Olivia Jackson tracks the fashion trends by European city in ‘Killing Eve’, a BBC production which opened up the world of high fashion to a whole new audience. Its star Villanelle is the feisty female lead that we all craved who doesn’t feel the need to compromise herself and especially never her wardrobe choices.
Killing Eve burst onto the fashion scene making an unexpected but gripping sartorial statement. Villanelle, the murderess, strikes the watcher as the perfect muse. Her allure and bad-ass unbreakable determination reveal a woman who could easily flourish under the photographer’s camera. Despite the amorality involved in her acts, she is fiercely empowering.
Styled expertly by Phoebe de Gaye, her outfits play on the blend of sophistication and eccentricity within her personality. Immediately as she struts onto one of her first scenes with the swish of a soft pink Burberry trench, Villanelle has taken control. She is bold. She is heartless – and she is determined to be remembered.
In Paris, Villanelle is the ultimate femme fatale. Here, she strides through the streets with the Burberry trench coat casually tied around her waist to cinch it in, black and white pantsuit, and black peep-toe Balenciaga heels.
The heels were the very first symbol of her introduction to the watcher as she sashayed out of an ice-cream shop in Vienna. The choice of Burberry emulates a classic cool-girl vibe which is contrasted with the edgier, statement streetwear of Balenciaga. It is this which first highlights Villanelle as the embodiment of effortless chic.
Paris also sees her don the iconic Miu Miu red and white wrap dress which hits just above the knee. As she carries an ice-cream, the colour contrast between red and white in addition to the blue of the sky makes a memorable array of coordinating hues. The repeat of the ice-cream image seems to bring us back to her childishness. Pairing it with white sneakers and a high pony, Villanelle is at once transformed, as if renewed by a spring breeze. Perusing a park with a man who clearly has fallen for her charm, she exudes a nonchalant confidence. This natural evolution of her character shows her personality developing with every new outfit. Paris is the epicentre of Villanelle’s style and the reveal of different aspects of her identity.
She also shows that she is capable of a more subversive style here. De Gaye dramatically brings to life Villanelle’s playfulness and coldheartedness in one dress. The camera cuts to an image of baby pink tulle rolling in rivulets down a lounge chair. Large glass windows frame her face which holds a knowing glimmer. Clearly, the focus of this scene is wholly on this Molly Goddard creation. The babydoll style is a teasing reminder that Villanelle has all the power here, and is free to assert herself in whatever way she desires. This dress is a complete indulgence of her childish humour. Its square neck, which still remains a staple of the fashion set, and transparent net puff sleeves add a fragility to the dress which juxtaposes the drama of the tulle skirt. With it, she wears Balenciaga biker boots with oversized silver and gold buckles and cut out sides. For all its babydoll ruffles, Goddard’s design has real power and reveals Villanelle’s sarcastic sense of comedy.
Another dramatic Parisian outfit is a play on the off-duty model look. Casually strolling under an archway to her apartment, we are hit with both an intricately designed Phillip Lim floral bomber jacket and high-waisted, fitted dusty-pink pant suit trousers from Roksanda. The characteristically flowing lines of the trousers accentuate Villanelle’s height and give emphasis to her elegance. Neatly tucked into them is a Stella McCartney blouse in a light blush shade. The inner and blush shade. The inner and trousers on their own are a statement, relaxed but still very much put-together. The addition of the cropped bomber jacket elevates the outfit, with its rich embroidery and deep feeling of the height of summer in its colour palette. The palette De Gaye has chosen seems to focus
on these sultry warmer weather tones of reds and pinks as an ode to the romance of the city and traditional expression of Villanelle’s femininity.
Tuscany offers a more care-free palette and another new version of Villanelle. Suddenly the quiet serenity of the Tuscan landscape is broken and she roars into view on a black motorbike with black helmet and black biker jacket. We catch just a glimpse of the oversized tortoiseshell glasses she is also wearing; a stark contrast to the slow, rustic mood of the fields around her. When we next see her, she has just got off the bike, wearing a mint, custom Chloé pussy-blow blouse with mid wash denim cut-offs from Paige and Dr Martens. In this new vista, Villanelle portrays a hardiness, less of the soft sensuality and light-heartedness of Paris and more 90s grunge revival. In Tuscany, she is able to adopt this biker chic style and exude a toughness that she hasn’t portrayed so brashly before. The delicate, flowy striped blouse emphasises that her fashion is still grounded in sensuality.
After being swept up in the majesty of the Tuscan countryside, we are then immersed in a whole new bohemian Italian style. Villanelle appears in an icy blue Burberry dress with lace brocade falling in symmetrical lines around the keyhole neckline. The sheer fabric which dresses her arms and lightly covers her midriff joins the top and skirt to create a romantic aura. This dress affirms its right to be at the centre of our eyes but does not strive to overpower its owner. Unlike the other softer statement outfits, it is in this outfit that Villanelle also performs her role as the assassin. This merge of two worlds creates no conflict; in fact, the outfit seems as much a part of her as her profession also seems to be. The striking elegance of the dress only heightens the power she assumes in taking control of life and death.
Bulgaria proves a stark contrast in its industrial cityscape and shadowy, more haunting backdrop. Initially we are confronted with a grey office block, lit only shallowly by a mixture of washed out yellow and green light. Here, Villanelle entirely endorses a more androgynous look. Her hair is pulled back into Dutch braids and she wears almost completely all black. The feature piece of the outfit is clearly the forest green Miu Miu bomber jacket which has a sheen caught under the lights of the office. Even in the tough persona she portrays, the patchwork detailing on the jacket references her wit. De Gaye’s positioning of a black cat on the sleeve seems to mock the unlucky symbol, as if Villanelle ever needed to rely on luck. Her ability to blur the line between feminine and masculine is evident in the choice of black boots and monochromatic inner and leather trousers. As the scene closes, we are struck by a lasting image of Villanelle spinning on an office chair. The aura of her clothes seems to be intensified by her complete ambivalence to the murder she has committed.
On the other hand, Berlin sees an amalgamation of Villanelle’s toughness and softness. The most striking look of the series must be the JW Anderson deep emerald leather blouse and tortoiseshell cat eye sunglasses which she wears while spying. The touch of hardwear in the large black buttons gives definition to the blouse and pulls it together. A subdued colour palette only serves to bring the look more attention. Berlin’s own industrial modernity is made present in this scene of her surveillance. Where the richness of the leather and use of hardwear indicates her ruthlessness, the high frilled collar which circles her neck adds a softer gentility. Elongating her neckline and drawing the eye up to her statement glasses, the look has stunning impact, but the colours seem to work together and do not overwhelm.
Against the backdrop of the mix of beige and mustard yellow of the Berlin subway station, Villanelle appears in a sharp maroon and navy patterned suit. It has a single button to cinch it in. The first impression the suit gives is of her focus and eagleeyed watchfulness. The retro colour scheme of the subway juxtaposes the suit which is at once modern and of another era. This Dries van Noten pantsuit is a memorable piece, accentuated by an olive-green neck scarf which adds a pop of colour in the neckline of the jacket. Here, De Gaye seems to have envisioned an androgynous take on the 80s female power suit. Its choice is meant to offer insight into Villanelle’s mental headspace, giving us a lens into her drive. Her hair, pulled back into tightly interlocking milkmaid braids, achieves a slick finish. The suit rejects categorisation and makes a powerful silhouette, further highlighting a sense of her absolute control over the situation.
As the series progresses, Villanelle’s lack of security and precarious emotional state seems to be reflected in the clothes she wears. The persona she assumes in the U.K is mostly achieved through wearing a khaki green Barbour jacket. Still an iconic standard in British fashion, this does fulfil the image of the innocent English rose she is tasked to perform. Yet it seems as if Villanelle is not impenetrable to emotion, as we had once believed. By consistently using this one outfit for her U.K. mission, we see that the image of the invincible fashion forward assassin has now been undermined and her creativity and love of colour subdued.
Nowhere is her happiness or lack thereof more evident than in her outfit choices.
Killing Eve provides a delicious array of high fashion, with a badass villain/anti-hero in Villanelle. We can at least all relate to how much of her personality is put into her clothes and how she uses fashion to express aspects of herself in new and innovative ways. Watching inspired me to make bolder choices and expand my understanding of everyday colours. Who’s to say I can’t also wear cat-eye tortoiseshell glasses and strut down the street in a huge baby-doll tulle dress?
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