In 1965 Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland came up with the term “youthquake” to describe the social upheaval as the 1950s-set constraints on pop culture, fashion, and, well, decorum were cast aside. The new four-part series from Acorn TV, “Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries,” takes place in Australia during this exact era, and costume designer Maria Pattison was tasked with capturing this exuberance in the outfits worn by Peregrine Fisher, portrayed by Geraldine Hakewill.
“She was grounded in the youthquake movement and power to the people,” Pattison said recently in an interview with IndieWire. “A lot of expression was coming out through clothing, because ready-to-wear was happening and people were able to choose things off the rack and create their own style.”
The result is a vibrant color palette of jewel tones and pastels in polished, tailored looks that never veer into fusty. “When we think of the ‘60s a lot of the time we think about psychedelics and maybe moving into the hippie looks that came into the late ‘60s,” Pattison, who previously worked on “The Leftovers” and the miniseries “Gallipoli,” said. “But 1964 [when the series takes place] was quite early on. Certainly Jackie O was a great influence there.”
The clothes mirror Peregrine’s character development, with each of the four episodes featuring new outfits that reveal her increasing professional and personal confidence. The early episodes of a more tentative character feature short-shorts paired with messy hair; by the end, Peregrine is ethereal in gowns that would make Vreeland proud.
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“At one point, we were looking like we were just going to have to put her in capris for one scene in the third episode because of all the action, and I kept on going back and saying, ‘I just don’t think she’s in capri-land any more,’” Pattison says. “I felt bad putting her in capris in the third episode! She’s evolved! We went for culottes so it looks like a miniskirt, but much more practical.”
Everything for Hakewill and her co-star, Joel Jackson, who plays Det. James Steed, was bespoke – “They’re like giraffes,” Pattison said – and required a hunt across Melbourne, Sydney, and Los Angeles to find appropriate fabrics and vintage pieces that fit the theme of a woman coming into her own – just as the wider culture is allowing her room to express herself.
“What I love about Maria – and I’ve worked with her a couple of times on different projects now – is that she just has such vision when it comes to putting pieces of clothes together,” Hakewill said. “It’s always unexpected and it always takes you by surprise. Sometimes I’m like “Are you sure it’s going to work?” and then I put it on and it always looks great.”