First episodePrevious episodeUpNext episodeLast episode

The Costumes Make the Man

First aired: The Signal: Season 5, Episode 11
Written by Jenn Baldwin
Read by Kent LaFavers

Clothes make the man, or so it's said, and therefore the costumes of a character help to set the tone for scenes and certain hints of a character's persona, giving clues to help the viewer figure out the traits of a character.

Costumes in the Firefly verse are sometimes an amalgamation of different styles, ages and cultures. Intertwining where the character has been and where they are going including cultural elements which are specific to what the character's job or something about their childhood and letting the viewer know just a little more about the character who is being portrayed.

A character who has costumes which are geared towards her work and time in training for her profession is Inara. They are often vibrant tones which stand out against the dull colors of the Verse. They are appropriate for her line of work serving to accentuate her beauty which is an asset in her career. They contain inspirations from the far east including rich fabrics such as silk and the design of the dresses is a call back to dresses of the Far East. They are pieces of art in their own right which only help to accentuate the beauty of the person wearing them. She wears the clothes with ease and it gives her character a more confident air, which is not only in herself, but in the training she has received to follow her career path. The costumes are appropriate to the class of being a companion.

River's costumes are feminine, but built to show the grace and ease with which she moves. Noting the flowing skirts and tight bodices which outline her body and take nothing away from her graceful movements including as she fights the Reavers in Serenity (the movie). During this scene River wears a dress which flows as she moves bringing the eye to the gracefulness of the way that she fights, but not giving her the qualities of a little girl. She is feminine, always wearing dresses, and this could make the viewer not see her as a weapon, which in all actuality is what she has been programmed to be. Letting us drop our guard until she is revealed.

Costumes of the mechanic Kaylee are often utilitarian consisting of overalls which are useful when fixing any part of the ship, keeping clothes which are wore underneath clean (although they also include such a cute little teddy bear patch). They differ from the baby doll type of dress when Kaylee is seen in flashback scenes in “Out of Gas “ which hark back to a simpler life which Kaylee was leaving behind as she takes off with the crew. Not that it's a costume, but the parasol she carries in Serenity (the pilot) has a Chinese flair and gives us a hint at the playful nature of Kaylee complete with a type of knotted pig tail to give the impression of a innocence.

Jayne and his ever changing group of t-shirts which could denote a juvenile streak in him that has never gone away. Paired with cargo pants, which serve a utilitarian purpose helping Jayne to be able to pack as much firepower into each pocket and get to it when it is needed. The colors of his clothes are more subdued as though he wished not to be seen unless he wanted to be seen or maybe he washes them quite often because he has few possessions. The man who is always there, but is hiding in the shadows as he blends in with a crowd. Also the Jayne hat, which goes without saying is “rather cunning” as it adds a splash of color to Jayne's life.

Wash and his vibrant Hawaiian inspired shirts. These are surely the clothes of man who cannot leave behind a childlike playfulness including dinosaurs. Sporting that kind of shirt on a back water world would get others killed, but Wash can pull it off with a smile. Although he's remembered for wearing the Hawaiian shirts, there are other clothes he wears which do blend into the somewhat harsh conditions of some of the planets they head to and they are used when he needs to be more focused as a character on the job at hand.

Zoe wears some pretty great clothes which fit rather snugly in all the right places. She is utilitarian without being dressed too much like a man. She is strong and can pull off a strong outfit, just daring those who would take a look to perhaps get into a fight with her. Being the second in command, she needs that strength. There is also a feminine side which is shown during the funeral of her dear husband and the dress she wears is cut on the bias and is very slinky letting fans know that there is more than one side to this war hardened woman.

Simon truly dresses as a doctor in the Verse would dress perhaps on their leisure time. He's well groomed and takes care of himself. This can be seen in the neatness of his clothes whether he's wearing a sweater of some sort of shirt and vest. He is well put together and his attire reflects the need for order that many people of scientific mind exhibit. Kaylee even comments on him not fitting in because he has to be so neat. Simon has been raised, from flashbacks and just him being a doctor, in more of a city environment under Alliance control which could be considered more “civilized” and his clothes reflect this upbringing.

Shepherd Book wears the clothes of a “circuit” preacher with the subdued colors and rough hewn textures. They are all similar in style and give the impression of confidence, but also of approachability, as a shepherd would need to be, giving the viewers an invitation through subliminal clues to feel at ease with the character, as one would feel with their spiritual guide.

Finally, Captain Mal. He wears the long coat reminiscent of a duster from the American old west, the true “brown coat.” Suspenders which are somewhat futuristic in construction, but also are a throw back to an earlier time of the American old west when most men wore suspenders with their pants out of fashion and the fact that their guns would make their pants fall down. The low slung six shooters, which are cowboy in nature. Mal's whole attire paints the picture of someone who could have trouble with authority and often puts authority to the test. The spirit of the a true cowboy who is comfortable in the more back water worlds, but sometimes feels completely out of place when he has to dress up, like in Shindig, and act like someone who he may not be on the inside.

Although the cues we gain from the clothing of Firefly are sometimes forgotten and overlooked, these are the things which really help us to set the scene in our mind, to know how we are to feel about people before they speak and let us enjoy a place where cowboys can be cowboys and women can be pretty tough and still look beautiful.

First episodePrevious episodeUpNext episodeLast episode


This is an archive of the Signal website. It is no longer actively maintained.