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'WandaVision's costumes are more than homages to classic sitcoms

Geraldine and Wanda sit holding hands smiling in WandaVision
(Image credit: Disney+)

This post contains spoilers for WandaVision.
Check out last week's 
review here

A far cry from Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) Marvel Cinematic Universe red leather jacket look, the first three episodes of WandaVision have instead turned to other pop culture references for inspiration. Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo is no stranger to the MCU and her work on Thor: Ragnarok highlights her ability to create the sartorially fantastic. She also has a handle on period garments and was nominated for an Oscar for Jojo Rabbit in 2020. Combing both aspects, the revolving racks reflect the idyllic suburban setting that Wanda and Vision (Paul Bettany) have found themselves in. Reflecting classic sitcoms, while simultaneously offering up some broader clues via color palette and accessories, it is clear that all is not as it seems in the picture-perfect Westview. Their neighbors might dress the part, but clothing cannot cover the cracks of this flung out of time reality. 

While the calendar in the first episode suggests it is 1961 – The Dyke Van Dyke Show and Bewitched (both serving as inspiration) debuted in this decade — it is still inferred that this is meant to be the 1950s. Perhaps, whoever constructed this reality has got their pop culture wires crossed but there is definitely clothing that points to this period. To show the shift in threads, this is the first part of a WandaVision costume breakdown covering the thematic patterns, potential clues, and TV references. And while Vision does have some fun costume moments (including notable tie patterns), this week’s focus is on the women of this series. 

Wanda

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WandaVision Episode 1

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WandaVision Episode 1

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WandaVision Episode 1

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WandaVision Episode 1

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WandaVision Episode 2

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WandaVision Episode 3

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Elizabeth Olson as Wanda Maximoff in 'WandaVision.'

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WandaVision Episode 3

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WandaVision Episode 3

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From Lucy Ricardo’s (Lucille Ball) pearls dress to using powers akin to Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) to change her outfit in the blink of an eye, Wanda has been making her way through the defining housewife clothing collections. Whether it is tiny aprons and conical bras to sexy nightwear that looks like an actual gown — mid-century bedwear was incredibly glamourous — Wanda has eschewed the familiar black pants and red leather jacket. Wanting to fit in means frocks, shifting to cigarette pants, and then back to dresses (as maternity wear). The opening credits of “Now in Color” is an incredibly fun montage of bold patterns and even bigger collars. 

WandaVision Episode 3 opening credits.

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At the end of “Don’t Touch That Dial,” Wanda’s black and white world shifts into color, and the entire ensemble is signature deep red. The jewel-tone matches the period and bleeds through into the maternity graphic print in the following episode. For practical reasons, it is necessary for Wanda’s costume to work with her rapidly growing pregnancy belly, and this silhouette aids this transition. 

One hilarious moment to note is Wanda doesn’t remove her boots when she gives birth, which adds to the humor of the clean newborn baby and earlier bump moments that reflect TV shortcuts and tricks. Using coats to cover up a pregnancy from the audience is a method still used today and Wanda grabs her nearest outerwear to hide the truth. She might have all the outfits to pull off the overall ruse but how long will this fantasy last?    

Agnes

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WandaVision Episode 1

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WandaVision Episode 2

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WandaVision Episode 2

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WandaVision Episode 3

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WandaVision Episode 3

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No matter the decade, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) has a propensity for wearing housewife plaid beginning with the nipped-in waist dress of her “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” introduction. Offering seduction advice via a stack of magazines, Agnes is also quick to fire off a disparaging remark about her unseen husband Ralph. Keeping the checks but likely losing the girdle, Agnes’ above the knee frock in the ‘60s is still housewife demure but shows the changing hemline etiquette. The cuffs and trim of her jacket match the print of her dress and this was a twinning era — see Dottie’s matching garments. Moving into the ‘70s, Agnes gets two outfits: an opening credits funky plaid vest pantsuit — that is reminiscent of Peggy Olson’s (Elisabeth Moss) Mad Men plaid power suit — before reverting back to a skirt when she has a disquieting conversation with Vision. The latter is also the only time there is no check on her garments, though the geometric print skirt is in this same design wheelhouse.

While it is unclear if the repeat plaid has a deeper meaning beyond a unifying visual that highlights how much the mid-century loves this pattern, the accessory Agnes always wears is one to look out for. While there are different theories pointing to what the three figures on this item mean — that switches between a brooch and a necklace — her potential witchy Agatha Harkness status could be the key to unlocking its secrets. The figures could be any number of people (including Wanda and her two babies) but Chilling Adventures of Sabrina viewers will know that witch goddess Hecate is also known as the Triple Goddess and represents the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Is this brooch pointing toward this mythological figure? 

Geraldine 

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WandaVision Episode 2

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WandaVision Episode 3

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WandaVision Episode 3

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WandaVision Episode 3

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Monica Rambeau laying on the ground in WandaVision.

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Another Westview newcomer, Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) scores highly on the style stakes in her first appearance. “I don’t know what I am doing here,” Geraldine remarks to her new pal Wanda. This confusion could be part of the ruse as Geraldine is really Monica Rambeau — daughter of Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) aka Captain Marvel’s (Brie Larson). The eye-catching brooch is similar to her comic book costume, but if this connection is too tenuous then her necklace in “Now in Color” points to her real origin. 

Perhaps the most knockout costume Rubeo has created in the series so far, Geraldine’s fish print pants, floral shirt, and bright blue boho vest dress taps into the bold colors favored by sitcoms. The pattern clashing is a signature ‘70s aesthetic and the floral theme subtly weaves its way through her buttons and top. The matching cobalt eyeshadow and eyeliner are stunning, but Wanda is too distracted by her necklace. She asks what the symbol means and it is one the audience has seen before. The teardrop pendant contains an upside-down sword that represents SHIELD counterpart SWORD (Sentient World Observation and Response Department). After this tense conversation, Geraldine is spat back out into what looks like the present day but it is notable that she is still in her ‘70s get-up. 

Dottie 

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Emma Caulfield Ford as Dottie in WandaVision.

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Emma Caufield Ford as Dottie in WandaVision

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Episode 3 of WandaVision.

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Queen Bee Dotty (Emma Caulfield Ford) rules this neighborhood, which is evident in her perfectly put together floral shift dress and matching coat. There is not a hair out of place on her icy blonde head and she has the perfect ‘60s eyeliner flicks to match. Jewelry is more than just an expensive gift on WandaVision, but Dotty’s ‘70s gold pendant is too distant in the frame to offer up any more clues about this reality — or where this chic character fits in. Is her intimidating status a clue to her wider role? 

Beverly 

WandaVision Episode 2

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This is a really great look on Beverly (Jolene Purdy) in “Don’t Touch That Dial,” which ticks every groovy flower power box. Even though it is in black and white, this frock still pops and adds to the array of bold graphic choices worn by the women in this suburb. Meanwhile, Wanda’s florals during this meeting are a lot more muted and reflect an outsider status. 

More than just playing comedy cosplay, Rubeo’s designs play a wider role in the WandaVision narrative and each episode shines new light on this unusual sitcom scenario via the character's closets. 

Next up! The 1980s and 1990s!