There Are No Superhero Costumes to Be Found in 'Jessica Jones,' Netflix's Latest Marvel Adaptation

Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky discusses the challenges of outfitting villains and superheroes who eschew the typical Marvel uniform.
By Fawnia Soo Hoo ,

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) accessorizes with a Yeezy-style scarf. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

With our small screens packed with superheroes, their superpowers and their super-suits, Marvel's Jessica Jones is a unique kind of crime-buster. She doesn't have a superlative alias or a hermetic crime-fighting costume. What she does have is a drinking problem and a wicked case of PTSD from an earlier encounter with her Big Bad, the mind-controlling Kilgrave.

It's little wonder, then, that Jones doesn't dedicate much thought to her clothes. Instead, she wears pretty much the same outfit throughout the latest TV binge-fest, "Jessica Jones," now streaming on Netflix.

"That's her character," says Stephanie Maslansky, who also created most of the costumes for "Daredevil." "She really doesn’t give a shit." Actress Krysten Ritter, of "Veronica Mars" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 43" fame, perfectly embodies the traumatized, conflicted, but still ass-kicking Jones. And she wears her lived-in look just as skillfully.

Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Jessica's signature leather jacket, faded jeans and moto-boots ensemble was actually put together by Jenn Rogien, of "Girls" and "Orange is the New Black." Maslansky jumped on board on the "second or third" day of filming, but everyone was on the same page about Jessica's streetwear superhero gear. "[Jessica] considers her clothing to be an armor and a shield and something that helps her maintain a distance from other people and privacy," Maslansky explains. "It  keeps her from having to deal with the rest of humanity in a certain sort of way." 

Ironically, for a person who probably doesn't have a subscription to Vogue, Jones and her evil-fighting "uniform" are actually quite on-trend. The hunt for the perfect superhero moto-jacket culminated in a wardrobe staple that any self-respecting fashion girl would have in her closet. "It was a stripped-down version of last year's Acne leather motorcycle jacket," Maslansky says. "The bells and whistles and any additional superfluous design details were removed. Jessica's character has a certain simplicity in her look." Then, the Acne jacket — or jackets because there were at least 10 multiples — were made to look as if Jessica picked them up at a local Goodwill. "They were really sanded and scrubbed and alcohol was applied to take the shine off," Maslansky says. "Silver snaps were scratched and rubbed to make it look as though it was a really, really old jacket." 

She might have to send that pair to the cleaners. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Jessica also seems to wear the same pair of faded, relaxed fit jeans in every scene — and that's intentional, too. It's as if "[Jessica] went to the store and said, 'I’ll take three of those and that way I don't have to think about it,'" Maslansky muses. "She wears one of three pairs every single day, depends on which one is cleanest." The worn-in denim of choice: Citizens of Humanity, all of which were put through a similar aging and distressing process like the aforementioned leather jackets. Maslansky and her team amassed about 20 pairs for Ritter and her stunt and photo doubles. 

"At a certain point, Citizens of Humanity stopped making the jeans!" the costume designer laughs. "We had to go on and we found more and we just bought every pair there was."

David Tennant as Kilgrave. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

On the opposite end of the sartorial spectrum sits the villainous and oh-so-natty Kilgrave (David Tennant), who — to the detriment of any unfortunate bystander who gets in his way — is unhealthily obsessed with Jessica. I'm used to seeing Tennant in frumpy ill-fitting trench coats as the tenth "Doctor Who" and disheveled suiting as D.I. Alec Hardy in "Broadchurch." But as Kilgrave, the Scottish actor has this sexy swagger going on — partly because of his rakish suit game. 

In the comics, Kilgrave is known as The Purple Man, who is indeed head-to-toe shades of aubergine. But a clownish purple outfit, plus full-on face and body makeup, would just be jarring within the more grounded Marvel small screen world. So the bad guy's signature hue was subtly incorporated into scenes with forebodingly tinted lighting. As for his outfits, "we wanted to find a place where we could utilize clothing in shades of purple, but not go so over the top that it would look silly and that he would stop feeling ominous or menacing," explains Maslansky. She originally thought she'd be custom-making all his eggplant-hued clothing, but, "we were very fortunate to find that last season, designer Paul Smith was all about purple."

What filter is that? Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

The streamlined fit of Kilgrave's suits and coats also plays a part in his backstory: The baddie could walk into any bespoke menswear shop and instantaneously mind-manipulate the proprietor into tailor-making "eight suits" for him (and gratis, obviously). But in real life, those Paul Smith suits fit Tennant like a glove. Turns out, the actor developed quite an affinity for the Euro-fit silhouette, too. "He really loves the tightness of the pants and the slimness of the jacket," Maslansky says. "I think it helped him as an actor, to put him on edge all the time. [The silhouette] just really made him feel sharp."

With such a killer look (pun intended), no wonder Kilgrave feels comfortable passing judgement on Jessica's outfit choices. In a flashback scene of their first meeting, he chides the budding superhero for her "appalling sense of fashion." While Maslansky couldn't exactly put Jessica into a terrible outfit, she did have to follow the script. "We had to create a look that was similar to how [Jessica] dresses in current times, but is a little more hopeful and different enough so we know that it’s a flashback." Hence, she used another pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans in a faded black wash, coupled with an All Saints denim jacket and lace-up Frye boots.

Mike Colter and his guns as Luke Cage. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

After creating costumes for "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," Maslansky is now working on "Luke Cage," the Marvel's third superhero installment on Netflix. The broody, hunky also-superhero, played by Mike Colter, makes his debut in "Jessica Jones" wearing his civvies. "He keeps it very close to the vest," says Maslansky. "He's also a guy who wears his clothing like an armor. He wears a bit of a uniform: T-shirts, jeans, leather jackets or an army jacket." While Luke's initial look is introduced in "Jessica Jones," he'll have his own wardrobe evolution as his story unfolds in the upcoming series.

Now, if followers of Jessica Jones from the comic books are holding out for that white jumpsuit with the metallic blue piping and bejeweled belt, don't despair. No spoilers here, but do keep a lookout for a pretty perfect "gift to the fans." Although, let's be honest: This Jessica Jones superhero outfit will make for the easiest Halloween costume come October 31, 2016.

Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

"Jessica Jones" premieres on Netflix on Friday, Nov. 20 at 12:01 a.m. PST / 3:01 a.m. ET.

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