“I’m a fucking regular The Murder She Wroteprivate investigator Theodora Birch (Noma Dumezweni) tells overworked New Jersey patriarch Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale) in Ryan Murphy’s The Observer. But, in his speech to identify the culprit terrorizing new suburban landlords with threatening letters in the Netflix mystery, the IP could be referring to his enigmatic self.
“She’s the Agatha Christie type. You don’t know who she really is or where she’s from. You love her so much, and you think she’s telling the truth. But is she?” asks Lou Eyrich, Murphy’s longtime costume maester and series producer.
In a dark restaurant, Theodora makes her first impression in a vintage 70s Lanvin trench coat over a black turtleneck and trousers, with a graphic print scarf. “She’s covered, undercover,” Eyrich adds. Theodora shares her colorful origin story — or weaves a thread — involving a jazz career, a stint in rehab, and an addiction to true-crime documentaries.
She gestures emphatically throughout, as her dramatic orange Sermoneta gloves punctuate her narration. Schuyler’s penchant for regularly covering her hands with plush leather gloves was a directive from Murphy. “Because she never wants to leave footprints behind,” says Rudy Mance, who co-costumed the show with Eyrich. (Catherine Crabtree also co-designed episodes six and seven.)
Later, Theodora’s brown gloves, with exposed stitching and white piping, help point the finger (sorry) at Dean as The Watcher, as she dramatically reveals analysis evidence of the handwriting to his suspicious wife, Nora (Naomi Watts). But the fancy accessories were more of a style choice than Easter eggs — or red herrings. “It just depends on the outfit, if it needs something a little more outstanding, something special, something to match or something more elegant,” says Eyrich, who encouraged Dumezweni to “play” and sometimes to select their own accessories.
Theodora’s signature headwear, also a Murphy mandate, enhances her timeless aesthetic that is not identifiable with specific fashion trends or eras. “So that confuses you too,” Eyrich says. The team sourced luxury textiles, such as a black moire, from Mood Fabrics, as well as scarves in vibrant prints from local stores in the East Village. Key hairstylist Tim Harvey created the elaborate braiding and frills, while Dumezweni tied her wraps in fittings.
“It’s a bit more theatrical and grand, but not completely over the top,” says Mance. He and Eyrich – dubbed “Lou-dy” by the crew – struck a balance with Theodora’s jewel tones and dynamic square and circle graphics to counter the Brannock family’s “new preppy palette” of lush neutrals. . “She can’t be so far off that Dean wouldn’t trust her,” Mance says.
Dressing strategically for the occasion, Theodora, in a white and black checkered Another Tomorrow pantsuit, sartorially tunes in for a first solo encounter with Nora, who regularly wears all ivory while drinking red wine. “They mirror each other,” Mance explains.
To update Dean with the new horrors of the family home’s history, Theodora intentionally switches from her costume silhouettes to a dove gray pleated cape, with a pointed python print collar sticking out. The slow-paced suspense of Theodora’s narration and intense close-ups of Dumezweni prove the perfect moment to introduce the vintage rental house piece Early Halloween, a Lou-dy favorite. But it also adds to the overall mystery.
“If she’s a little bolder there, maybe it’ll distract from the fact that she’s wearing head-to-toe black underneath,” Mance says. “East she The Observer? »
This story first appeared in a standalone November issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.