All of the agent characters of NCIS have very strict rules of dress, but not Abby Sciuto.
Her outlandish style, unconstricted by traditional professionalism or the demands of fieldwork, has come together thanks to the actor who plays her, Pauley Perrette, and NCIS's costume supervisor, Rachel Good.
Standing in "Abby's closet" — a small room whose wardrobe contents have spilled out into the hallway — Perrette and Good finished each other's sentences as they discussed the hours and hours they've both spent talking about What Abby Would Wear.
"It's morphed over the years," Perrette said, both as she and Good have learned more about the character and as Perrette's gotten more comfortable prioritizing comfort. ("If her feet aren't seen, she'll wear slippers," Good said — the costume supervisor takes the tags out of Abby's clothes so they don't itch Perrette and puts insoles in all of Abby's very chunky boots.)
Abby used to wear more pants, and now she wears more dresses (which are more weather-versatile — consider that the show is set on the East Coast and the show is filmed in the decidedly less chilly Santa Clarita, California); she used to wear more black, and now she wears colors.
"At a certain point, we started thinking of Abby as an anime, and when we realized that, we went to color as well," Good said. "She never ages — she's like this cartoon," Perrette said, explaining the character's aesthetic. Perrette even famously adopted an extremely time-consuming process to dye her hair black after she developed a severe allergy to the hair dye she'd used in the past because Abby cannot alter her hair color, the actor said. "You don't want that character to suddenly change — you don't want Charlie Brown with long hair."
With that in mind, she and Good save just about everything Abby wears, which is why this closet is so packed, and why it has so many shoes.
So. Many. Shoes.
It's odd how conservative some of Abby's clothes look in her closet — a dress from Kmart had no edge on a hanger, but somehow with the addition of cuffs, black hair, tattoos, and an Abby je ne sais quoi, a simple item could look punk.
"It's like Christmas morning when I go down to set," Good said. "It's always better than I imagine."
Pauley Perrette and Rachel Good talked to BuzzFeed News about some of their favorite looks from the last 13 seasons:
1. "I Heart Nerds" Tee
2. Evil Christmas Sweater
3. Mrs. Claus
4. The Ill-Fitting Court Suit
5. Jimmy Palmer's Bachelor Party Ringleader
6. Marilyn Monroe
When she wore it: Season 4
Why it means something: Good, for her part, panicked when she saw the script: It was after Labor Day, and she recalled fretting, "Where the heck am I gonna get white shoes?!" (The answer? A church store.) Perrette said she spent the entire day petrified she would get lipstick on this white dress.
7. Rosie the Riveter
8. Skull Jammies
When she wore it: Season 7
Why it means something: Good was excited to imagine what Abby might wear as pajamas, and she made an entire fluffy skull-accented robe for Abby that the character didn't actually wear in this episode. Abby did use it as a blanket when she fled a shared room to avoid McGee's inevitable diarrhea. Good is saving the robe and the pajamas, because who knows when they may need them again.
9. X-Ray Poodle Skirt
When she wore it: Season 3
Why it means something: The script for this episode described a bowling outfit, so Good went a traditional route with a skull twist — the skull and crossbones on the back of the pink jacket were cut out of a purse and sewn onto the jacket. "It's kind of a no-brainer," Good said of the skeleton poodle.
Both Perrette and Good saw the revelation that she bowls with nuns as a turning point for the character — a moment when you really see how important her faith is to her, and how open and empathetic she is. Her costumes began to play more with Catholic themes: "I must own every over-the-knee stocking in the world," Good said. (Indeed, there are at least two really big boxes of socks in the closet, along with a big shelf of socks.)
10. Skull and Spiders Parasol...
When she wore it: Season 13
Why it means something: This parasol was almost a character itself — three characters remark on it, and later in "Lockdown," when Abby is trapped in a hostage-type situation, the parasol serves as part of her murder-stalling plan. Good had to make a parasol that was attention-grabbing indoors, and the wardrobe department ended up inlaying a black parasol with silvery spiderweb fabric, wrapping the handle in a silver metal bracelet, and affixing tiny little skulls to the ends of the umbrella rods. Good initially wanted to have handcuffs on the handle so the parasol would dangle from Abby's wrist, but Perrette pointed out that she "didn't want to have anything that she could use as a weapon [in the hostage situation], because she would." So the handcuffs were nixed.
Abby's relationship with parasols goes way back. "Davey Havok never goes outside without a parasol," Perrette said, recalling her own time on the Warped Tour with her all-girl punk band. Thus, like the lead singer of AFI, Abby also never goes outside without a parasol. Perrette personally ordered the character's first parasol online, she said.