You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover: Hanna Marin’s Rosewood Jacket in Pretty Little Liars

It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817)

Most of supernatural literature and cinema is based on “that willing suspension of disbelief” Coleridge referred to while explaining the differences between the goal of his poetry, in contrast with Wordsworth’s. As a viewer/reader, you are willing to believe in something which doesn’t exist in real life and enjoy it. The same trick is true for fictional situations which are apparently more common: think of Carrie Bradshaw, a columnist who is not wealthy, doesn’t even own the flat she lives in but can afford an incredible collection of designer shoes, clothes and accessories. This is very true when it comes to Marlene King’s Pretty Little Liars, the ABC tv show based on books by Sara Shepard. The mystery which the whole show is based on (what happened to the Queen Bee Alison DiLaurentis?) is not original [1] but it perfectly works. Huge doses of suspension of disbelief are needed to watch PLL, which I think is one of the reasons why it is so captivating and funny; the over-the-top adventures of the four protagonists and their outfits mustn’t be questioned, otherwise all the fictional building would crumble.

Take Hanna Marin’s recent “metamorphosis” (it’s more a personality crisis): the once-chubby and dorky Hanna Banana/Hefty Hanna, turned into a glamourous shoplifter at the beginning of the show, is now supposed to show her rebel side. The return of Ali into her life has crushed her certainties and now she doesn’t know who she is. The symbol of this is the over-decorated denim jacket she often wears.

normal_0434This change in style has been hailed by fans as “grungy” and “rock”, which is totally ridiculous. It’s true Hanna is currently sporting a different, scruffier style, but it’s far from expressing a plausible teenage angst. After all, Hanna’s rebellion includes drinking some alcohol, getting black highlights à la Christina Aguilera circa 2002/2003 and eating fried food, namely nothing socially unacceptable.

Photo_Jun_022C_12_00_00_AM_28529Yet I can see why this jacket has gathered so much attentions from the fans. It’s a clear departure from Hanna’s trendy style and gives her a rougher edge. This is a custom-made piece by the Los Angeles-based brand Forgotten Saints, famous for its stagewear (musicians like Slash, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Slipknot and Marilyn Manson are fans). Decorations include silver studs on the lower hem, cuffs and front pockets, a Union Jack pin on the left upper front and leather letters reading “Rock N Roll” on the left sleeve.

normal_0682The right sleeve is decorated with a gathered black denim band.

normal_0511The general look of the jacket is unfinished – see the unstitched hems of the denim patches, especially on sleeves and shoulders. It’s a statement piece which Hanna pairs with basic clothes like skinny pants, simple tank tops or t-shirts. One thing which leaves me perplexed about it is Hanna’s attitude when she wears it: a jacket like this should serve as an armour to make you feel stronger or more self-confident, but Hanna is more dejected and lost than ever. That’s why I consider this choice not plausible: it’s an external sign of inner discomfort but its importance is reduced since it serves no other goal. As I said before, it takes lots of suspension of disbelief to see Hanna as rebellious/aggressive as the jacket she’s wearing.

5x09The feeling of ridiculousness explodes when you see the back of the jacket, embellished with a flying eagle patch and “Rosewood” in letters. What’s the meaning of this? Is Hanna part of a street gang? Is Rosewood a place for street gangs? This makes me laugh. Hard. Carrying the name of your town/gang written on your clothing is meant to emphasize a strong bond with it (you belong there, you’re proud of it and you want people to know it), but what do we have here? A Wasp town where teenagers dress like top models and spend their days plotting and defending themselves against a faceless enemy. Hanna and her friends don’t seem proud of their town, and they surely don’t wave it as a honour badge, hence my perplexity.

prettylittleliarsvssonsofanarchy_jacketSince I’ve been spending my summer nights watching Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy, drawing a comparison between Hanna’s denim jacket and the motorcycle club leather vests comes natural. There’s coherence and strict rules in the design of SAMCRO leather cuts (each patch means something), charter included. If you compare the two, the Rosewood jacket kind of loses any meaning, but simply appears as an idle exercise in teenage style. In my opinion, this is a miss from Mandi Line, the awesome, heavily-tattooed costume designer of the show, who should have channelled her personal style to create a more plausible look for Rebel Hanna.

[1] David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks (1990/1991) and Marc Cherry’s Desperate Housewives are just two examples of narratives based on the same concept – a mysterious death/disappearance which sets events in motion.



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