is anything but a "redshirt."
The Doctor (Tom Baker) - Doctor Who (1974-1981)
Each version of the Doctor has their own distinct look, which is in part influenced by the fashion winds of the decade they are in. Tom Baker played the Fourth Doctor, and his tenure throughout the 1970s is a haze of rust, plaid, and tweed. They're all things you will see this fall from brands such as & Other Stories — this period is having another fashion moment. With the cold weather approaching, the Fourth Doctor also has you covered in the long striped scarf department.
Diana Prince (Lynda Carter) - Wonder Woman (1975-1979)
In the recent Wonder Woman movie, Diana (Gal Gadot) ditches the spectacles early on, but in the television series, these oversized frames were a vital part of Diana’s look. The Wonder Woman red, gold, and blue ensemble is iconic, but costume designer Donfeld also delivered with Diana’s day-to-day look. Turtlenecks aplenty, plus long coats and pleated midi skirts really sell the dramatic twirling transformation moments. Yellow is very much on trend; you can't go wrong with a turtleneck like Diana's in the Season 2 episode "Knockout."
Jill, Sabrina and Kelly (Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith) - Charlie’s Angels (1976-1977)
Over the course of Charlie’s Angels five-season run there were several cast changes, but we’re going to stick the original line-up. Farrah Fawcett is undeniably one of the style icons of the ‘70s with a haircut that is instantly recognizable — and there are plenty of YouTube tutorials if you fancy that feathered style. Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith round out the private detective squad, who look just as good in sparkly jumpsuits as they do in casual attire. We're opting for the latter because this is ultimate ‘70s Cali cool.
Mork (Robin Williams) - Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
When the first photo of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor was unveiled at the end of last year, another famous TV alien was recalled. The colorful suspenders and rainbow striped shirt have a ‘70s aesthetic, which is reminiscent of Mork. Earthy tones from this period are making a comeback this fall, while Mork’s outfits as a whole are purposefully on the other side of extra. There is no denying his penchant for the bold is a fun approach to dressing.
Al (Dean Stockwell) - Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
Dressing for the future as we already know comes in all shapes and fabrics. Nowhere is this more clear than on Quantum Leap. Sam (Scott Bakula) doesn’t get much of a say in his wardrobe, having to wear whatever clothes the person he leaps into already owns. But Al goes all in on pattern and texture clashing, on occasion wearing the jacket version of what could be best described as those foil blankets given out at the end of marathons. As a hologram, Al gets to experiment with his look and this is exactly what he does, making him a style hero.
Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) - Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
Saddle shoes, pleated plaid skirts, and tight sweaters are the Audrey Horne signature. It might be 1990, but in Twin Peaks, the ‘50s are very much alive and nowhere is this more apparent than in Audrey’s closet. That initial costume by Patricia Norris is iconic, but it is this moment in the Twin Peaks High School bathroom in “Episode 5” — which is the best decorated high school bathroom of all time — in which Audrey makes her investigation pitch to Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) that stands out. A lace-embellished sweater paired with a pencil skirt, and suddenly Audrey doesn’t seem as coquettish or naive as she does in the pilot.
Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) - The X-Files (1993-2018)
Pantsuits were less than flattering when Agent Dana Scully first graced our screens 25 years ago. In fact, the evolution of women’s workwear from the mid-90s to the present day can be viewed through this character. Scully’s best looks come via Hannibal costume designer Christopher Hargadon in the recent episodes, but it is tough to beat the black tailored number in the classic crouching down promo shot from the original run. The unflattering bagginess has been replaced by a sleek silhouette, the kitten heels aren’t too ridiculous height-wise. and the white button-down is a look that will be emulated by other TV FBI Agents.
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996-2003)
The fashion of the '90s is still in the thrust of a revival, but if you are looking for the true teen TV Style Queen then look no further than Buffy Summers. For all your black cropped pants, wedges, and spaghetti strap tanks Buffy has you covered. Everything you are seeing in stores in 2018 has probably already been worn at Sunnydale High. Costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom ensured that these outfits looked like something a teen girl would wear; thanks to the stretch of a lot of late ‘90s materials it made the fighting scenes a little easier. Skinny jeans probably aren’t the best for kicking ass in, something the forthcoming reboot will have to consider.
Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) - Alias (2001-2006)
Out of the many spy disguises Jennifer Garner wore as Sydney Bristow on Alias, there is one that stands out. As an homage to Run Lola Run, the dyed red hair and black turtleneck combo is a hard one to beat. Sydney wore all manner of different color wigs, short latex dresses, sheer tops, and other distracting ensembles, but nothing will be quite as iconic as the one from the pilot when Sydney borrowed Will Tippin’s (Bradley Cooper) sister’s passport and gave herself an airport bathroom makeover.
Boomer (Grace Park) - Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
The red dress as worn by Number Six (Tricia Helfer) is probably the most famous costume from the recent Battlestar Galactica. However, it is Boomer’s military styling that we are honoring. The low-key layered tank top — with one looking like it is back-to-front — is one very definitive Battlestar Galactica look, and the bomber jacket is another. Bomber jackets have been having their moment over the last few years, but this particular style is unlikely to be in stores. A patch is the easiest way to add some flair without having to become an actual pilot.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) - Game of Thrones (2011- )
Cersei Lannister is good at adapting to the precarious situation around her. A gold breastplate for when King’s Landing was under siege at the end of Season 2 is one such moment. Probably the most jaw-dropping of Michele Clapton’s award-winning costumes is in the Season 6 finale when Cersei set her plan in motion to take back control of the Iron Throne. Black is best for serving up a revenge plan, which can then also double for mourning attire. With a new crown, lions decorating her shoulders and an ensemble that could have come straight from an Alexander McQueen collection, what better way to usher in new leadership than with an outfit that is the very definition of power dressing?
Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) - Hannibal (2013-2015)
Even when he is on the hunt, Hannibal still ensures he is dressed for the occasion in what one can only assume is a bespoke plastic kill-suit. Blood is definitely going to ruin the Prince of Wales check suits Hannibal favors. After fleeing the U.S., Hannibal embarks on an Italian residency upping his flamboyant suit game in bold stripes and leather jackets — not worn together, obviously. There is a swagger in Italy to his attire, which costume designer Christopher Hargadon relishes in. The latter half of the final season is all prison jumpsuits, but Mads Mikkelsen even looks fabulous in this shapeless attire.
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) - Agent Carter (2015-2016)
As with Sydney Bristow, Agent Peggy Carter has worn her fair share of disguises. Pantsuits also make frequent appearances in high-waisted ‘50s styles, often in Peggy’s signature red and blue color palette. Red is a vital part of Peggy’s makeup look opting for a bold Besamé lip color. Costume designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton includes a mix of femininity and menswear-inspired styles, matching the tightrope Peggy walks in a field dominated by men. Season 2 started with a city switch from New York to Los Angeles, and when Peggy disembarked from the plane she looked both professional and movie star cool in red sunglasses.
Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) - Preacher (2016- )
Tulip’s mix of leather edginess with floral patterns makes her one of the current reigning TV Style Queens. Preacher is a show that involves a lot of action including some very bloody moments, but Tulip is ready to roll with the punches — while dishing out some of her own. Whether leaping in perspex heels and a summer frock or taking her shoes off to ease a sprint in a circle skirt, Tulip’s look is always enviable, even if her current predicament isn’t. She also has the best sunglasses on TV and these are never far from her face.
Kelly Booth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) - Black Mirror: San Junipero (2016)
Taking a step back in time to the 1980s as Gugu Mbatha-Raw serves up an early Madonna aesthetic in the incredible "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror. This is pop music cosplay at its finest; instead of Chanel’s "take one thing off" before you leave the house mantra, add another necklace. A purple fringe jacket — make sure your lipstick matches— with rhinestones is the way to go when you want to dance the night away.
Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes (Mahershala Ali) - Luke Cage (2016)
The Netflix Marvel shows have a lot of well-dressed villains with some impeccable suit choices from costume designer Stephanie Maslansky, but in whittling it down to a single pick, there is one that stands tall. Mahershala Ali as Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage is decked out in high-end three-piece suits from Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana, plus some custom builds; clothing is how he portrays his businessman standing in the community. Heavy lies the crown even if it is one from a portrait of Biggie Smalls. A wardrobe that looks GQ-ready is not enough protection in this dangerous world. Sometimes a hoodie is all you need, as Luke is sure to attest.