We’ve talked around Ripper Street (2012-16) over the years, but we’ve never really addressed the show directly. The show begins in 1889, six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, which have remained thus far unsolved by H Division, the police force tasked with patrolling Whitechapel. Led by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (played by Matthew Macfadyen), the men of H Division confront increasingly violent and gruesome murders in the London slums, which may or may not be connected to the Ripper.
The remaining four seasons take place between 1890 and 1897, following Reid and his partner Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) and Long Susan (MyAnna Buring), the madam of a Whitechapel brothel and Jackson’s love interest. Reid’s wife Emily (Amanda Hale) pops in and out to provide personal drama for Reid. Meanwhile, Jackson gets embroiled in a love-triangle when he develops an attraction to Susan’s most profitable girl, Rose Erskine (Charlene McKenna).
The costumes were designed by two different designers during the two phases of the show’s run: Lorna Marie Mugan (2012-13) and Leonie Prendergast (2014-16). Mugan is known for her designs on six episodes of Peaky Blinders in 2014, and Prendergast designed the costumes for Becoming Jane (2007). Even though there’s a hand-off between designers from the initial season to the subsequent seasons, the costuming stays consistent, and except for a handful of WTFrock choices, they’re surprisingly, good. I know, I know, I have become so cynical over my years of writing for this blog that I’m always a little shocked when a TV show that hypes the more seedy and unsavory aspects of history has decent costuming, especially when the female characters are almost all sex workers or otherwise up to shady stuff, even if they are on the more fanciful side of things.
So, let’s look at some of what works in this show and some of what doesn’t!
Nearly everything the men wear falls under the “good” category. Like, you could pull just about any one of their outfits out of an episode and wear it to Dickens Fair without anyone blinking an eye. But of particular note are the suits worn by Macfadyen, which are noteworthy not just because he’s wearing them and I have a hard time tearing my gaze away from those gorgeous blue eyes…
Of the female leads, my favorite outfits are worn by Emily Reid and Long Susan:
Ok, now that I’ve praised the good stuff, let’s look at some of the outfits that made me wonder “what were they thinking?”
What did you think about the costumes in Ripper Street? Tell us about it in the comments!