On January 1, Netflix aired the final season of their adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series followed the lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire after the death of their parents in a tragic fire, and the subsequent bad fortune that befalls them.
I read the books when I was younger, but definitely not the age the books were intended for. I was in my early twenties, and I never finished the series as I found myself increasingly more and more frustrated with the idiotic adults who refused to listen the children’s misfortunes (and who couldn’t seem to understand that Count Olaf could disguise himself multiple times). When the series came out, however, I was intrigued. I soon found myself engrossed in the world of the Baudelaire orphans.
First off, I loved how the show had a Wes Anderson-y quality to it. The set design was beautiful, and the story was good (as far as I remember it followed the original source material pretty closely) but the costumes were – of course – what I was in it for! The show is not set in any particular decade, and this gave the costume designers incredible freedom with design. Adding to the fun is that each episode takes place in a new location, allowing for a change of style, and a new set of distinct looks for each character. Angus Strathie created the looks for the first season, with Cynthia Ann Summers taking over for seasons two and three.
As I have not discussed the series at any great length, this review will look back over the entire production, rather than just this past season. So much thought was put into each and every little costume, and if I had time I would talk about each one that appears on screen but, alas, that would make this post far too long. So instead a present a somewhat disjointed impression of the costumes.
Violet Baudelaire has the wardrobe I wanted when I was ten. Okay, I still want it now! She sports a series of lovely a-line dresses (unless the siblings are involved in a specific activity, such as hitching a ride on the submarine, in which case she has a more appropriate outfit on) and Peter Pan collars often in whimsical fabrics and prints.
The Baudelaires in general are always dressed fairly simply. Their clothing is not flashy or complicated. The are are always dressed for the occasion they find themselves in, from sailor suits when they are on a submarine to their uniforms when they work at the mill. With the exception of the mill, where the children actually get these clothes remains a mystery (Mr. Poe maybe), but it is something I don’t need solved! I am perfectly content to just expend belief and accept that they have access to all these lovely clothes.
If Violet is my childhood wardrobe embodied, Olivia Caliban’s is close to how I want to dress now (at least when she works at Prufrock Prep, maybe not so much when she is Madame Lulu). The pencil skirts! The polka dots!
Esmé Squalor must be any costume designer’s dream job! Her costumes were lavish and over-the-top, and she liked changing for every occasion, also making them plentiful. Her costumes were the “designer” ones of the group, and always matched the setting the most literally. When she is joined by mini-villain Carmelita Spats, they are a sight to behold! Esme Squalor represents the highest luxury in the story, and her wardrobe represents the fortune that she can use to buy it.
Olaf’s “regular” clothes, meaning ones that he wears when he is not in costume, were probably grand once upon a time but have now faded into the background, much like himself. He wears luxurious looking fabrics, but they are all in a state of disrepair. There’s always an element of distress, whether that be in the fading of a fabric color, a dusty jacket or a hole-y shirt. His disguises however, are all made to last through whatever scheme he cooks up in each episode.
In the final season, Olaf gives up the disguises for the most part and his look is created. As he doesn’t change as much as Esmé, his outfits become increasingly more and more distressed as his desperation for the Baudelaire fortune becomes more desperate. He sheds the disguises in favor of a moth-eaten shirt. This attention to detail is outstanding, and it makes rewatching a rewarding experience of studying all the little costuming details you might have missed at first glance.
Of course, there are other characters that rounds out the plot line, from Count Olaf’s acting troupe to Mr. Poe the banker. Unless they are in disguise with Olaf, their costumes are simple and keep them firmly in the background of whatever they need to be doing.
All in all, love it or hate it, A Series of Unfortunate Events is just fun to look at! I’m sure I will be rewatching it for many years to come!