Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, casino cocktail waitress and human lie detector
Nevada, November 2021
Series: Poker Face
Episode: “Dead Man’s Hand” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: January 26, 2023
Director: Rian Johnson
Creator: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Trayce Gigi Field
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Despite the mysteries that drive each episode, it was no mystery to me that Poker Face would immediately become one of my favorite new shows of 2023. As intended, this case-of-the-week series could softly be described as a modern update to Columbo, with its “howcatchem” structure (rather than the traditional murder-mystery “whodunit”) and a scrappy lead character with an uncanny ability to read people, here brought to life by the amazing Natasha Lyonne, who celebrates her 44th birthday today.
Of course, Lyonne’s Charlie Cale isn’t a cop—as she’s quick to remind people. Instead, she’s on the run—in a distinctive car, like Lieutenant Columbo—adding an itinerant element suggestive of the ’60s TV series The Fugitive as Charlie is forced to earn her living through odd jobs in various cities all while eluding capture… though it’s not intrepid police hounding Charlie, but rather Cliff Legrand (Benjamin Bratt), the slick enforcer of a dangerous gambling syndicate.
Lyonne explained to The Hollywood Reporter that she found further character inspiration for Charlie Cale among Gene Hackman in Night Moves, Elliot Gould’s interpretation of Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, and Peter Falk in both Columbo and Wings of Desire, as well as Jeff Bridges’ relaxed stoner at the heart of The Big Lebowski.
We first meet Charlie living a comfortably simple and booze-soaked existence in her trailer, parked in the desert outside the Reno-like city where she earns her living as a cocktail waitress in a casino run by the crooked Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrian Brody), who ultimately calls on Charlie and her innate ability to detect lies or, more accurately, to call bullshit! when she hears it.
What’d He Wear?
Departing from the boho-Manhattanite garb that Natasha Lyonne wears in her Emmy-winning Netflix series Russian Doll, costume designer Trayce Gigi Field explained to Jason Diamond for GQ that she developed a “1970s meets Western meets desert” mood board that ran the gamut from classic rock stars to California Split. “And while some stars might give no input or—possibly worse—too much to say about their styling, Lyonne was instantly sold on Field’s vision. And Lyonne pulls off the looks—which Field says incorporated a mix of new and vintage, from brands including YSL and Banana Republic—like she’s wearing her own clothes.”
We’re introduced to Charlie before her workday begins, with a morning ritual that includes a cardigan and a Coors Light. She crosses from her trailer to a distinctive cardigan draped over a folding chair, pulling it on and tying the sash before settling in for her pre-shift brewski.
Recalling The Dude’s famous Pendleton sweater in The Big Lebowski, Charlie wears a Banana Republic Heritage Jacquard Cardigan, reissued within the past few years when it retailed for $190. “Our designers found this geometric, jacquard pattern used in a piece from the Banana Republic archives and chose to revive it here in a shawl-collar silhouette, knitted from one of our softest, most-sustainably minded yarns,” read the description.
Though Banana Republic described the color as “latte cream”, the finished look is more of a charcoal-on-tan jacquard Southwestern design of triangles and squares, crafted in a comfortably thick blend of 42% organic cotton, 32% recycled polyester, and 26% wool. (“Jacquard” refers more to the weaving method than the design, consisting of a motif woven directly into the fabric—often using differently colored yarns—rather than a print.) The shawl collar and sash are trimmed with charcoal edges, and the ribbed sleeves and hem are a solid tan. Detailed with patch-style hip pockets, the sweater offers a loose, relaxed fit that extends to Lyonne’s legs at mid-thigh.Apropos Poker Face‘s ’70s vibe, Charlie’s rust-brown shorts are from the retro-influenced brand Hammies, specifically the 2″-inseam “Women’s Fall Short” (MSRP $74.98) made from a stretch corduroy blend of 98% cotton and 2% elastic. “This short style was popularized in the 1970s in southern California and for a decade it was the staple of skateboarders, surfers, rollerskaters, camp counselors, Tom Selleck, and many more,” describes Hammies. “Fast-forward to 2017: Hammies has revived the once forgotten shorts in all of their primary-colored and wide-waled corduroy glory and once again, all was right with the world.”
The shorts have a copper snap closure, and the waistband is elasticized across the back. The two large patch pockets on the front extend from the waistline to the hem with curved openings, and there’s an additional patch pocket over the back right.
Tucked into her shorts, Charlie wears a dark heathered gray short-sleeved crew-neck T-shirt that isn’t one of her retro-styled band tees like the fan-favorite Fleetwood Mac shirt she later wears.
Charlie continues dressing for comfort in her slipper boots, identified as the “Aval” style from Blazin Roxx, a division of M&F Western Products. (While currently sold out as of April 2023, these have frequently appeared affordably listed on Walmart and Zulilly.)
Though marketed as a red-and-blue colorway, the calf-high textile uppers are an Aztec-inspired geometric print in brick-red, slate-blue, navy, gray, and tan, accented with brown faux shearling lining and brown rawhide tassel accents laced through a single large gunmetal-finished eyelet on each side atop the shafts. The brown studded rubber soles allow Charlie to effectively wear them as boots while out and about.
Though I don’t believe either of these pieces reappear in Charlie’s “road closet” once she goes on the run and cycles through many of the same pieces, one constant of her wardrobe is her Arizona trucker hat, which Field explained to Fashionista‘s Fawnia Soo Hoo served a practical purpose: “The hat just keeps the sun [out of her eyes],” says Field. “It’s all genuine and comes from a real place. So whenever it was appropriate for her to wear it, we put it on. Also, because Natasha loves hats.”
An embroidered brown “Z” against the off-white mesh identifies her hat as a Zephyr, available from Amazon.The structured front is a brown 65% polyester and 35% cotton blend twill, with a brown, beige, and tan pentagonal patch celebrating the great state of Arizona and one of its stately buildings.
Charlie would transition to more squared “Elvis”-style sunglasses for most of the series, but she begins in a set of oversized gold-framed aviator sunglasses with green-tinted lenses and a reinforced brow bar recalling the Ray-Ban Outdoorsman frame. “The shades, particularly their size, represent one of the many ways you can see Lyonne’s personal style bleeding into the character: they call to mind the Gen X slacker-cool 1990s era when Lyonne started making a name for herself,” explains Jason Diamond for GQ.
Charlie stacks her middle fingers with multiple rings, not spreading them to any of her other fingers. At the outset, she appears to wear two on her right middle finger: a plain yellow-gold band and a chunkier ring that Meideya identified via TikTok as their Red Hexagon Ring, so-named for the red hexagonal surface against the 18-karat gold-filled steel ring. On Charlie’s left hand, she wears two more gold rings and a wider ribbed silver ring.
Field explained to GQ that Charlie’s simple digital watch was a suggestion from Rian Johnson. She wears a stainless steel Casio A158WA-1DF, the type of metal-cased and -strapped digital timepiece that’s been undergoing a revival thanks to Stranger Things-inspired ’80s nostalgia. Inside its 33mm case, the quartz-powered watch boasts a luminous rectangular dial with an alarm and stopwatch, strapped to a steel three-piece link bracelet.
Just as she isn’t afraid to mix metal tones on her hands, Charlie wears both gold and silver necklaces at the same time. Her primary necklace is a flat 18-karat yellow gold necklace that is likely from Emily & Lucy Jewelry, based on one of Field’s Instagram posts that tags this L.A.-based designer. Though she occasionally wears this with another gold necklace, she wears it in “Dead Man’s Hand” with a longer silver chain-link necklace.
Though Charlie’s style would differ more on the road with leather jackets, vintage vests, black jeans, and cowboy boots, she ultimately returns to a similar aesthetic when she’s brought back to Nevada in the final episode of the first season in yet another patterned cardigan worn with a gray T-shirt.
What to Imbibe
Charlie establishes her beer of choice as Coors Light, cracking a can to start the day before she even goes to work. Even at work, the staff knows of Charlie’s preference, automatically pushing a silver bullet in front of her when she sidles up to the bar for breakfast the next day.
Following the success of Miller Lite in the early 1970s, the Colorado-based Coors Brewing Company revived the “Coors Light” brand it had briefly introduced as a low-caloric alternative just before World War II. This current iteration of Coors Light was introduced in August 1978 with a 4.2% ABV and remains one of the top-selling beers in the United States, ranked #2 in 2020.
Coors Light is notably packaged in a silver can, designed by Cuban-American artist Marc Barrios to visually differentiated from the famous yellow cans of Coors Banquet. In the late 2000s, Coors rolled out Lyle Small’s “cold-activated” can technology designed to gradually turn the mountains on the can blue as the lager inside reached optimal drinking temperature… around 46 °F.
During her meeting with Sterling Frost Jr. in his office, she delays on his invitation to take a drink until asking “bar still open?” and grabbing a can of Heineken for herself. This 5.0% ABV Dutch pale lager celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, as the first Heineken was brewed in 1873. Like Coors Light, Heineken’s packaging has reached iconic status, sold in green bottles (or cans) detailed with a red star.
A secondary star to Natasha Lyonne is Charlie’s blue 1969 Plymouth Barracuda fastback, a classic compact American muscle car that was inspired by a real-life Barracuda owned by Noah Segan. Given to him by cinematographer Tom Richmond, Segan’s Barracuda also prominently featured in the actor’s directorial debut, Blood Relatives.
Though it initially fails to start at the beginning of “Dead Man’s Hand”, Charlie’s Barracuda would become intrinsically tied to her character as she snakes her way across the blue highways of the United States in this classic compact of Detroit muscle.
How to Get the Look
In her comfortably broken-in style anchored by a chunky cardigan, aviators, and a trucker snapback cap, laidback lie detector Charlie Cale sets a sartorial example of relaxed leisure that defies gender.
- Charcoal-on-tan jacquard Southwestern-print cotton/polyester/wool-blend shawl-collar cardigan with waist sash and hip pockets
- Banana Republic Heritage Jacquard Cardigan
- Dark heathered gray crew-neck short sleeve T-shirt
- Rust-brown stretch corduroy 2″-inseam shorts with elasticized waistband, curved-entry front patch pockets, and back-left patch pocket
- Hammies Women’s Fall Short
- Blue, red, tan, and gray Southwestern-printed calf-high “slipper boots” with brown faux shearling lining, tassel accents, and studded rubber soles
- Blazin Roxx Aval Geometric Tassel-Accent Slipper Boots
- Brown-and-beige “Arizona” snapback trucker hat
- Gold-framed “Outdoorsman”-style aviator sunglasses with reinforced brow bar and green-tinted lenses
- Yellow-gold flat necklace
- Silver chain-link necklace
- Two rings on her right middle ringer:
- 18-karat gold-filled steel Meidya Red Hexagon Ring with red hexagonal surface
- Gold band
- Three rings on her left middle finger:
- Two gold rings
- Silver ribbed ring
- Casio A158WA-1DF stainless steel digital watch on steel three-piece link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series, currently streaming on Peacock.
Learn more about the style and costume design of Poker Face from these great articles that I sourced from for this post:
- Fashionista: “In ‘Poker Face,’ Natasha Lyonne Solves Murders in a ’70s-meets-‘Big Lebowski’ Wardrobe” by Fawnia Soo Hoo
- GQ: “Natasha Lyonne’s Poker Face Character Is TV’s Best-Dressed Drifter” by Jason Diamond
- The Hollywood Reporter: “In ‘Poker Face,’ Natasha Lyonne Can’t Help But to Crack the Case” by Jackie Strause
- The Mary Sue: “‘Poker Face’ Is Your Next Rian Johnson Fashion Obsession” by Rachel Leishman
- Reddit: “r/PokerFace Costume/Wardrobe Megathread!?”
- Salon: “”She goes chic very fast”: “Poker Face” costume designer on creating Natasha Lyonne’s iconic outfits” by Joy Saha
- Shop Your TV: “Poker Face”
- Spotern: “Poker Face”
- W Magazine: “How Poker Face’s Costume Designer Transformed Hollywood’s Most Recognizable Stars” by Dino Bonacic
I’m still pretty much a dumbass, and I’m doin’ just fine.