40 TV Costume Details That Are So Smart They Went Right Over Our Heads

Have you ever considered how much thought goes into dressing some of our favorite TV characters? Naturally, the clothes have to reflect their own personal taste, and oftentimes wardrobe designers will insert small details into costumes which can reveal a whole lot more. The problem is that some of them are so subtle and easy to miss! So, we’ve compiled 40 of the smartest hidden costume details on TV. But be warned: there are spoilers ahead…

40. Breaking Bad – Walt’s inner darkness

Throughout Breaking Bad we see Walter White’s character turn from desperate chemistry teacher to ruthless drug lord. And in season four of the hit show, we get an insight into his inner darkness when he tells Skylar, “I am the one who knocks.” That’s because, as he frustratingly pulls off his red button-up, he reveals a darker burgundy T-shirt beneath.

39. The Queen’s Gambit – Beth’s winning outfit

When Beth is ultimately crowned world champion in The Queen’s Gambit, her outfit is reminiscent of a certain chess piece: the white queen. In November 2020 the show’s costume designer Gabriele Binder told Vogue magazine, “At the end, Beth wears the white coat with the white pants and cap. The idea, of course, is to convey that she is now the queen on the chessboard and the chessboard itself is the world.” Pretty neat, huh?

ADVERTISEMENT

38. Game of Thrones – Sansa’s Stark tribute

The costume Sansa wears when she finally becomes Queen of the North during Game of Thrones’ final episode contains some interesting tributes to the wider Stark family. Her asymmetric cloak is for Arya, while she wears weirwood leaves to represent Bran. There’s also black fur in a nod to Rickon, a crown for Robb, a grey gown to symbolize Ned and a sewing needle of her own.

37. Grey’s Anatomy – Izzie’s sweater

ADVERTISEMENT

In season two of Grey’s Anatomy Izzie is left heartbroken when her love interest and patient Denny dies after a heart transplant. And she is seen in a dark sweater as the character grieves her loss. The doctor actually knitted the garment for Denny during his time in the hospital – making her wearing of it extra poignant.

36. Watchmen – kids’ costumes

In one scene from the 2019 HBO mini-series Watchmen, Angela and Cal’s kids can be spotted wearing pirate and owl costumes. The quirky ensembles were no accident, though. In reality, it’s actually a reference to Night Owl from the Watchmen graphic novels and Tales of the Black Freighter – one of the original comics.

ADVERTISEMENT

35. Killing Eve – Villanelle’s stolen dress

ADVERTISEMENT

Killing Eve’s Villanelle is perhaps just as known for her killer wardrobe as she is for her brutal assassinations. One particularly iconic look from season one sees the character dressed in a flouncy, pink dress. But did you notice how the outfit makes a brief appearance in season two? Yep, if you look closely, you can see it’s among the things stolen from her apartment by a rival gang!

34. The Office – Michael’s mittens

Phylis gives Michael knitted mittens as a leaving gift on the latter’s last day at Dunder Mifflin before he moves to Colorado in season seven of The Office. Then later, he’s seen walking through the airport with red twine hanging from his coat. It’s actually from the gloves, which he’s stashed in his pocket!

ADVERTISEMENT

33. Euphoria – Jules’ androgynous wardrobe

ADVERTISEMENT

When we first meet Jules’ in Euphoria, she’s dressed extremely femininely in a flower-print shirt, a pink skirt and a fluffy backpack. But her style starts to shift as the series progresses and she struggles with her identity. Eventually, we see Jules wearing edgier clothes in darker colors.

32. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – Rosemary’s Baby nod

Did you know that the short-lived Netflix original Chilling Adventures of Sabrina took inspiration from a number of scary movies? Well, one of the films that showrunners seemingly drew from was Rosemary’s Baby. In one scene, Sabrina wears a red dress with a lace collar, which is a direct homage to an outfit worn by Mia Farrow in the 1968 horror classic.

ADVERTISEMENT

31. This is Us – The green T-shirt

ADVERTISEMENT

Fans of This Is Us were treated to a flashback of Rebecca and Jack’s painful first date in season three. And eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that the latter was wearing a distinctive green T-shirt beneath his jacket. In fact, we’d already seen the item of clothing in season one when Jack gave it to Kate on a trip to the pool.

30. Outlander – Claire’s old clothes

When Brianna time travels to the past in Outlander, she’s armed with a wardrobe of Claire’s old clothes to blend in. Costume designer Terry Dresbach told Harper’s Bazaar in 2018, “The green plaid dress Claire wears [in season one], Brianna wears, but it’s been remade. And the green coat with the white fur hood, it comes out of a trunk and Bree wears it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

29. The Queen’s Gambit – checks

ADVERTISEMENT

In The Queen’s Gambit, Beth wears a lot of checks to show the importance of chess in her life. Costume designer Gabrielle Binder explained to Vogue, “I always try to mirror what is happening inside a character with what they are wearing on the outside. And the checks are something that I thought would be immediately interesting to Anya’s character, as she would intuitively choose to wear pieces that are connected to chess.”

28. Jane the Virgin – yellow dresses

Every time the title character from Jane the Virgin makes an important decision regarding her love life, she’s dressed in yellow. The character’s first moment came in season one when she wore the color while expressing her love for Michael. Fast forward to season five, and Jane once again chose the hue when telling Rafael that she wanted to be with him. Similarly, in the final season she sported a sunny dress as Rafael professed his feelings for her.

ADVERTISEMENT

27. Riverdale – The Breakfast Club homage

ADVERTISEMENT

A flashback episode from season three of Riverdale takes the group back in time in time to portray their parents. Apparently, the action takes its inspiration from the iconic film The Breakfast Club. And in a further nod to the cult classic, Alice seems to emulate the character Bender from the movie – donning a pair of distinctive fingerless gloves.

26. Schitt’s Creek – Hand-me-down dress

In the last ever episode of Schitt’s Creek, Twyla wears a slinky black dress to Patrick and David’s wedding. And if the gown looks familiar to fans of the show, that’s because it is! The piece once belonged to Alexis, but she gave it to Twyla when she offered her a bag of her old clothes.

ADVERTISEMENT

25. Criminal Minds – Odd socks

ADVERTISEMENT

Often a character’s wardrobe quirks are determined by a show’s costume department. But Criminal Minds’ Spencer Reid’s odd socks are apparently down to the actor who plays him! According to Buzzfeed, Matthew Gray Gubler believes that matching socks are bad luck. Who would have thought?

24. The Haunting of Hill House – Olivia’s outfits

As Olivia’s mental state declines in The Haunting of Hill House, her outfits become more old-fashioned and are apparently taken from the wardrobe of the ghost haunting her: Poppy Hill. So, while Olivia begins the series in 1990s outfits, she starts favoring nightgowns and robes as the show goes on.

ADVERTISEMENT

23. Derry Girls – Rainbow pins

ADVERTISEMENT

In a tense scene from the season one finale of Derry Girls, Clare comes out to her friend Erin. Tensions then flare between the pair at first, but they’re soon resolved. Erin comes to back her friend, as does the rest of their gang, who quietly sport rainbow pins following their pal’s admission.

22. The Big Bang Theory – Penny’s T-shirt

When we first meet Penny in The Big Bang Theory, she’s wearing a turquoise, V-neck T-shirt with a pink floral print. It’s fitting, then, that it makes an appearance in the final scene of the series, which aired more than ten years later. The character actually donned the shirt one other time over the course of the show – during its 100th episode.

ADVERTISEMENT

21. Breaking Bad – Plane crash ribbons

ADVERTISEMENT

Fans of Breaking Bad will know that season two ends with a shocking mid-air plane crash. And Albuquerque residents subsequently wear ribbons to commemorate the accident for a time. Among those to sport one is the cunning lawyer Saul Goodman. In fact, he continues to wear his long after other characters – suggesting he’s trying to get victims onside for a lawsuit.

20. Broad City – subway style

In episode one, season two of Broad City, Abbi and Ilana are seen blundering their way down a subway train full of people. Yet two other passengers particularly stand out. That’s because, if you cast your mind back, you’ll see that they’re dressed very similarly to how Abbi and Ilana were in a scene from season one!

ADVERTISEMENT

19. The Handmaid’s Tale – June’s sweatshirt

ADVERTISEMENT

For the most part, we see June in her distinctive robes in The Handmaid’s Tale. Though the character sometimes wears a red sweatshirt, which seems at odds with the strict uniforms of Gilead, doesn’t it? Well, the item is apparently a throwback to the character’s former life, as handmaids were permitted to keep one item of red clothing before entering service.

18. Scandal – Olivia embraces color

Olivia’s wardrobe becomes a lot more colorful after she splits from Fitz in Scandal. In 2016 costume designer Lyn Paolo told Entertainment Weekly magazine, “When she walked away from Fitz – with all that lovely Prada luggage they shipped in from Italy for us – she was walking away from the life that she thought she wanted, and she’s reinventing herself.”

ADVERTISEMENT

17. Stranger Things – That ’70s Show nod

ADVERTISEMENT

Stranger Things is known for its retro references and often draws inspiration from classic films of decades gone by. But in one episode from season three, the show takes a nod to That ’70s Show when Max and Lucas don identical shirts to those worn by Eric and Donna in the comedy show.

16. The Office – Andy’s ‘personality mirroring’

In season three of The Office, Andy Bernard outlines three methods he plans on using to get ahead. One of them is “personality mirroring,” which he appears to be doing in a later episode when Dwight becomes temporary manager of Dunder Mifflin. Taking the lead from his new boss, Andy starts wearing short sleeves as well!

ADVERTISEMENT

15. The Handmaid’s Tale – widows in purple

ADVERTISEMENT

In The Handmaid’s Tale, characters wear color-coded uniforms according to their role in society. One such group is the commanders’ widows, whose robes are purple. The choice was no accident, though. According to Stylist, it’s taken from the Purple Heart – the U.S. military honor given to service people who are killed or injured while serving.

14. Bridgerton – colors

In Bridgerton, different shades are used to symbolize each family, a costume designer called Ellen Mirojnick explained to Vogue. For instance, the eponymous family usually sport pastel colors, which is supposed to denote their comfortable social standing. On the other hand, coming from new money, the Featheringtons are eager to make an impact on society, and they therefore favor bold citrus hues.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. Grey’s Anatomy – Cristina and George’s doppelgängers

ADVERTISEMENT

To mark its 300th episode, Grey’s Anatomy featured lookalikes of some of the show’s most memorable characters. These included doppelgängers of Cristina and George – complete with clothes that reflected their alter ego’s wardrobes. For instance, the former’s cop wears a leather jacket, while George’s double dons fur-lined outerwear in tan.

12. Stranger Things – Will’s homemade Halloween costume

In season two of Stranger Things, Lucas, Dustin, Mike and Will dress up as the Ghostbusters for Halloween. But look closely: can you see how the latter’s outfit looks more custom-made than the others? Well, costume designer Kim Wilcox told Fashionista that this was actually intentional! The show’s wardrobe department apparently considered how much effort each of the boys’ families would put into the costumes.

ADVERTISEMENT

11. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Indiana Jones costume

ADVERTISEMENT

During “The Gang Gets Trapped” episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it appears that the group has purchased an Indiana Jones outfit to break into a house with. Clearly, though, they couldn’t agree on who should wear it. That’s because Mac is seen in the hat and Charlie puts on the jacket while Frank carries the whip!

10. Game of Thrones – Daenerys’ white coat

Daenerys is seen wearing a statement white coat when she comes to Jon’s rescue during season seven. Though it wasn’t just to keep her warm in the North. No, it was also supposed to symbolize her love of Jon. In 2019 designer Michele Clapton told TV Guide, “It’s almost [as if] she sees herself as this savior – this angel. And so when she arrives and descends on this dragon, she is this sort of angel of mercy.”

ADVERTISEMENT

9. Friends – Ross’ sign language T-shirt

ADVERTISEMENT

In season eight of Friends, Ross wears a T-shirt featuring a hand sign emblazoned across the chest. While the emblem may seem insignificant, discerning Reddit users pointed out that it actually reads as “friends” in sign language. We’re guessing that the wardrobe department was having a sneaky nod to the show’s name, which not everyone would notice.

8. Normal People – Marianne’s style

At the start of Normal People, Marianne is somewhat of an outcast among her classmates, and her unique sense of style reflects this. While her peers favor fashions of the time, she prefers cozy knits and vintage pieces. Marianne’s clothes then become more flamboyant when she goes to college – symbolizing a growing ease with her identity.

ADVERTISEMENT

7. Watchmen – vigilantes’ homemade outfits

ADVERTISEMENT

Fans of Watchmen may have noticed that the vigilantes’ costumes deliberately looked handmade. In 2019 designer Meghan Kasperlik told the Metro newspaper, “Unlike the DC and Marvel universes – which are really high-tech – the characters [who] are in the graphic novel are always supposed to have made their own costume.”

6. The Crown – The Queen versus Jackie Kennedy

In one memorable episode in The Crown, Queen Elizabeth is left feeling inferior and frumpish in comparison to Jackie Kennedy, and the former’s outfit reflects this. The First Lady wows in a minimalist French gown, while the monarch’s outfit is a world apart. In opposition to her guests sleek silhouette, Elizabeth wears an abundance of ruffles and frills.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. Bridgerton – butterflies and bees

ADVERTISEMENT

Have you ever noticed how the families in Bridgerton have their own motifs? Take a look next time you watch it! For the Featherstones, it seems to be a butterfly, which is seen woven into a yellow dress worn by Penelope at one point. And the Bridgerton’s symbol is a bee, which Benedict sports as a pin on his collar.

4. Killing Eve – Villanelle’s love bubble

This pink outfit from season two of Killing Eve shows Villanelle’s state of mind at the time. During a 2019 appearance on the U.K’s Lorraine TV show, costume designer Charlotte Mitchell explained, “She was in a bubble of love, that was the brief that was given to me. So I wanted to give it a romantic feel…”

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Stranger Things – Robin’s Converse

ADVERTISEMENT

Look carefully at Robin’s converse closely on Stranger Things: can you see that they’ve been doodled on? Yes, one phrase written on the shoes is reportedly, “God likes you of course,” and there’s apparently a lot of boobs on there, too. This time the detail was not down to the show’s wardrobe department, though. Buzzfeed reports that it went to actress Maya Hawke instead, who was given free reign to get creative.

2. Normal People – Connell’s stagnating style

If you’ve ever watched Normal People, you may have noticed that while Marianne’s wardrobe evolves over time, Connell’s doesn’t seem to change much at all. But why is that? Well, in 2020 costume designer Lorna Marie Mugan appeared to have an answer. She told Refinery 29, “Connell’s style moves much slower because he’s unsure of himself when he goes to Trinity. He was the king in their small town, but in Trinity, he’s not so confident initially. To show that, we chose to keep his style similar to his in school.”

ADVERTISEMENT

1. The Handmaid’s Tale – red uniforms

ADVERTISEMENT

Interestingly, the symbolism of the red robes worn by servants on The Handmaid’s Tale changes as the series progresses. In 2020 designer Natalie Bronfman told The Hollywood Reporter, “… It’s going from being life blood to being a courage and power that steers the anger. You’ve got love and lust and anger and they’re all passionate emotions, so the red covers it all.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT