Costuming a Teenaged Private Eye

64 episodes and a 7 year wait later there came a Veronica Mars film (I’m British, I don’t like saying movie). Regardless of the Kickstarter backer facts etc, the film shows an eleven year development of characters seen in the first season (Veronica is 16 in season one, 15 in the flashbacks, and 28 by the time of the film). Developments that are very clearly shown in costume. Rather than looking at every character (there are loads) I’m going to look at this development in our favourite teenaged private eye – Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) herself.

Season One

Season One costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr.

For a season based so heavily on flashbacks we are shown two distinct Veronica’s throughout. There’s the pre-Lilly’s murder Veronica and ostricised Veronica. The personality changes are made clear and, as you would expect, these are referenced in her costumes. The first time we see Veronica she is clearly established in her outside status. She’s disgusted with her high school classmates, as are they with her. She is competent, unexpectedly considerate towards Wallace but, most of all, snarky.

Veronica Pilot

Then we get two quick flashes of “old Veronica”:

Veronica Pilot2

It would have been too easy and obvious to make Veronica go from light and fluffy to lots of black. But the change is still obvious. Besides the long flowing hair the colours are light and subdued. “New” Veronica hasn’t moved to leather but the fabric choices remain sturdier than before. Stripes became a bit of a classic costume touch for Veronica and here we see it established in the flashbacks that she’s always been a fan of stripes. As much as Veronica is ostracised she has no desire to blend in to the background. Her strong character comes through and she stands out much more now than she did when she was merely Duncan Kane’s girlfriend. This also marks the first appearance of Veronica’s pink and green colour scheme, the canvas messenger bag, hoodies and denim/military style jackets. These are Veronica’s trademark pieces whether worn as armour or for practical reasons.

Veronica Pilot3

The pilot also shows us Veronica at Shelly Pomroy’s infamous party. We can assume that after the events of that party old Veronica became new Veronica – she is clearly already on the way there but still clinging to the past. We have the white dress that signifies the final stage in Veronica’s loss of innocence. But then there’s the black choker – chokers being a common occurrence on Veronica throughout this first season.

And don’t forget the disguises:


(Yes, technically one of these is from S2 but you get the message.)

Season Two

Season Two costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr.

As Season Two starts the new mystery means that the flashbacks concentrate on the earlier summer (and the rest of the season) rather than a year earlier. We see characters in their current state (pretty much) and the sense of change is much less obvious. The main mystery arc is also much more far-reaching than the Lilly Kane murder. The economic differences in the town become more overt and dangerous, as does Veronica’s standing in the town following her rekindled relationship with Duncan Kane (and solving Lilly’s murder).

Veronica S2

The choker has gone, the messenger bag remains, as do the hoodies, jeans and jackets. Veronica may be more welcome in the 09er set but that doesn’t mean that she fits back in. Or that she wants to. A year on the outside and working as a private eye have changed her – much as the death of her best friend and her rape did.

Season Three

Season Three costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr until episode 5 ‘President Evil’ when Jennifer L Soulages took over. (They co-designed ‘President Evil’.)

Season Three has a different aesthetic to seasons one and two for a number of reasons:

  1. The characters have gone to college and so their environment (although still in Neptune) is different from high school.
  2. The series took a different approach to its standard mystery arc – more shorter spanning mysteries.
  3. Veronica Mars moved from UPN to the newly formed CW network.

After recovering from the shock of Veronica and Logan’s new cars, the other main change is Veronica’s messenger bag – moved on from a canvas bag to a leather studded bag.

V 3

The season also has some nice costume callbacks from previous seasons. The most regularly commented one being the blue argyle sweater, but there’s also the small silver star necklace Veronica was given by Lilly. The necklace is worn on and off throughout seasons 1 and 3 but specifically mentioned when stolen.


Lilly's necklace

The small crystal star from Lilly.

The other key aspects of Veronica’s costumes remain. We still have stripes, jeans, boots, denim and military jackets. But now we also have the introduction of cropped waistcoats – they were very much a fashion feature of the era. None of these pieces are “cute” though, the slightly tough aesthetic remains. A headscarf and headband also made a brief appearance but didn’t stick around.

New Looks

Veronica Mars Film


Film costume designed by Genevieve Tyrrell.

The key feeling for the film was the idea of addiction. Veronica is addicted to the lifestyle of a private detective and this is what draws her back. Say it’s Logan all you want but it’s more what Logan represents. Simplest terms it’s New York v. Neptune. Normalcy v. excitement, drama and danger.

V Film1

We start with the grown-up Veronica. It’s still obviously “Veronica” but there is a greater influence on tailoring and workwear. These are high quality suits and a world away from t-shirts, hoodies and denim jackets.

V Film2

Even her pyjamas are more grown-up and tailored.

Then things start to change. Being in Neptune changes her and although the voice over comments on it, the change is instantly noticeable when the season three messenger bag comes out. This is then followed with a stripey t-shirt, albeit in a much darker more subdued tone than we’re used to, jeans and a leather jacket. Leather jackets have taken over from the denim and military inspired jackets but they still work as a form of armour.

V Film3

A costume moment so important that it gets its own slow motion shot. (That’s not the main reason but I’m going to take it as that.)

V Film5

The clothes have moved back into softer knits and denim inspired pieces as her stay in Neptune extends and extends.

As her acceptance of the life as a private eye becomes more and more apparent the costumes continue to move into an adult version of TV Veronica. There are even small star studs to link back to Lilly’s necklace.

V Film4

We end with a fully immersed Neptune adult Veronica. Leather jacket, muted colours, black jeans, boots. This is the Veronica from the TV show with adult aesthetics and styles learnt from New York. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of her and her interesting costumes.

[Check out this great interview with Salvador Perez Jr. about the series on mtv.

And Genevieve Tyrrell talks about the film’s costumes here.]

S x


3 thoughts on “Costuming a Teenaged Private Eye

  1. Pingback: Natasha (Black Widow) Romanoff’s Journey from ‘Iron Man 2′ to ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ | Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

  2. Pingback: Costume Stories, This Week: Noah and Hannibal |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s