Gillian Anderson's Wardrobe in "The Fall" Is Both Stylish and Feminist

Take your cues from Stella Gibson when dressing for work.
Publish date:
March 6, 2015
feminism, work wear, office wear, Netflix Binging


A lot has already been written about the feminist leanings of The Fall. Jamie Dornan plays serial killer Paul Specter, and Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, the cool and collected investigator on his trail. I recently binge-watched season 2 (which recently came to Netflix) in the course of one weekend and felt incredibly inspired by Gibson. Not only does she have some of the best feminist monologues in recent memory (the "woman fucks man" speech, the time she calls the male form an "abnormality," and her explanation about the difference between what men fear and what women fear are just three of my favorites), but she also has a killer work wardrobe.

Yes, out of all the feminist moments of The Fall, I decided to focus on Stella Gibson's silk blouses. I found it fascinating that in a male-dominated field, she didn't try to make herself seem more masculine with her clothes — which leads me to the first of three tips for dressing for work that I've gathered from Stella Gibson.

Dress for yourself.

In a November 2014 interview with Ginny Dougary of Radio Times, Anderson explained that she and Maggie Donnelly, the costumer of The Fall, reached an agreement about Gibson's wardrobe "instantly."

Anderson said she read between the lines of the script to know how Gibson would dress: "She isn't interested in dressing like a man; she's not using her clothes to get anything from anybody else. It's not a device. She's dressing for herself. She has good taste, you can just tell . . . But it's for herself and for herself alone."

Confidence will get you through even the worst wardrobe malfunctions.

Anderson went on to say that she is asked about Gibson's silk blouses in "literally every interview," which shows they've had quite the impact on the show's audience and critics.

Gibson's silk blouses also had an impact on the show's other characters. In the third episode of the first season, "Insolence & Wine," the button of Gibson's blouse comes undone during an important press conference about the murders. Even though she is barely showing cleavage, several people notice it, including Dornan's character, Specter. It isn't until season 2, however, when we finally hear from Specter himself how that one small slip in Gibson's usually impeccable way of dressing infuriated him.

In the season 2 episode "Beauty Hath Strange Power," Specter says, "What I noticed at the conference, her blouse, a silk blouse, was open . . . Gaping open. And she seemed so cool, so relaxed, so self-assured. Superior . . . And I thought, F*** you, you English bitch."

Obviously, Specter is a serial killer who has a lot of issues surrounding women and figures of authority, and something about Gibson's confidence inspires rage in him — and possibly confusion. (In a later scene, we see Specter sneak into Gibson's hotel room and touch and sniff her silk blouses.)

Other than Specter, though, nobody else made a big deal over Gibson's wardrobe malfunction — perhaps because she didn't either. She noticed it, quickly fixed the button, and went on as coolly as ever as if nothing had happened. It's all about how you carry yourself.

Use your wardrobe to change how people treat you.

I know point No. 3 seems to conflict point No. 1, but I'll explain.

Anderson said in the Radio Times interview that Gibson isn't interested in dressing like a man, but she actually does do so intentionally at one point in the show.

In the season 2 premiere "These Troublesome Disguises," she shows up to work in uniform, prompting her superior to say, "I almost didn't recognize you. Why are you wearing that?"

Dealing with controversy and the press, she admits, "I thought I should look as un-feminine as possible."

The point to be taken away from this is that Gibson knows how to dress for the reaction that she wants. She does it again at the end of the season.

In the season 2 finale, "What Is in Me Dark Illumine," Specter agrees to confess if he can speak to Gibson alone. Before the meeting, she changes out of her usual white silk blouse and into a low-cut red sweater. It's never remarked upon or explained; it's simply implied that Gibson is using her wardrobe as a tactical move.

This isn't to say that Gibson constantly goes out and buys a new wardrobe to please her boss or her latest serial killer buddy. Everything she wears is still very her; she just tweaks her daily outfits to show different facets of herself.

Inspired by the way Gibson kicks ass at her job while simultaneously looking stylish and sophisticated, I immediately started shopping around for a nice silk blouse. Sadly, I'm having a hard time finding any that are affordable and not covered in paisley, but here are three that I like at different price points:

Now I'm going to turn it over to you. Feel free to talk about The Fall, the best place to buy silk tops, or which fictional character's work wardrobe inspires you the most. (I have to admit, I really want all of Mindy Lahiri's clothes even though they're the polar opposite of Stella Gibson's.)

Follow Kelly on Twitter for more ramblings about clothes, feminism and pop culture: @picturesqueliar