A Sleepy Hollow Costume Designer on Why Ichabod Crane Might Never Change His Outfit
Author: Fawnia Soo Hoo
Now that Fashion Month is over, we can fully concentrate on another one of the best parts of the season: fall TV and all of the fashion-y fun we can glean from the new and returning shows. Surprisingly, the breakout hit Sleepy Hollow has one of the most intriguing sartorial spins of the season; it’s not about what cool new clothes the characters are wearing, but one hellishly old outfit that a character has not changed out of for over 200 years–and for four episodes and counting.
For those of you who don’t watch Sleepy Hollow, here’s a quick summary: Ichabod Crane (easy-on-the-eyes Brit actor Tom Mison) magically re-awakens in 2013 and partners with a female detective to solve mystical crimes related to the Headless Horseman and the world ending–please stay with me now. If you suspend some disbelief and just go with it, you’ll really enjoy the Buffy (in terms of Hellmouth evil fighting, minus teen angst allegories) meets Elementary (like fun chemistry between the two leads) series.
While I’m fine going with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse besieging a scenic town upstate, I just can’t get over the fact that after four episodes, Ichabod Crane has not changed out of the same Revolutionary War outfit that he wore while clawing his way out of his 200 year-old grave in the premiere. Like, is there a fragrance emanating from the fabric? (Although he did hand-wash his clothes once followed by a quick dry with a hairdryer.) How is anyone taking him seriously in a long military coat, a blouse-y top, swashbuckling knee-high boots, and a little green ribbon in his hair? Can he at least get some new underwear?!
This clearly warranted a call to Sanja Hays–the veteran costume designer who created Ichabod’s enduring look for the pilot–to get some clarity on the matter. Turns out, giving Ichabod Crane a modern makeover in a button-down and jeans from the Gap would just mess up the storyline.
“Originally when we did the pilot they wanted him changed half-way way through the episode,” Hays explained.”But they wanted to keep it [so] he still looks like he’s from another time, which is not that easy.”
Part of the appeal of the show is the whole fish out of water thing and continually reminding viewers of the time warp, but not beating them over the heads with it. Hence the non-costume change.
“I think that this way he’s subconsciously still an outcast, a person from another time,” Hays told me. “It looks like he doesn’t belong there. Until they establish the whole situation, they might keep him like this.”
While designing Ichabod’s late-18th century uniform for the pilot (and ensuing episodes as it turned out), Hays did make sure to incorporate modern details so the character didn’t look full-on comical.
“I tried to do the look where he does the period clothes, but he doesn’t look so strange,” the designer said. “So we chose the militia coat so he looks like a rock star in it. When I was choosing the uniform, I was consciously going for the longer coat–not the cutaway blue uniform of the American Revolution [with the red trim], but more the New York militia coat because it’s a longer coat.”
As the show establishes the storyline and heads into season two–Sleepy Hollow is doing so well it scored an early second season renewal–will Ichabod Crane maybe, possibly get a new outfit? (Just please not with a Pretty Woman-esque shopping montage.) So, if Hays could style the character into a fresh new millennial look, how would she do it?
“I think that I would keep his hair long, that’s very important,” she said. “One thing we toyed with was a longer leather jacket. He just still needs to look old fashioned, but not in terms of wearing bad clothes. I wouldn’t put him into a modern short leather jacket because that to me would be completely wrong. You can’t put him in jeans and a leather jacket because all of a sudden you’re going to be like, ‘what the hell, who is that guy?!’”
“He needs to still look out of place,” Hays continued. “But there are designers nowadays that make longer leather jackets or maybe [they could] go with at least a car coat or a peacoat, so that he still looks a little bit [period]. I would keep him for sure looking European. When you go to Europe, in autumn, you see men dressed like this. In America or at least California, you don’t. Maybe in New York a little bit more.”
So there you have it, Ichabod Crane might never get a change of clothes, but if he does, he’ll turn into a hipster.
Sleepy Hollow airs tonight at 9/8c on Fox.