Find Out How the Mutton Sleeves Get Made In This Featurette on Costumes for The Alienist

This TV adaptation of The Alienist is the thing I’m most looking forward to in 2018, particularly as it comes out in that dreary stretch of January when you most want to think about serial killers. Dakota Fanning plays Sarah Howard, the first woman to work in the New York Police Department, and I think her outfits in this series might help bring the corset back.


TNT shared a visit Fanning made to her old costumes, plus interviews with designers Michael Kaplan and Rudolph Mance. Kaplan explains that all of the main actors had bespoke costumes designed specifically for them, and he immersed himself in the fashion history of the era. Howard’s “leg of mutton” sleeves are noted for being a fad that only lasted for 8 years. That seems long by today’s standards, but it could have been easy to miss if these guys were less exacting.

Also mentioned are Howard’s penchant for ties, her need to look “feminine yet strong,” and her very fancy off-the-shoulder ensemble for a night out at Delmonico’s. This book started a long standing fantasy about eating a stuffed peacock at Delmonico’s, and if I ever save up enough money to do so I know what I’ll be wearing: sweatpants, because I can’t afford bespoke tailoring.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin


1890's gigot (aka leg o’mutton, Donna Maria) sleeves have got nothing on 1830's gigot sleeves.