Television Tuesday :: maybe I wear too much pink [a sartorial analysis of Pamela Swynford de Beaufort]

4 Dec

(Leave me alone, I just love using her full-full name.  It’s so fancy.  [Sidenote within a sidenote: once when, uhm, doing some recreational internet reading on the Plantagenet era, because I am awesome, I noticed that there was a woman named Katherine Swynford who was the mistress and later wife of the first Duke of Lancaster, John Gaunt.  Their illegitimate children bore the surname Beaufort, after a property of theirs.  There’s a True Blood fansite that gets into this also, but I didn’t find it until now; basically, the conclusion is that we still don’t know if Pam is distantly descended from this line or if she just adopted the name to sound, well, fancy.  I sort of like the latter, personally, because goodness knows Pam costumes herself in other ways, tying into the rest of this post.])

There should be no surprise to anyone that my second hit of clothesmeta is all about my darling Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten).  More than once have I made actual audible whimper noises in regards to Pam’s clothes, and even disregarding that, Pam is one of those characters whose clothes say a lot about her.  It also ties into the ambiguity of her fancy-ass surname because while she’s basically always presenting, it’s tricky to know which presentation is her and which is what she needs someone to see.  And this is beautiful as well, because they very well all could be her, just different parts of her.  True Blood is the kind of show where it’s easy to assume characters are switching sides/alignments/loyalties/what have you: Eric, Bill, Tara, Jessica, Nora, Jason, etcetera.  But while Pam’s motivations may shift to some extent, and while she may be presenting, she’s also quite easy to read on one hand.  Other characters may be perplexed, but we as an audience have learned that she’s fairly straightforward in a lot of ways.  And a lot of her presenting is tied up in her costuming.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

1×04, “Escape From Dragon House.”  This is our first introduction to Pam (or Eric [Alexander Skarsgard], or Fangtasia and the actual vampire nightlife for that matter) and there is no mistaking that meeting Pam means meeting Vampire Pam, capitalization necessary.  It’s no surprise that Vampire Pam is not uniquely, but often, sighted in Fangtasia during business hours: to an extent, she’s a crowd pleaser.  She’s giving the patrons of their bar exactly what they came for, which is the idea of the pale, made-up, often-leather-clad, sexy, vaguely kink-possible vampires they’ve been fed their whole lives but in the safe context of mainstreaming.  This has it all: reddish lipstick, alluding-to-Gothic jewelry, everything leather, fingerless gloves, a corseted dress.  (My Pam is the queen of corseting.)  She is confident to the point of arrogance and highly aware of what she’s doing.  Another interesting thing to note is that this outfit and several of Pam’s others mirror things Jessica dons in season five when patronizing Fangtasia.  Her little black dress wasn’t a corset and her fingerless gloves were fishnet, but it was a similar effect: essentially, this is a vampire uniform.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

It’s not until 1×08, “The Fourth Man in the Fire,” that we see off-duty Pam, Pink Pam as it were (there’s no coincidence that you absolutely never see her in a pink corset, I’m sure of it).  Pink Pam is much more casual.  Her jewelry and makeup are much more subtle, though still present: she is the kind of woman who, as we’ll see, does not ever go completely natural.  It would be easy to think that Pink Pam is the real her and Vampire Pam is a costume, but this is still very possibly a sort of costume.  It’s just the costume of off-duty respectability.  For goodness’ sake, that’s a cable-knit sweater and khakis.  It’s tame on purpose, because not all business, even vampire business, calls for Vampire Pam.  (Actually, a lot of Vampire Pam’s business is for humans.)

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

As we see here, evidenced in shots from 3×01, “Bad Blood,” and 3×02, “Beautifully Broken.”  Sookie (Anna Paquin) appears at Fangtasia that night in search of a disappeared Bill (Stephen Moyer), and there’s no reason that she won’t run into Vampire Pam in all of her glory.  This is actually one of the more ridiculous Vampire Pam outfits, and I mean that lovingly; it’s one of the first instances of the recurring “cut holes in all the things” theme to her clothes, so I’m not complaining.  Also, this hairstyle is similar to ones later seen in the Prostitute Pam flashbacks, though not in either of the pictures used below.  But later, we catch Pam off the clock: she’s still at Fangtasia, because that’s where she almost always is, but she’s not presenting to the crowd.  She’s slightly more comfortable, presumably, in another pink sweater (gold jewelry and buttons, of course).  Pink Pam is sort of a grown-up Regina George, but more mean because she’s disinterested than mean for pure cruelty’s sake.  (Most of the time.)  Pink Pam is very aware of what she presents, hence the post title, but it’s interesting that she presents Pink Pam, the colorful and presumably cooperative Pam, largely to other vampires.  They think she’s nice because she needs them to.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

Including this mostly to point out two things.  One, at least not-corseted Pam wears a leopard-print bra with pink straps, which is oddly endearing.  I am not an animal-print person in the slightest, but Pam pulls it off.  (Much like I strangely don’t scream every time I see the matching hot pink Uggs that go with the velour track suit there.)  Also, this bra is almost girlish.  Those pink straps have a bow at the bottom of them, for goodness’ sake.  It’s cute.  Two, many of Pam’s jammies and hanging-out outfits are interchangeably used, and many of them are velour track suits.  But I guess not taking one’s jewelry or makeup off to sleep must be a vampire thing, because that second picture is right when she’s woken up, to which the only accurate response is damn.  Vampire Pam also appears when she needs to assert power in some way, and given the conflict with Nan Flanagan in the scenes preceding and following this, it’s only reasonable that Pink Pam and Vampire Pam are overlapping slightly here.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

One of my all-time favorite tumblr posts was one derived from an interview, about Pam’s Barbie collection.  And really, I think it explains so much about Pam as a character.  Anyway, why I bring it up now and not in regards to one of the listed outfits is because the above brown leather/camoflauge combination, circa 3×11, “Fresh Blood,” and 3×12, “Evil is Going On,” is emotionally akin to the listed Safari Barbie outfit from season one.  This serves the same basic purpose; she’s had several outfits over time in this basic color scheme, and they’re almost always in similar situations.  Dealing with other people’s crap with a sarcastic smile, taking care of business but not in such a way that she necessarily needs to slip into the also listed Kill Something Barbie vibe.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

This contradiction that isn’t, circa 4×01, “She’s Not There,” is interesting.  This is one of the only instances of Pink Pam being theoretically presented to the non-supernatural public.  The Barbie post calls this outfit Ladies Who Lunch Barbie, and I’d also attribute descriptions like First Lady or grown-up Elle Woods to it.  But the reason is simple: they’re doing vampire PR, of course Nan would want the allegedly nonthreatening “nice girl” Pam to be talking.  After all, that’s what Pink Pam is there for: lulling people into a sense of security.  This is the fanciest instance of Pink Pam, too, because while Pam may own multiple Barbie-colored track suits, like hell is she going to be seen on television in anything that’s less than perfect.  Later in that episode, though, she’s back to leather corset Vampire Pam.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

4×04, “I’m Alive and On Fire,” one of the only times we see Vampire Pam outside of Fangtasia, and that’s simple: she’s here to threaten Marnie (Fiona Shaw).  She’s showing she means business, and if business isn’t achieved, she has no qualms about dolng some killing.  Also, this is my (now second-)favorite Pam outfit of all time.  Then by the next episode, 4×05, “Me and the Devil,” we have Cursed Pam, who is almost wholly covered (a rarity for Pam) and, you know, decomposing, which is gross, but I read some actual official clothesmeta about this once, and I think it may have actually been Kristin Bauer van Straten herself who described all of this as Pam “mourning her beauty.”

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

Nooow it’s time for Kill Something Barbie in a couple of variations, circa 4×08, “Spellbound,” and 4×11, “Soul of Fire.”  The first picture here brings up a point I think I’ve mentioned before: every self-respecting vampire owns a leather jacket.  (One of these days, I’m going to make this a tumblr photoset, I swear, because it is so true.)  I include a sliver of Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) wearing her leather jacket in the second photo to discuss something interesting about that whole series of scenes: yes, Eric, Pam, Jess, and Bill all go to be badass in their all-black, but unless I’m misremembering Bill’s outfit, Jess is the only one who actually wears a leather jacket in that scene.  Eric and Pam’s jackets certainly aren’t leather, at least.  And why is this?  Well, they’re all being badasses, but Eric and Bill both offer a different kind of bravery in their prospective self-sacrifice for Sookie’s sake, which is less of an active bravery and anyway doesn’t ultimately result in either of them getting their goal (Sookie’s affections).  Pam is a badass, but she also messes the hell up and has a serious falling out with Eric.  Jess is the only one who comes out of this scene relatively unharmed, even though that isn’t to last.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

I had to talk about the 5×01, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and 5×02, “Authority Always Wins” sweatsuit.  Of course I did.  Television canon Pam has her track suits, but they are immaculate.  They are stylish.  They did not come from Wal-Mart and they do not have kittens, flowers, and butterflies on them.  (I’m not sure if they rushed out to the 24-hour Wal-Mart to pick this up or if Sookie just had it laying around for… such emergencies?… but later in the season, Sookie is seen wearing a kitten sweatshirt, so.)  Presumably, Pam didn’t do much to her hair between turning Tara (Rutina Wesley), still in the above badass-but-not-leather outfit, and going to ground with her, but I’d just like to point out how Pam is apparently incapable of simple ponytails.  Even those have to be a little fancy.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

Finally time for Prostitute Pam, circa 5×02, “Authority Always Wins,” and 5×03, “Whatever I Am, You Made Me.”  There really isn’t too terribly much analysis here, other than an observation that Pam has been costuming since she was a human and corseting just as long, but I have to throw them in.  (I think the latter dress, when viewed from all angles, was the one that got the loudest gasp out of me upon first sight.)  Prostitute Pam has more than a few things in common with Joanie (Kim Dickens) of Deadwood, actually.  Uhm.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

Finally, proper Vampire (Barbie) Pam is back, circa 5×05, “Let’s Boot and Rally” and 5×08, “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  In the interim, she’s had a couple of corsets, some vinyl, but this red dress is the first major reclaiming of leather.  This isn’t just Vampire Pam, this is Vampire Pam In Charge, with the bloodred lipstick and the hair full of secrets.  The second picture there represents what is actually my favorite Pam outfit as of seeing it, and I include Tara somewhat in the picture because the way that new mommy Pam not only dresses herself like a Barbie but dresses her new little girl in similar ways makes me so happy.  They’ve both got the leather and/or vinyl, the Asian-inspired dresses with giant cleavage windows, the corsets or waist cinchy belts over top.  It’s not so matchy-matchy as to be saccharine, but it’s Pam’s way of trying to make a place for Tara in her life.

pam de beaufort (kristin bauer van straten)

Finally, we have the hybridized return of Kill Something Barbie, 5×10, “Gone Gone Gone” and 5×12, “Save Yourself.”  The before-seen-on-my-blog white leather jacket (which you can also buy through ModCloth, I learned) is interesting because, as said, hybridizing.  It’s sort of Kill Something Barbie with an emphasis on Barbie: she’s being made to play nice by the douchey new sheriff, she’s got white leather, pink lipstick, but she also has enough silver (colored, at least) studs to poke the hell out of someone.  By the time she’s in vampire jail for taking the blame for Tara’s so-called crime, she’s still got some leather there with the corset and buckles, because she is being a badass in several ways, but it’s also one of those corsets and tops with cleavage windows things.  She’s got pants like she knew she’d be kicking some ass, but she’s also dolled up.  Because on True Blood, ladies either rescue themselves or get rescued by other ladies after trying to rescue that lady in the first place, and she needs to have nice curly romance novel hair for her beautiful kiss of epic.

–your fangirl heroine.

got studying to do

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