“It’s a big responsibility to do the costumes for such a well-loved character, but each series is a fresh start,” Sam Perry says of taking the reins from Killing Eve’s previous costume designers, Phoebe de Gaye and Charlotte Mitchell, for the show’s third season. “Villanelle doesn’t have a closet she can return to, so everything she wears is new; her looks are always evolving depending on the situation she finds herself in. She goes through some huge changes in this series, so that also gave me a chance to show some of these emotions with costume.”
So what can we expect from Villanelle’s attire this season? “She still has her sense of style and drama, but isn’t showing off with her clothes. The fashion in the first episode is much more androgynous than we have seen Villanelle in for a while. I wanted to build up to the dresses and color when we see Villanelle in her new city and apartment.”
High fashion = high drama
Villanelle’s status as fashion’s favorite hit woman was cemented in season one by her Parisian outing wearing that frothy Molly Goddard dress, in pastel-pink tulle, with Balenciaga boots. Her flair for the dramatic plays out across an array of attention-grabbing garms, usually reserved for suitably high-octane action. In season two, a moment of mourning was exaggerated by a ruff-necked, sheer-sleeved Alexander McQueen couture gown – complete with a veil. The stakes, then, are set high for season three. Our eyes are on the floor-length, puff-sleeved blue floral dress by The Vampire’s Wife, which Villanelle wears to sweep around an opulent mansion in the trailer, declaring she is “moving up in the world”.
For Perry, the dress, designed especially for the character, couldn’t have been more fitting for Villanelle. “[It was] just what I was after – youthful, confident and fun,” which is how the costume designer describes the dresses she picked to pack a punch this season. “I was also delighted when I found the psychedelic yellow La DoubleJ mini dress. It was like a flash of sunshine – and its pattern was a great fit with the tiles in the apartment.”
From the show’s beginning, Villanelle has used suiting to her sartorial advantage. In season one, it was a brocade Dries Van Noten two-piece that the high-status huntress wore to kill Bill in Berlin. Her take on tailoring in the second season was similarly memorable and styled with whimsical mismatch. In one scene, a race-horse-printed Chloé blazer was playfully paired with a ruffled Isabel Marant blouse. She reveled in the art of costume drama, too – arriving in Oxford wearing a quintessentially preppy college-student ensemble of high-waisted trousers, crisp white shirt and tie with a cable-knit sweater draped over the shoulders.
For season three, suiting is still a staple of Villanelle’s closet, says Perry, but the designer was keen for the cut of each outfit to vary, to ensure that there were “different silhouettes throughout this series”. These include “crazy cropped jackets, A-line dresses, oversized coats and a few vintage silhouettes, too”.
Make it pop
From a pink silk Rosie Assoulin blouse, accessorized with oversized Christian Lacroix earrings, to a gunmetal-gray leather Ellery shirt, an embroidered 3.1 Phillip Lim bomber jacket to an emerald satin Jason Wu coat, Villanelle’s most enviable outfits often allow a statement piece (or several) to take center stage.
The art of dressing Villanelle comes down to creating more understated ensembles to allow these moments to shine. “Casual outfits for Villanelle can be challenging, as she doesn’t wear jeans and most of her clothes are high-end, so no trackpants and old T-shirts!” laughs Perry. “I really wanted her to have some quiet fashion moments, when she doesn’t appear to be dressing up. Her outfits are still very considered but just more relaxed – that way, the louder outfits can really pop.”
The travel capsule
“I was very keen to bring a youthfulness to Villanelle’s wardrobe,” considers Perry of the characteristics she wanted to highlight through Villanelle’s clothing in season three. “It felt important to remind the audience that she is still a young woman.”
It will be on her European travels that we see some of her more playful outfits come through this season, as we know Villanelle to curate the most befitting traveling attire. For a Tuscan road-trip in season one, she was the epitome of laid-back vacation chic, wearing a Chloé pussy-bow blouse with Paige denim shorts and her favorite footwear – a pair of chunky lace-up boots. There have also been summer dresses aplenty in the assassin’s jet-set aesthetic – think back to the brightly patterned Miu Miu and flowing Burberry lace.
Villanelle is upping the ante in her penchant for fancy dress in season three (no easy feat, remembering the outlandish cartoon-pig-face barmaid costume she wore for a kill in Amsterdam in season two). A full clown costume comes with unsurprisingly elevated styling, which proved to be a highlight of the job for Perry. “Obviously, Villanelle would have to be a stylish clown… I hoped her costume would be cute as well as sinister,” she says. “She wouldn’t just wear any old clown costume.”
The chosen color palette, then, was orange and blue, “rather than the obvious primary colors”, while “the blouse had to be silk, for that little touch of luxury – and it had to have big sleeves and retro cuffs.” The look was completed by a classic clown wig (though styled into two messy buns) and makeup. “I love the hair and makeup Juliette Tomes did for the clowns. The outfit really came to life the minute Jodie put the wig and red nose on.”
While Villanelle‘s eclectic style might be hard to put a label on (or, rather, just one label on), her costumes in season three are still rooted in flamboyance and the art of attention-seeking. One jacket particularly stands out to Perry: a green check shearling bomber jacket. “I thought it was totally crazy when I saw it and desperately wanted to use it for a specific scene,” the designer recalls. “I hoped it would illustrate her changing state of mind; she is literally a lovable monster in it. You want to hug her, but she might well bite your head off.”