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‘Killing Eve’: How the Assassin-Chic Costumes Reflect the Show’s Twisted Psychology

Star Jodie Comer and costume designer Phoebe De Gaye discuss the iconic looks from BBC America’s addictive thriller.

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve"

Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”

BBC America

The Fetish Nurse

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve"

In the season’s third episode, Villanelle follows a Chinese businessman in Berlin to a fetish establishment where clientele enjoying some pain in the guise of voluntary medical procedures. Unfortunately for him, she disguises herself as his “nurse” for the day and doles out her version of bad medicine: death.

“You think it’s a nurse’s uniform, then you look at it again you think it’s a bit odd actually,” said De Gaye. “It had sort of one lapel, I saw a picture of a receptionist in a German hospital, and they had this odd sort of one-lapel thing going on, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’ll be quite fun.’ Because you go in there and then you realize actually it’s quite dodgy, it’s not really quite what it seems, that place. So I was trying to find something that would reflect that in a uniform. Then it’s got the very antiseptic sort of medical colors.”

All About Eve

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve"

The mood board for Eve was far less colorful and fanciful, but no less insightful. “For Eve, I was just looking at the office world, how people in offices and conventions dress, looking for images of women who are sort of revealing themselves without realizing it,” said De Gaye. “I had a picture of a woman who was sitting on some steps outside and glancing around and she didn’t realize that you could actually see up her skirt. I thought that was quite an Eve thing.”

One of the most frightening yet humorous moments of the series is when Villanelle has broken into Eve’s house and forces her to play host in a twisted dinner guest scenario. Just when it seems like Villanelle is about to dig deep and reveal why she had castrated her first victim, she indicates Eve’s sweater and asks, “Okay, but can we get one thing clear before we go on with this? Is that a sweater attached to a shirt? Is it two separate pieces? How does it work?”

It’s not just an amazing way to defuse tension and upend expectations, but it also highlights the differences in the two women. For Eve, the sweater-shirt is practical, something she threw on because it was cold; whereas with Villanelle, the article of clothing is an incomprehensible beast that has sneaked into her well-ordered world of fashion.

“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is fascinated by things like that, so she stuck it in the script,” De Gaye said. “Charlotte [Lucas], the costume supervisor, found it in a charity shop. It is basically a sweatshirt and then it’s got a pretend blouse: it’s a blouse collar that’s just stitched into the neck of the sweatshirt and then it’s got the tail of the blouse just stitched into there. So it’s one of those hybrid things.”

One last item that Eve owns doesn’t seem to fit her style at all, and that’s because her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) bought it for her. When she travels to Berlin, Villanelle steals her luggage and dismisses most of the uninspiring outfits she finds inside. But a bright green scarf with zebras dotted on it catches her eye, and she takes it for herself.

“It’s the sort of thing when people think, ‘Oh, you’d really like this.’ It’s showing a husband slightly not quite connecting, you know,” said De Gaye.

Unfortunately, that’s more telling about the relationship than one would expect from a flimsy piece of cloth. Niko is loving and nurturing, but he can’t support his wife’s obsession with finding Villanelle, not when it may put her in danger. This disconnect puts a strain on their marriage.

Eve’s Killer Dress

Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve"

In contrast, Eve and Villanelle share a strange bond born from their fascination with each other. When the killer returns Eve’s luggage to her in England, it’s filled with lovely, upscale clothing curated by Villanelle herself. One particular item — a black and white, form-fitting gown — reveals just how well the killer knows what will flatter Eve, perhaps more than Eve knows herself. It’s a seductive gift that implies intimacy and familiarity.

De Gaye discussed why she ultimately chose the Roland Mouret dress for Eve. “That’s a gift from Villanelle, so it has to be something that’s totally, totally different from everything else that Eve ever wears. It has to be something that reveals to Eve when she looks in the mirror her own beauty because she is all covered up all most of the time.

“We needed to find something that was very, very figure hugging and tailored and completely contrasting with her normal look. And that [dress] seemed quite strong. It also had that big zip up the back. There’s something of Villanelle in that zip somehow, so you almost felt a slight menace.”

At least two other versions of that dress were obtained as well. A more elastic one had to be made for the stuntwoman who took Oh’s place when Eve is being pushed into the bathtub. Also, a spare dress was needed for a rather sick tableau Villanelle stages later: She kills an MI5 officer named Frank (Darren Boyd) who had been hiding out in a safe house and then dresses him in Eve’s gown before arranging him on the bed to be found. The hem of the sheath dress had to be split, however, in order to fit around his bigger frame.

“The weird thing is, we were thinking, ‘Oh god, we’re not going to get this on a bloke,’” De Gaye said. “But actually because it had a zip up the back, it was actually quite easy to get it on Darren. And then we had to cut it all up. Poor Frank.”

Darren Boyd, "Killing Eve"

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