Today’s the day! FASHIONABLY LATE, my latest Ladies Smythe & Westin mystery, has hit the catwalk. My fellow Not Your Usual Suspects bloggers may not realize this, but I am now quite the fashion expert—in the realm of fictional detectives, anyway. (No snickering, please.) And I have to point out that some of our favorite sleuths are on trend and others are—how can I put this delicately?—in rather serious need of a stylist. So I’ve put together a quick run-down of a few sleuths who really stand out on the Hot list—for better or for worse.
Unlike most hardworking, real-life detectives who dress for the job, many of 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 Summer Smythe, an impulsive twenty-something, and Dorothy Westin, a practical seventy-something, who might consider upping their fashion games. (Truth: the most fashionable character in FASHIONABLY LATE is a 6-year-old with a subscription to Vogue.) With that said, 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 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 substituting a few higher-energy outfits for those chic dressing gowns and smart PJ sets would be…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 series The Ladies Smythe & Westin 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 include CARDIAC ARREST, PERMANENTLY BOOKED, and the very latest, 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) writers!)