Just between us, I’ve been running into something of a dilemma recently. With my new mystery FASHIONABLY LATE about to pub on August 7th (one week from today!), I am now considered quite an expert on detective fashion. (Yes, me. No snickering, please.) Anyway, I have to confess, it’s sooo awkward fielding questions about which past and present sleuths are on trend and which are—how can I put this delicately?—in serious need of a stylist. To lay this burning wardrobe issue to rest once and for all, I thought I’d share a quick run-down of detectives who really stand out on the Hot list—for better or for worse.
But first, the disclaimer. Unlike most hardworking, real-life detectives, their book and TV counterparts spend a lot of time in the public eye, running around chasing suspects in expensive leather jackets and killer heels. And then there are others, including my odd-couple sleuths the Ladies Smythe & Westin, who might consider upping their fashion games. (The most fashionable character in FASHIONABLY LATE is a 6-year-old with a subscription to Vogue.) So here we go:
Those Seventies Guys: Okay, so maybe the 70s weren’t known for fabulous male fashion. Kojak with the lollipops, Columbo with his rumpled trenchcoat, and Jim Rockford with the crazy-plaid sportcoats (you rocked anyway, Jimbo!). But the real-life Columbo cleaned up rather well for the Academy Awards with costume designer Edith Head:
Nancy, Nancy, Nancy: Let’s get this hem perfectly straight: No one puts the teen queen detective in a fashion corner. She dressed impeccably and appropriately for every occasion, from speeding after crooks in that cute roadster to her equestrienne pursuits to being trapped in attics. But sometimes, well…her tastes ran a little on the boring side:
Luckily, French illustrator Albert Chazelle had a different take on Nancy and her friends. Très chic, n’est-ce pas?
Lob-stah Bibs and Liberty Scahves: Like Nancy, mystery writer and amateur sleuth extraordinaire Jessica (“J.B”) Fletcher’s style was also well-suited to every activity. Plus, she managed to look stylish and keep her cool as a female TV star in the 80s, so she gets extra points. Oh, and Angela Lansbury. Super-bonus points.
V is for Velma, Veronica, and Va-va-voom: Velma, honey, we admired your colorfully-groovy choices in Scooby Doo. But may we suggest taking a few fashion notes from equally-unique fellow V-girl Veronica Mars?
Nick and Nora Charles: No question, these two were always in high style, especially with cocktails in hand. Maybe subbing a few higher-energy outfits for those chic dressing gowns and smart PJ sets would be so much more…Oh, never mind.
Plain Jane: Yes, Miss Marple, we know those tweeds and Wellies are all the rage for kickin’ it in St. Mary Mead. And you may give Jessica and Nancy a run for the roses in the practicality department. But with all those house parties, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to live a little:
Summer Smythe and Dorothy Westin: This odd-couple sleuth team recently hit the holiday fashion show circuit in glitzy Milano, Florida—and picked up a few game-changing (and lifesaving) style tips. Reindeer sweaters, awkward fishtails, and merry widow ensembles aside (don’t ask), there may be hope for these two yet!
Lisa Q. Mathews lives in New England but sets her books in sunny Florida. Her closet most closely resembles Jessica Fletcher’s, with a handy yellow slicker, an all-season trench, Bean boots and plenty of scarves. Her titles in The Ladies Smythe & Westin series include CARDIAC ARREST, PERMANENTLY BOOKED, and the brand-new FASHIONABLY LATE (pubbing August 7th and available for pre-order now!)
Do you agree with our Detective Fashion Police—or have any other sleuths you’d like to nominate for a fashion intervention? (Remember, we’re talking fictional characters here, not (ahem) authors!) Let us know in the comments section below.