Zombie apocalypse dressing: Where’d all the colorful clothing go?

The television adaption of video game series The Last of Us saw great success in its first season, breaking viewership records for HBO. Gamers and newer fans alike bonded over the weekly emotional rollercoaster, which offered a fresh take on post-apocalyptic life.

But what quickly became a collective Sunday night cry-sesh has come to an end, leaving us to mull over the details of The Last of Us’ dreary universe, at least until season two comes around to destroy us yet again.

As goes with any good film or show, the costuming played a crucial role in building the world of The Last of Us. Cynthia Summers, the show's costume department head, led her team of designers to scour for the perfect apocalypse-proof workwear in muted earthy tones, a fitting choice for the melancholy mood of the show’s universe.

The Last of Us' sartorial theme is clear: utilitarian, terrain-proof, and warm. Joel's (Pedro Pascal) outfits were always impressively well-coordinated and practical. Ellie (Bella Ramsey) dressed just as casually, but in a middle-schooler-who-always-wears-their-favorite-hoodie kind of way. Their drab uniforms matched the bleak atmosphere of the show, but I couldn’t help but wonder: How would color fit into the wardrobes of apocalypse survivors?

Were there no more bright pink puffers lying around? No light blue scarves or highlighter yellow beanies? If the surviving populations of humans are making do with what’s left, it’s safe to assume that there would be at least a few funky and colorful garments in the mix.

If I were living through an apocalypse of any sort (which, if we’re being honest, I wouldn't), I’d want to find some solace in clothing that lifts my spirits. Life in the QZ is monotonous, so why not have some fun with the leftover threads? I can’t imagine the purpose of maintaining civilization without some sort of enjoyment.

Of course, it’s understandable that survivors would prioritize utility and comfort over style. When dodging the infected, raiders, cannibals, and a corrupt government regime, the last thing you want is your cover to be blown by a lime green jacket. But not every survivor is on the run and fending for themselves. Many are living out their days in controlled camps, so adding a little more color to their lives wouldn’t hurt

Seeing the QZ-dwellers in mismatched clothes, mixing their sturdiest workwear with something more lighthearted, would provide an additional glimpse into the lives of people in this post-functional world: Who they are, and how their personalities inform their wardrobes.

The costuming throughout season one of The Last of Us was intentional, but I still wonder if colorful clothing has a place in its world.

If given the chance, I would definitely be sporting some baby pink while performing otherwise mundane tasks on the compound. There, safe from any need to camouflage, a vibrant wardrobe would brighten my mood to get me through the day.

There’s no point in surviving a miserable post-apocalyptic world if your wardrobe has to be equally somber.

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