Detectives on the Catwalk: Who Wore it Best?

Lisa here, furiously throwing clothes (we won’t call them actual outfits) into a suitcase.  Ellen and I are switching coasts this week–I’m headed West and she’s Eastern-bound. We’ll just miss each other! I hope y’all enjoy this updated encore post as you sip that late-summer lemonade…

Just between us, I’ve run into something of a dilemma recently. Ever since my mystery FASHIONABLY LATE pubbed, I have been considered quite an expert on detective fashion. (Yes, me. No snickering, s’il vous plait.) 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’m sharing 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!)

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.

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: Christmas in July (ok, August)? This odd-couple sleuth team hit the holiday fashion show circuit in glitzy Milano, Florida—and picked up a few game-changing (and lifesaving) style tips. Sweaty reindeer sweaters, awkward fishtails, and merry widow ensembles aside (don’t ask), there may be hope for these two yet!


About Lisa:  

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 FASHIONABLY LATE. 

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.




27 thoughts on “Detectives on the Catwalk: Who Wore it Best?

  1. I don’t think any fictional detective could beat Phryne Fisher’s style. How cool would it be to wear such fabulous clothes while solving murders? Of course the reality is I wouldn’t look nearly as elegant as Miss Fisher no matter what I was wearing and I would much prefer actively avoiding any people suspected of murder, but it’s nice to dream!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. What a fun post!! I’ve become an LL Bean Outsider, I think, now that I don’t have to fit in with faculty, librarians, and college administrators. Not a bad look for a sleuth wanting to blend in with the crowd, but a Fashion Statement? Not so much.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Kate, Lol re: the LL Bean Outsider! Such a great way to go undercover here in New England. Considering the Subaru…


  3. I don’t think Stefanie Powers on the 70s-80s tv show Hart to Hart gets enough credit for her style. (But then, they were millionaire detectives and she had Robert Wagner as arm candy!) Safe travels, Lisa (and Ellen). Have fun on your trips!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “The most fashionable character in FASHIONABLY LATE is a 6-year-old with a subscription to Vogue.” Ha! Love this post, Lisa!

    I genuinely paid close attention to Veronica Mars’s bags as they changed over the seasons! Those things carried a ton (everything a budding PI needs and then some) but always looked cool too.

    My sleuth-closet crush is probably Phryne Fisher. Fringe-y wraps and pearl-handled revolvers, swoon.

    Safe travels to all. xo

    Liked by 4 people

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