There’s no better style guide than our favourite tv shows and web series that we love to binge watch and rewatch. While we all love taking style cues from Gossip Girl, Sex and The City and Pretty Little Liars, the outfits featured in these shows are often unattainable and for some of us, unwearable. Not everyone can carry extravagant cocktail dresses like Carrie Bradshaw nor can everyone be as experimental and artsy as an Aria Montgomerry. While we all want a wedding dress as breathtaking as Serena Van der Woodsen’s and a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s for our special occasions, these shows don’t always help the average woman with her everyday wardrobe choices.
And then there’s TV series like Fleabag. The show brings realism to the forefront, it’s so raw, relatable and grey in its portrayal of characters, everyday squabbles, love, loss and relationships. Its use of dry British humour to bring all these themes to light makes it a masterpiece; and all of this is due to Phoebe Waller Bridge’s sharp storytelling, her extraordinary acting skills with which she portrays an ordinary woman that viewers can relate to, laugh and grow with.
When it comes to fashion and the portrayal of style in Fleabag, one thing that’s incredibly refreshing about the show is that it focuses on wearable style. Fleabag runs a cafe in urban London. She could be any of us. She wears clothes that we could imagine ourselves wearing. The character dons outfits that are practical, comfortable and yet, stylish. It’s not the kind of style that’s ‘in your face’ or overwhelming, rather it is something that grows on you with every episode.
Ray Holman, the costume designer of the show, said in an interview with Cup of Jo, “ Fleabag also doesn’t wear anything that’s outside of her price range. That’s the key to it. The clothes in the show were from stores like Benetton, Muji, Cos, Zara and Reformation.”
“Fleabag is slightly French, so there’s the idea that the French are quite chic and actually Fleabag is quite chic in her own way. We put a few striped tops in, and I did actually buy her berets, but they didn’t get on screen, we laughed about them. We liked the idea of her trench coat and denim skirts. She knows what she likes, and she knows what looks good on her.” When asked what his favourite Fleabag outfit was, he said, “In episode four, Fleabag is wearing a pair of wide-cut jeans, with white Superga canvas shoes and a stripey top and her coat. I like the simplicity of it. When you saw that silhouette, you knew it was her.”
A discussion on style in Fleabag would be incomplete without talking about the keyhole jumpsuit from the first episode of the second season; it went completely viral and got sold out in a day. The image of Fleabag in that jumpsuit with her red lipstick, smoking a cigarette, right before she meets her family after a year. Her outfit gives the idea that she is put-together, which is the message she wants to communicate to her family. Throughout the series, Fleabag wears comfortable yet chic clothes, exuding an idea of effortless style whereas her life, her actions are everything but effortless. In a way, her style statement portrays a combination of her own sense of fashion combined with the state of mind she wants to be in.
Despite being viewed or perceived as someone who engages in socially inappropriate sexual behaviour, none of Fleabag’s outfits are overtly sexual. The reason for this, according to Holman is, “It felt inappropriate to do that. Sexuality is fluid these days; it’s all about what’s going on in your head. You don’t have to dress a certain way. She dresses for practicality and for a bit of style as well.”
A complete anti-thesis to Fleabag and her sense of style is that of Claire, her sister; an ambitious, slightly controlling albeit caring business woman. Claire wears bodycon dresses and powersuits and when you see the two in the same frame together, especially in the first season, you see the stark difference in their personalities and their sense of style. Claire actually makes an effort to look stylish, to keep up with trends and to make a statement through her fashion choices. If Fleabag looks like she enjoys comfortable, effortless style wherein she picks anything and slips into it, Claire’s style is one where she actually puts a lot of thought and introspection into
Ray Holman says, “My favorite Claire moment was the wedding outfit. I was shopping with Sian Clifford ( the actress who plays Claire ) and she picked it up and went, ‘I’d quite like to try this on.’ I went, ‘It’s nude.’ That was meaningful to us as a representation of her raw emotional condition at the wedding. She made some life-changing decisions and laid herself bare.”
Between the two of them, Fleabag and Claire are like two ends of the style spectrum, constantly growing and evolving with each episode. Fleabag’s style goes from striped t-shirts and sixth former leggings to floral tops, adding colour to her wardrobe and shades to her character. Claire begins the series with business formals but then ventures into more feminine, warm colours, which also match with the change in her emotional state, her openness and her growing relationship with her sister and her family. Fashion in Fleabag may be a secondary one, but it maintains a fine balance between echoing the characters sentiments and being a symbol of the persons they wish to become.
However, one of the biggest takeaways for viewers of the show is how fashion is so achievable in the show. Women will watch Fleabag’s outfits and think to themselves, “Hey I could actually wear that.” Fleabag is just like all of us; she flaunts her beauty in the jumpsuit earlier mentioned not in high heels like a Blair Waldorf or a Samantha Jones, but she chooses to pair the outfit with her Supergas flats. This is exactly why Fashion in Fleabag will be iconic. It is incredibly aspirational but in a beautifully imperfect way. It reminds us that we may have our idiosyncrasies, we may have our problem areas (both physically and mentally), we may have our financial troubles, but we can all still be stylish and fashionable, as long we choose to embrace what looks good on us.
Fleabag is a reminder that fashion and style means something different to every woman; it’s just a matter of carving and designing your own statement.