Declassifying the Mystery of How Special Agent Dana Scully Looked So Good in Those Giant Suits

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Screenshot: Hulu

The X-Files premiered in 1993, gifting America with our first glimpse of a 25-year-old Gillian Anderson playing Special Agent Dana Scully, who was somehow both a medical doctor and an FBI agent at an age just five years older than the fictional Dr. Dougie Howser, boy genius, would have been when his show was canceled that same year. So who’s the genius now, Howser? Certainly not you, who never even used your medical degree to autopsy aliens or monsters. Hack.

Perhaps to offset the fact that Anderson was far too young for the role in which she had been cast, or maybe because it was the ’90s and shapeless garments were very in, or possibly due to the fact that the fledgling show did not have the budget to buy Gillian Anderson any clothing that fit, Gillian Anderson’s early-season suits are legendary for their frumpy appeal. Perfect squares in shape and generally the color of unfired pottery, those Seasons 1-3 X-Files suits positively scream “This is how a no-nonsense lady doctor detective dresses, right?” And the answer to that question is a resounding, it sure as shit is now.

As the show became a hit (and Anderson aged into somewhat believably looking old enough for all her character’s credentials) someone in the wardrobe thought to nip in the waists of Scully’s suits and give Gillian Anderson a sleek chin-length bob that more closely resembled the impossibly attractive, yet undeniably competent detective character that would become Anderson’s trademark, in The X-Files but also in other roles like The Fall.

But before she was Gillian Anderson Couture Detective, M.D., she was Dana Scully who owned hot rollers and borrowed suits from a much taller, spinster aunt, and yet somehow managed awaken all of us sexually in them. How did she do it? Well let’s just gather some clues from early episodes.

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