Film and television dominated the conversation—both online and in person—with staggering force this year. A new hit seemed to arrive each month followed by a fresh barrage of memes and in-jokes: Inventing Anna, Euphoria, The Dropout, Severance, etc. Yet some of the most passionate pop culture discourse was hardly about plot lines or performances: It was about the clothes.

2022 was a banner year for costume designers. Instagram accounts dedicated to series, like @Closetofeuphoria, accrued thousands of followers. Wardrobes went viral. Carmy’s crisp, Carhartt-tinged uniform in FX’s The Bear made a lot of menswear enthusiasts say, “Yes, chef!” (The cooking drama’s costume design was led by Cristina Spiridakis and Courtney Wheeler, by the way.) And I can think of several other examples: Lydia Tár’s suits; Wednesday Addams’s TikTok-beloved modern goth garb; the custom Prada looks featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.

Adam DiMarco and Haley Lu Ricahrdson in The White Lotus.Photo: Fabio Lovino/HBO

One possible reason for the new attention and excitement around costume design is that the way we watch stuff has changed. As streaming has transformed into the default for TV (and, increasingly, film), our binge-watching sessions have become more obsessive and eagle-eyed. Because of social media, we’re also consuming content (virtually) together: There’s a peanut gallery of comments on Twitter and TikTok enriching the watching experience by highlighting tiny details and crafting witty memes. (As screenwriter James Capel told The Guardian this year, “Becoming a meme totally helps a show.”) Want to know the exact tee Carmy wears on The Bear? There’s a thread that meticulously unpacks the fan theory that it’s a Whitesville Japanese Made shirt. 

The era of TV bloat might be coming to an end or, at least, drastically slowing down next year. Reports suggest streaming platforms are cutting costs as formerly exuberant financial forecasts sour on the sector. And the future of theatrical releases remains in limbo after another uneven year at the box office. Yet what characters wear will likely only become more closely curated from here on out—if only to give fans more to obsess over at home. As our fascination with their outfits highlights, watching something nowadays tends to mean rewinding, taking a screenshot, captioning, posting, and scrolling. That’s how you spot the good stuff. 

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