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From the wikia:

In the DVD commentary for the episode "Shindig," costume designer Shawna Trpcic mentions that the leather necklace Zoë always wears is a symbol of her marriage bond. However, she is seen wearing the necklace in the flashback sequences of "Out of Gas," well before she has married Wash.

Thanks Richard: "In the book Firefly: The Official Companion - Vol. 1, Torres speculates that the necklace is actually a shoelace from the boots that Zoë wore during the Unification War."

I guess I'm just confused why the costume designer wouldn't know what the purpose of part of the costume was. Shouldn't she have known?

Picture for reference:
enter image description here

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    I would assume it was originally chosen to represent her marriage. Then, they forgot and accidentally kept it on when they filmed the flashbacks.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Oct 7 '15 at 17:44
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    "In the book Firefly: The Official Companion - Vol. 1, Torres speculates that the necklace is actually a shoelace from the boots that Zoë wore during the Unification War."
    – Valorum
    Oct 7 '15 at 17:55
  • I saw that on the wiki too. I guess I should edit the question to more focus on why the costume designer was confused. Oct 7 '15 at 18:00
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    "I was wondering if there was any comments from cast or crew as to what the purpose of the necklace was?" - That part seems answered.
    – Valorum
    Oct 7 '15 at 18:23
  • Well, apparently no, her knowledge of it wasn't necessary.
    – Misha R
    May 29 '16 at 6:25
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Disconnection between the costume designer, what made it to screen, and what the actors thought of their attire. It may very well have been her intention that the necklace be a tangible, and cheap, symbol of the bond between her and Wash.

Since it appeared in the Out of Gas flashback, her intentions were thwarted. This isn't the first costume controversy either; consider the extensive debate of the proper orientation of the Independents Flag, and the associated shoulder patch of the Independents soldiers.

She built the costume for Zoe, into which she included a simple leather necklace. Gina Torres wore the costume, and found the simple leather necklace a token from her time in the war, similar to the cross hanging from Mal's sink.

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