The Sopranos is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time. Vulture recently ranked it the best show ever aired by HBO and anticipation for the upcoming prequel film is fever-pitched.
The show’s virtues are readily evident. The sprawling narrative is both a snapshot of street-level realities and a powerful allegory for life in the modern world. It gave prodigiously talented actors like James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli opportunities to show off their wide-ranging talents.
With its feast of riches, it’s easy to overlook the costume design. But the use of clothes on The Sopranos is one of the show’s greatest but too-often neglected achievements.
Until now, at least, thanks to the Sopranos Style Instagram account.
Sopranos Style is the creation of Emilia Petrarca, a fashion news writer for New York Magazine’s The Cut. She was too young to catch The Sopranos when it first aired. When watching a few years ago, she became infatuated with the show’s style and found herself frequently pausing the show to screenshot outfits, from Tony’s polo shirts to Adriana’s animal prints. Initially, she only shared the images with friends. But after taking scores of screenshots, she knew she had to show them to the world. Citing Every Outfit on Sex and the City as inspiration, Petrarca started posting her virtual library of Sopranos outfits on Instagram.
“No one had appreciated Sopranos outfits in the same way they’d appreciated Mad Men or Sex and the City, so that’s how it started,” she says.
Sopranos Style picked up a small following at first but snowballed when Petrarca ramped up the posts leading up to the show’s 20th anniversary in January. She rewatched The Sopranos a second time, carefully pausing and collecting as many screenshots as she possibly could and organizing them in folders on her desktop.
“I have a pretty well-oiled machine at this point,” Petrarca says, “but I feel like I could watch [the show] a third and fourth time and still have outfits that I’ve missed.”
Petrarca says Sopranos fashion is beloved for its authenticity. Characters were unapologetically themselves, and were dressed like it. Turtlenecks. Fur coats. Loud suits. Tommy Hilfiger sweater vests. Legendary band t-shirts. It’s easy to forget what people—particularly upper middle class Italian people—were wearing in the mid-2000s, in part because it seems like eons ago. It’s a period mostly glossed over by today’s disaffected Gen-Xers and extremely online Millennials. But the show’s gaudy and iconic looks were aching for recognition.
“What makes the show different is that it was just authentically portraying a group of people in a certain period of time,” Petrarca says. “I think people were waiting for a reason to praise the style.”
Sopranos Style is a celebration of the show’s fashion, not a mockery of it. The account shows admiration not just for The Sopranos’ costume design, but for how fashion knowledge is integrated into its characters’ personalities (Adriana’s obsession with Fendi and Versace, for example). Petrarca’s posts portray an obvious sense of humor, much like the show itself. And the positive feedback to her account created an appreciation for Sopranos fans’ die-hard love for the show.
“I’m consistently impressed when people in the comments can name the exact dialogue in the scene of a photo I post,” she says. “It’s made me realize that if I was going to be an expert on this show, I really had to put in the time and the work. And also be sensitive to the style of the time and place and group of people. That’s what the fandom has taught me.”
The Instagram account celebrating the show’s iconic fashion.