I can’t stop fixating on Carol’s clothing throughout the show. In the first season, as far as I can remember, she stuck mostly to clothing themed towards a stereotypical housewife. I think it’s safe to assume that, to a large extent, this was Ed’s doing - remember that she once told Lori that he never let her wear such nice things. Her clothing tended to be feminine without being showy or elaborate. There were a lot of softer colors, a lot of faint florals, and a lot of cupped sleeves.
Over season one and part of season two, her shirts tended to be short-sleeved/sleeveless and often times paired with cardigans or shawls. Again these tended to be feminine but not overly memorable. However, over the course of season two she started to wear darker colors, and lost some of the more matronly aspects of her clothing and how she wore them.
Season three has seen her in a lot of darker colors - typically rusts, maroons, and dull greens. We’ve also seen a lot more in terms of stream lined looks - reminiscent of the tank tops Lori was always seen wearing. Again, remember what Carol once saying to Lori about nice clothing. She has, however, mostly stuck to the shorter sleeves. For the most part, I’ve put this down to how hot it is there - although characters like Andrea have been seen on more than one occasion to wear layers.
None the less, the more we watch Carol come into her own, the more it’s reflected in her clothing - it is more efficient, more reminiscent of the typical ‘badass’ style of wide-necked camis.
Last nights episode really struck me Carol’s shirt was not only once again a dark color, but it was long sleeved. The most recent long sleeved shirt I could think of was in the episode where T-dog died. Both episodes Carol lost people close to her (Lori’s death, and Daryl’s apparent abandonment), and both episodes she has had to watch people she had developed a comraderie with die (T-dog and Axel) while using their bodies as a way to keep herself alive.
Now we could argue that Carol didn’t know about Lori’s death, but we, the audience, did know. It was in our minds, and we knew that the loss would devastate Carol whose friendship with Lori has been in place since the start. And her close relationship with Daryl, regardless of whether it is romantic or platonic in nature, has been acknowledged out loud by more than one character.
Both times she was also conversing with tough men - T-dog whose name itself evokes rough n’ tumble thoughts, and Axel who just that day told her stories about his arrest. She had developped easy camaraderie with these two unlikely men, and both of them not only died next to her, but also allowed her to live - T-dog through his sacrifice, and Axel as a shield.
I can’t help but feel like the two long-sleeved shirts, unlike her usual tops, represent a sort of shield. She’s offering herself more coverage in the form of a cloth barrier, clothing easily seen as a shield from prying eyes in our society. In both episodes she suffers traumas and losses, and in both episodes she is more covered up, has more of a shield on in the terms of her clothing.
Last night in particular struck me because of the designs around the hems of the sleeves. When I saw them, the first thing I thought of were cuffs - the type of metal or leather wrist braces we typically see on superheroes or mythological figures. Carol is shielding herself more and more, toughening up more and more, and the designers are continuously showing us that through her clothing.