Chatty former public relations agent Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) brought a touch of London chic to “the rurals” when she relocated to the little Cotswolds village of Carsley in S1. Agatha, based on the lead character in MC Beaton’s 25 mystery novels, also brought a sharp mind, wit and a detective’s nose for sniffing out crime. “She can manipulate people quite well into talking to her. She’s utterly confident in her own ability at what she’s doing in terms of crime solving. She’s had a whole life of being a PR executive and pushing her way into situations. So, she has a sublime confidence, doesn’t she? She’s also got a fantastic wardrobe,” says Ashley.
When Agatha returns in S2, she’ll be putting her high-heeled best foot forward again as she deals with blackmail and murder in a case involving the local hairdresser, along with tackling shady dealings in the village next door. We can expect some shenanigans involving a live duck, and even a saucy lingerie burlesque number.
Whatever happens, Agatha will be dressed for the occasion thanks to the series’ costume designer, Sue Thomson. “In some ways she still is a bit of a fish out of water, because she makes a very concerted effort to look like a fish out of water. She's continuing to dress in the way and the style which she's always dressed, in full make-up and stilettos through the countryside,” says Ashley.
She adds, “Agatha has the sharp, bold, figure-hugging clothes, the tiny little heels, and the handbag poised, because she never goes anywhere without her handbag, because you just never know. What woman goes anywhere without a handbag? No one.”
“As Agatha was in PR before she moved to the Cotswolds, I decided to keep an urban look which would allow her to stand out in the countryside. I went for clear, strong blocks of colour and neat figure-hugging shapes. The designers we favoured are mainly Sandro, Karen Millen, Ted Baker, Versace, Zadig and Voltaire and Ba&sh with a sprinkling of Top Shop,” says Sue. Ashley, who is no stranger to the high fashion realm since she played seamstress Christina McKinney in sitcom Ugly Betty, adds, “The wardrobe and haircut are quite something. The extremely sharp power bob, the four-inch stilettos and figure-hugging clothes say ‘Here I am, I’m a woman, deal with it.’”
It’s thanks to Ugly Betty that Agatha is able to clatter about the countryside in those fabulous shoes. “I cut my teeth in heels when I worked on Ugly Betty in America because it was all about glamour and heels over there. That's where I learnt to walk in high heels, to be honest,” says Ashley. But she warns, “Don’t attempt to do it in real life, it doesn’t fit well when I’m out walking a dog. But that doesn’t stop Agatha. She literally walks through gravel and fields, and scales walls all in a high heel, which I think is part of the fun of playing her, actually. Any opportunity for a pratfall and a comedy pop up, I’m there.”
When moving to the country, most retirees immediately adopt a kind of protective countryside camouflage: stone or sandy beige trousers, mouldering grass clipping-green pullovers, and hunter-green wellies all day, every day. That’s a big no thank you for Agatha. Sue dresses her to dazzle the peaceful countryside. “I use vivid greens, cobalt blues, fuchsia pinks, bright oranges and strong yellows, mixed with animal prints, geometric patterns and some florals. Shoes, belts and bags are our main accessories, trying not to make everything too matchy, which keeps an edge to the whole look. Recently, we have been introducing statement pieces of jewellery to add a quirky element,” she reveals.
While Agatha’s budget can stretch to bright coloured separates, pant suits and dresses, for those of us on a budget, Sue recommends concentrating colour in our accessories, particularly in winter. Scarves, bags, gloves and berets can add enough colour to jazz up plain old black.
Agatha Raisin S2 starts on Friday, 26 June on BBC First (DStv 119) at 20:00
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