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The Most Stylish Characters on TV, According to Critics

Whether it's flamboyant ensembles or sharp suits, these characters know how to put together a look with impact.

Mosty Stylish TV Characters

“Pose,” “Hannibal,” “Suits,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

FX, NBC, USA, Amazon

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: Who’s the most stylish character on TV? (New and old shows apply. Your definition of stylish.)

Diane Gordon (@thesurfreport), Freelance

The cast of “Suits” gets my vote for most stylish and credit goes to costume designer Jolie Andreatta, the woman who created gorgeous looks for all the men in the cast. I’m particularly partial to Gabriel Macht’s Tom Ford suits (I’d bet he also wears some bespoke suits from Savile Row or Brioni,) and traffic-stopping looks from designers such as Lanvin, Dior, Prada and Giambattista Valli for Sarah Rafferty as Donna Paulsen and Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson. Note: Torres continues to kill the style game on her “Pearson” spinoff, debuting this summer. Andreatta manages to make everyone at the firm look stylish at their appropriate earning levels. I always find it impressive that the women look incredibly stylish as well as business appropriate – it adds power to their presence. It’s also refreshing to see women in the workplace in something other than menswear-style suiting.

My other vote goes to Midge Maisel on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and the incredible work of costume designer Donna Zakowska, whose use of saturated colors makes Midge stand out in any room. And even when Midge is in a black cocktail dress, it’s perfectly constructed and proportioned. Midge is beautifully coordinated from head to toe, including fabulous hats, purses and shoes. There’s always more than a pop of color, and it adds even more life and zest to the show.

Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson on "Suits"

Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson on “Suits”

USA

Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

Jessica Fucking Pearson. Since day one of “Suits” and now her upcoming spinoff, the USA Network icon has owned this title and allowed the rest of us to think someone else could best her. It helps, of course, that Gina Torres is a statuesque dream of gorgeousness. But so much of the praise needs to go to costume designer Jolie Andreatta, who famously draped Torres’ legal queen in Dior and Prada (while also dressing a certain future Duchess), as well as jewel tones and bold colors mere mortals would run from. The power suits, the body-hugging wrap dresses, peplum tops for days and oh my god, the shoes. THE SHOES. I could go on for hours but instead, I am just going to continue down my Google image search of “Jessica Pearson, slay” and judge every other TV character who is supposed to be HBIC.

Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Paste Magazine

The canon of stylish TV characters is full of iconic individuals whose style came to influence the culture around them (Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex in the City,” Rachel Green on “Friends,” Mary Tyler Moore, maybe even “Mad Men’s” Don Draper, and so many others). But then there are also characters whose style – defined here as a deep appreciation of fashion that bleeds into a full life aesthetic – is who they are. And for whatever reason, that’s also tied (in at least two cases) to murder. “Killing Eve’s” Villanelle and “Hannibal’s” titular craftsman are both artists, elevating their personal style into every expression of their being … including the staging of their murder victims. That juxtaposition of beautifully tailored clothes and incredibly expensive fabrics and designers with creatively dismantled corpses and controlled (though gory) scenes of death is a large of part what made these respective series so arresting. There is a combination here of control and aspiration, of fine things and hellish ones, that is truly unforgettable. Villanelle and Hannibal have a style that is seductive, intoxicating, and ultimately deadly. Everything they do has flair. And it’s an art form.

Mads Mikkelsen on "Hannibal," Jodie Comer on "Killing Eve"

Mads Mikkelsen on “Hannibal,” Jodie Comer on “Killing Eve”

NBC, BBC America

Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR

For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked to television for clues on how to look sharp. From the slick suits the lawyers wore on “L.A. Law” to the carefully crafted, urbane looks of the Huxtable family on “The Cosby Show,” TV was often a window into a level of style I could never experience in person. Which is a long way of saying I pay a LOT of attention to what characters wear onscreen, mostly to figure out how I can adapt their looks to upgrade my own.

That said, the first name on my list sports styles I could never get near: Billy Porter on FX’s “Pose.” His glittering, eye-catching suits while leading the show’s explosive drag ball competitions are one thing – especially that gold lamé jacket with the awesomely huge padded shoulders. But even when he’s just hanging around the House of Evangelista, he’s always in something intriguing (after seeing him in person and in a full, flowing gown at the Peabody awards last month, I can attest that he brings the same gender-bending fabulousness in real life). There isn’t any one character on Fox’s “Empire” who I would single out, but between Terence Howard’s patriarch Lucious Lyon and his three sons, there are always more than a couple of outfits I’d sacrifice my MasterCard to own. And, surprisingly, I love the fashion for the men on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” In particular, I think Tony Shalhoub’s Abe Weissman is always natty – especially for a math professor at Columbia – decked out in slick overcoats and suits with texture and great fit (don’t get me started on the beret, scarf and dark overcoat he put on during the Paris episode).

Billy Porter on "Pose"

Billy Porter on “Pose”

FX

Clint Worthington (@clintworthing), Consequence of Sound, The Spool

Can it be anyone other than Billy Porter’s glorious MC Pray Tell on “Pose”? Even as Season 2 greets us with a deeper sense of melancholy – the AIDS crisis grows in urgency for our heroes, and violence against transgender women of color arrives on their doorstep – our fabulous heroes throw themselves even further into the glamour of the ball scene. Porter’s own impeccable real-life style aside, his accoutrements as Pray Tell this season are even more eye-popping in 1990 than they were in ’87: boldly patterned shirts, giant yellow ascots, full-on leopard-print suits with matching fedoras. Even as the queer community of “Pose” spends more time at memorials than balls this season, Pray’s fashion sense never fails him, sporting richly patterned black suits and multi-colored snakeskin lapels. In the face of his own AIDS diagnosis, and his increasing involvement in activist groups like Act Up!, Pray’s choosing to live boldly in the face of absolute darkness, and I’m here for it.

Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com

I am entirely unqualified to comment on anything fashion related as I am wearing the same T-shirt I wore over the weekend and have totally given up on pants. Which is why I’m going to say something silly like Jaime Lannister from “Game of Thrones.” But have you seen the jackets he wears? Those things probably cost the lives of three or four King’s Landing tailors and you know what? Totally worth it.

Lena Headey and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones"

Lena Headey and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”

HBO

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

Of late it is Jodie Comer’s Villanelle of “Killing Eve” who has brought high-end conspicuous consumerism back out of the 1980s closet. Villanelle revels in her costly finery and exceptional tastes in textiles and has awakened that lust for couture in Sandra Oh’s Eve, among other things. Life’s too short to limit yourself to the mass marketed “made in China” duds, right?

But for days of yore TV, I select Emma Peel, played by the inimitable Diana Rigg. For you deprived kids out there too young to remember “The Avengers” on TV, Rigg as Miss Peel was feline dynamite in a full-length skin tight leather bodysuit that predated the stunning Julie Newmar, my favorite Catwoman on the TV series “Batman” starring Adam West. Rigg was a fierce, visual showstopper and ace crime-solver who changed the landscape for woman on TV in looks and attitude. Now, people remember her as Olenna Tyrell for “Game of Thrones,” but she was throwing down unforgettable moments on TV back in the day.

"The Avengers"

“The Avengers”

Studiocanal/Shutterstock

Emily VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

When I first came out of the closet and introduced myself to the world as a trans woman, people started asking me if I had thought about my sense of style yet. And the truth was, I hadn’t. I hadn’t thought about it at all! So I did what I always do, which is turn to television, and on television, there were so many stylish women, doing so many stylish things. But I kept coming back to Molly Yeh of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm.” Is she the most stylish on TV? Absolutely not. But something about her “really enthusiastic fourth grade teacher” aesthetic just kinda worked for me, and now that I am publicly out, there’s nothing stopping me from dressing exactly the same way and speaking in a vaguely upper Midwestern accent. I’m not going to do that, of course, because this is California, and dressing for a Midwestern winter is a terrible idea here. But I will always be thankful that she was there for me to start to figure out that my sense of style is very rooted in the place I’m from.

Veep Season 7 Episode 7 Series Finale Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Veep”

Colleen Hayes/HBO

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

Selina Meyer may be a devilish tyrant, but her fashion sense is absolutely divine. From her bright red power dresses, coats, and accessories, to her area-appropriate Western wear and lavish ballgowns, whether the former V.P.-turned-P chose her outfits herself or was completely at Gary’s disposal, she always looked her best — so much so that whenever she was caught out of vogue, like during her Arizona “spa” experience, it only went to emphasize the time, effort, and grace she brought to each carefully considered outfit. Props to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, of course, for bringing all these clothes to life, but let’s give credit where it’s due (sorry, not you Gary): costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager, who served for the last five years, and elevated Selina’s style to the same great heights she aspired to reach in office.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Pose” (three votes)

Other contenders: “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” (two votes), “Big Little Lies,” “Jett,” “Los Espookys,” “When They See Us” (one vote each)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.

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