Fashion Forward Killer: Queerbaiting, costuming and dyke camp in Killing Eve

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Villanelle’s eclectic, incongruous and spectacular fashion forward wardrobe in the BBC television drama series Killing Eve (2018-) supports the construction of a disruptive queer character, who draws attention to themself through theatricality, exaggeration and humour. Through the close textual analysis of key looks from the first three seasons of Killing Eve, this paper will question to what extent costuming is used to queerbait the audience. Drawing and building upon critical work on queer style and camp (Bolton 2019; Clements 2018; Nielsen 2016; Geczy & Karaminas 2013; Vänskä 2007), we will argue that through the combination of androgyny, hyper-femme aesthetics and subversion, Villanelle’s fashionable costuming offers a sumptuous, seductive sartorial visual narrative dominated by dyke / lesbian camp. We would argue that this is positioned in direct opposition to Eve’s ever-increasingly drab, crumpled, utilitarian uniform of Uniqlo vests and M&S suits. Moving beyond the flamboyant hyper-femme fashions that have garnered such journalistic and fan attention, we will firstly focus upon Villanelle’s butch-femme aesthetic and how her suits intersect and diverge from iconic queer appropriations of masculine attire within popular visual culture. We will then examine how pockets, together with fabric and tailoring offer a visual narrative of gyno- and phallic-centric sexual symbolism centred on passion, power and violence. And lastly, we will examine how the fashion forward garments by Molly Goddard, Alexander McQueen and Charlotte Knowles are infused through performance by artifice, swagger and cockiness that speaks to dyke / lesbian camp. Although Villanelle’s costume and performance may appear to queerbait the audience, it offers a love story that also pastiches a long history of queer style in popular visual culture. In reducing Villanelle to a series of surface appearances and citations, such an interplay simultaneously renders Villanelle safe from becoming defined as yet another lesbian killer who is mad, bad and dangerous to know. References: Bolton, Andrew (2019), Camp: notes on fashion. New York: Met Museum. Clements, Mikaella (2018), ‘Notes on dyke camp’, The Outline. 17 May. Accessed 7 April 2021. Geczy, Adam and Karaminas, Vicki (2013), Queer Style. London and New York: BloomsburyNielsen, Elly-Jean (2016), ‘Lesbian camp: An unearthing’, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 20(1), pp.116-135.Vänskä, Annamari (2007), ‘Be spectacular and over the top. On the genealogy of lesbian camp’, SQS 2, no. 2, pp66-80.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Apr 2021
EventFashion, Style and Queer Culture. - Drexel University, United States
Duration: 21 May 202122 May 2021


ConferenceFashion, Style and Queer Culture.
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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