In Mindhunter, the newly formed Behavioral Science Unit conducts interviews with convicted killers in order to understand what makes someone commit the most heinous of crimes. Understanding methodology and motivation will help profile active killers, therefore saving lives. Patterns are integral to the groundbreaking work psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and FBI Agents Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) are performing, they're also a big part of Wendy Carr’s highly covetable wardrobe.
Style inspiration probably isn't on the list of things you'd expect to find when sitting down to watch a show based on real-life serial killers and those who catch them. Exploring the origins of profiling? Sure! Learning about notorious killers who terrified communities in the 1970s? Of course! Googling vintage patterned blouses? Not so much. Whether or not costume designer Jennifer Starzyk intended to give the thrift store market a boost, she has made Wendy Carr a bonafide TV style icon.
On Fringe, Anna Torv played FBI Agent Olivia Dunham and wore what can be best described as contemporary Fed attire — a black pantsuit with a white button-down. The G-Man look has changed little since the days of Eliot Ness, with only the silhouette of a suit and the style of tie betraying what decade it is. In Mindhunter, Holden (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) wear the standard government uniform. Tench leans into a ‘70s aesthetic in his choice of patterned ties that can be best described as wallpaper-adjacent. Holden’s ties are simple and skinnier to denote his youth. Enter Wendy Carr, she is no longer working in a strictly academic facility, but she isn’t an FBI Agent either. She has authority because of her expertise, but she is also an outsider.
Even though Wendy doesn’t dress like anyone else at Quantico, her costumes are a visual bridge between Holden and Tench. Those patterned ties Tench favors are more gauche than Wendy’s geometric prints, but they're similar enough to draw a comparison. Blues, greys and black feature heavily in Wendy’s color palette, which also mirrors Holden’s rotation of suits. The second season plays on this aspect, so even when she is frustrated at her role within the team, there is unity. A second-season moment in an elevator serves as a callback to the moment in Season 1 when the BSU team got a dressing down from the brass (but also a whole lot of funding). Both scenes occur in the fourth episode, which can’t be a coincidence.
When all three team members are in a room or frame, it will always be Wendy who pulls focus (even when she is out of focus). Obviously, as the only woman in a scene, she commands attention. But her clothing also draws the show's gaze to her.
Collars so wide they spread across the lapels of her blazer or cream trench, patterns that resemble the Anthora coffee cup design or a Magic Eye print, and perfectly rolled cuffs are all part of the Dr. Wendy Carr signature look. Even when she isn’t at work, her clothes are office-ready. This is the woman who wears a pencil skirt on a bowling date (and refuses to wear the shoes for hygiene reasons) and doesn’t appear to own a top that doesn’t have buttons or a pussy-bow. The only casual attire we ever see her in is a bathrobe, and even that resembles the blouses she wears to work. Wendy Carr’s closet is the definition of grown-up attire, which is also part of the appeal. As someone who works from home, my "office" garb also leans heavily into patterns, but they are often clashing and everything comes from the loungewear section of Uniqlo. Comfy? Yes. But sophisticated it is not.
David Fincher has a reputation for being meticulous, which is matched in the details of the Mindhunter costume design. Nothing is out of place. The gold belts, buttons, and watch perfectly match whatever skirt or dress it is paired with. When she does wear a deeper color, a burgundy pussy-bow blouse is her go-to. She is not the kind of person who would spill coffee down her cream pencil skirt. When she attends FBI parties, she opts for a black frock that is the opposite of cocktail attire. In those particular rooms, she does not want to stand out. She won’t be mistaken for a wife or secretary. When her boss unzips the neckline of her dress to reveal a bit more skin — lawsuit, please — to make her seem more appealing to the guy in charge of the purse strings, she is visibly (and understandably) disgusted at being served up like a piece of meat. In an eye-roll worthy moment, Warren (Robert Farrior), explains that he expected "something not so form fitted," he thought she would be wearing more tweed.
Considering her area of expertise, nothing Wendy wears is an accident. When she briefly gets to interview subjects, she wears more muted tones. First a blouse with little cross details, followed by a simple white top paired with a black skirt suit. These outfits are both in her typical clothing wheelhouse, but again, she doesn’t want to draw attention when sitting opposite a subject.
Even though the ‘70s had some pretty wild sartorial moments, costume designer Jennifer Starzyk wanted to keep the three leads as timeless as possible. For Wendy, she drew inspiration from an all-time movie style icon: Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen in Network. Like Wendy, Diana was also working in a predominantly male environment but refused to diminish her femininity.
During the second season, as Holden’s attention is in Atlanta and Tench deals with issues at home, Wendy is pushed to the sidelines. She also has her own personal drama as she gets the Cool Girl dating storyline of the year (taking over from Holden). Her girlfriend, Kay (Lauren Glazier) tends bar, her wardrobe consisting of fitted beer-branded T-shirts and flared jeans. When Kay does dress up, she takes a Diane Keaton route, throwing a vest over a button-down.
Separating the three leads was necessary for certain aspects of the season's story, focusing on the Atlanta Child Killings of 1979. However, Wendy’s screen time suffered as a result. Netflix has yet to renew Mindhunter, so consider this a plea of sorts: There is still plenty of story to tell (including the episode-framing BTK murders), and when it comes to Dr. Wendy Carr, a lot more blouses to covet.
People are talking about Mindhunter in our forums. Join the conversation.
Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.