Unravelling the Costume Threads of Murdoch Mysteries

21 June 2023
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There are few things I love more than a good costume drama—and there are few Canadian shows more synonymous with costume drama than Murdoch Mysteries. I’m also a textile lover—my husband refers to costume dramas as my “fabric shows”—so it was an utter delight to sit down with Murdoch Mysteries costume designer Joanna Syrokomla for a chat about all things costume, fabric, and Murdoch.

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The Murdoch Era

Murdoch Mysteries is a police procedural drama set in Toronto around the turn of the twentieth century. The show begins in 1895 and with each season time and fashion advance by one year. Now, sixteen seasons in, the show has entered the 1910s. For the female characters, this means changing hemlines, waistlines, and sleeve shapes, while for male characters the signifiers are more subtle, and include changing shirt collar shapes.

Murdoch Margaret Brackenreid

A dress for Murdoch Mysteries character Margaret Brackenreid, showing the transitional fashion away from the blouson tops and dropped waists that were more common earlier in the show’s timeline. The dress was part of Murdoch Mysteries: The Exhibition at THEMUSEUM, Kitchener, in late 2022 and early 2023. 

Syrokomla explains that the earlier dresses were easier to fit and to reuse between characters and seasons; very full skirts and sleeves can be made to include extra fabric for letting out, but the more tailored silhouettes of pre–World War I fashions don’t allow for as much flexibility, so more pieces must be made for individual characters.

All images by Anne Blayney unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © Anne Blayney except as indicated.
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About Anne Blayney

Anne Blayney is a conference planner and knitter based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She is a former contributor and editor at Sewcialists.com.

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