Like most stories that revolve around a superhero, The CW’s Batwoman is fascinating, in part, because of its villain. Played by Rachel Skarsten — who you might recognize from Reign or even Fifty Shades of Grey — Alice isn’t your typical murderous bad guy. She speaks in riddles, wears a ton of blue, and is a darker take on the title character from Alice in Wonderland (hence the name choice).
“As a child, Alice went through a trauma, so she disassociated herself,” Skarsten explains when talking InStyle, breaking down the backstory of how Alice *spoiler alert* is actually Beth, Kate Kane’s/Batwoman’s long-lost twin, who was thought to have died in an accident. “One of the worlds that she found herself in was Alice in Wonderland. She identifies with Alice, and we'll go on to create — and this is in the comics — a Wonderland gang of other evil villains, who are all different characters from the story.”
As one might assume, starring on a new show — one that also has Ruby Rose playing the lead, no less — can be somewhat intimidating. Skarsten says she wants to do her character justice, mostly for all the major Batwoman fans out there.
“People live with these characters from childhood,” she says, adding that she was obsessed with Batman growing up. “Comics cross all generations; you can love a comic as a 6 year old and still love it as a 45 year old. I feel very strongly about Batman in that way, so I know that there are people who feel that way for Alice and Batwoman.”
Of course, there are always a few changes when modernizing stories like these. A small one, the actress points out, is how Alice’s outfits went from Victorian-inspired (in the comics) to a masculine, structured mix (on the show), with the help of costume designer Colleen Atwood. Getting to wear Alice’s clothes is a big perk for the star.
“I go into wardrobe fittings and it's like going through a dress-up box at your grandmother's house,” she tells us. “It also helps to get into the space of the character very quickly. I love that while Alice’s wardrobe is very out-there in some ways, it's also grounded in reality. It’s like she went to Goodwill after one too many martinis, and walked out thinking, ‘This looks great!’ But it's a little off.”
Although Batwoman’s suit is a staple on the show, Alice mostly sticks to an aesthetic, rather than rewearing a signature look. Her key pieces include long, tailored coats, Dr. Martens, and tights.
“She's very dramatic and expressive, and I think that that reflects in her wardrobe as well. In my own mythos of Alice, she spends a lot of time putting together these outfits.”
When asked, Skarsten is quickly able to come up with three fashion essentials that every villain needs.
“Secret pockets, because you need places to put your weapons,” she starts. “That’s our constant battle on the show. It's always like, ‘Well, where does Alice's knife come from? There are no pockets in this jacket.’ And then they build secret pockets. Also, versatile footwear, because you never know what you're going to be doing, and probably a great pair of shades, because you don't want to be detected.”
In real life, the actress’s style consists mostly of vintage finds, and she’s admittedly inspired by French women. However, like Alice, she does have a go-to uniform of sorts.
“Typically, you can find me in a pair of jeans, sneakers, and a white T-shirt every day. I just think everyone looks great in jeans and a white T-shirt. I laugh that I have so many different ones in my closet — to the untrained eye, they are all the same — but to me, they are all unique.”
Her favorite one, she says, is from The Great.
There’s another similarity between Skarsten and Alice’s style: that garnet stone, which is something left over from the villain’s life as Beth, and matches one that Batwoman/Kate has.
“When we started the show, Ruby gave me one, so we have matching necklaces of that stone as well, which is really sweet,” Skarsten reveals. “It's very significant to both Alice and Kate. It's sort of continued on in their storyline, and you actually see it pop up all the time because it's in Alice’s butterfly knife.”
Batwoman airs on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.