The thing about watching Pretty Little Liars is that if you stop to think about the mysteries at all you inevitably find yourself five days later holed up in a lair tacking printouts onto a wall in themed clusters and connecting them with red string and scribbling everywhere with sharpies and muttering about how this goes all the way to the top. Herewith, gentle reader, is the fruit of our obsessive theorizing, and because we at YKYLF are nothing if not consistent, it is all clothes-themed theorizing. Join us as we travel down the rabbit hole we called Rosewatch 2k15…and see if they come back for Rosewatch 2k16: The Return.
Longterm readers will remember that way back in 5×14, all the PLLs plus Ali wore rose-printed outfits.
At the time we wrote if off as an episode-specific gimmick—maybe showing us that Ali and the PLLs weren’t as divided as they thought?—but then something weird happened. In almost every episode since, at least one person has worn roses.
Here’s Hanna in 5×15, looking sassy in her knotted rose top.
Mona in 5×20, doing her Gone Girl flashback.
Aria in 5×23, talking about something something Ezria.
And continuing on to season 6, we have Hanna, traumatized in the Dollhouse in roses.
Ali getting inappropes with Lorenzo in 6×02.
Spencer dumpster-diving for her fix in 6×04.
And heading into the midseason finale, Aria serving rodeo Snow White in a rose-printed skirt.
This is obviously just a selection, but if you go through each episode’s costumes with a fine-tooth comb, you’ll find more roses.
“Aha!” we said. “Obviously 5×14 was the starting point for this parade of roses. We just have to figure out what made it so special and then we’ll know what it all means!”
But then it occurred to us: Ali sure did wear a bunch of roses in 5×12
Like. A lot.
She’s even asked to describe this shirt out loud, and does so as, “White. With pink flowers.”
And if you go back from there, there are yet more roses. Like with Ali again in 5×10.
Or Aria in 5×09.
Or Hanna in 5×04.
And there are a ton of roses in 5×03:
Spencer’s funeral dress (one of her better funeral outfits, no?)
Ali’s graphic T (grungier than her usual look).
Aria’s graphic T.
But to see where the roses start, you have to go all the way back to 5×02, Alison’s first full episode back in Rosewood.
This is where the roses begin.
So. What does it all meeeeeaaaan?
Theory 1: Mrs. DeLaurentis was killed by a rose
Ali’s mother was murdered by by a giant, sentient rose. It is furious with Mrs. D because when she buried her daughter alive, she damaged its parent rosebush. And now it is coming for its revenge.
Theory 2: Mandi Line Really Likes Roses
As we all know, Pretty Little Liars costume designer Mandi Line is a genius, and she prefers to set trends rather than follow them. So when giant daisy prints came back in with the ‘90s revival, she turned up her nose. Why have a daisy print when you can have a rose print?
Theory 3: It’s All Symbolic
The first time we see roses, it’s because Alison has brought them to her own grave. Throughout the past season and a half, our girls have been trying to figure out a way to reconcile their memories of their dead best friend—mean girl extraordinaire, the girl who knew all their secrets but told none of her own, who manipulated them but who was also cool and exciting and who maybe loved them—with the person in front of them, the girl who is traumatized and afraid, who missed out on most of high school, who doesn’t seem to know any more than they do. Alison brought roses to her grave as a way to say goodbye to her old self, and they show up on clothing when characters are having trouble figuring out who the new Alison is. In 5×14, when the Liars turn against Ali and turn her in to the cops, all of their clothes are printed with roses because they are all struggling to figure out whether this girl is one of their closest friends or if she is a murderer.
Roses work well as a symbol for Alison because so much of her baggage is wrapped up in what she symbolizes herself: she’s that archetypal dead teenage blonde girl like Laura Palmer or Lilly Kane who stands for the dual nature of teenage girls as they are seen by pop culture, simultaneously as beautiful and innocent and desirable as a rose petal and mysterious and sexually threatening, like a rose thorn. Pop culture gets super gross about teenage girls: they’re exciting because now they’re old enough that you can think about having sex with them, and that’s cool, but they’re scary because what if they’re thinking about having sex on their own, that’s terrifying. That’s part of why the dead blonde girl shows up all over the place. It’s not an accident that Laura Palmer and Lilly Kane’s secrets are all about their shadowy sex lives, you know? Just like it’s not an accident that so many of Ali’s secrets are about the various grown men she seduced. But one of the things that makes Pretty Little Liars exciting is that it brought the dead blonde girl back to life. If Alison is punished for having sex, that punishment won’t be fatal.
What do you think, YKYLFers? Share your Rosewatch 2k15 theories in the comments, and come back on Friday for the 6B premiere recap.