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Sunday, May 8, 2016

FAB Exclusive: Secrets of The Good Wife's Costume Department

good wife costume designer

The Good Wife comes to an end tonight. In addition to being an excellent program, the show served as style inspiration for professionals, proving how fashionable "work" clothes can be. I lived out a fan's dream when I was cast as a reporter in the series finale. Even as a lowly background actor, I experienced the incredible level of detail the wardrobe and costume designers put in to dress every single person on set. 

As a result, I got to chat with Daniele Hollywood, a key member of The Good Wife's Emmy-nominated costume team. She gave us an exclusive interview where she dishes on The Good Wife's favorite designers, secrets on dressing their favorite characters and what not to wear as an extra:

Ms. Fabulous: The Good Wife has a reputation for being one of the best-dressed programs on television. Did your team set out to make such a fashion statement when setting the look of the show?

Daniele Hollywood:  Yes! Dan Lawson, the Costume Designer for The Good Wife, wanted it to look chic and stylish right from the start. We didn't want it to look like a typical law show. So from the beginning, we were shopping and creating looks that were on very elegant, modern and suitable for an upscale law firm. Dan's vision was to make the women look feminine. He didn't want the women dressed in boring suits that emulated men's suiting. For example, we never used pinstripes or plain navy, or gray suiting. We searched for feminine shapes, with design detail that accentuated the female figure. 

Ms. F: Was there a specific plan for dressing each major character? Certain cuts or colors? (We always loved Lemond Bishop and Kalinda's look!)
D.W.: Early on we found the peplum shaped jacket was very useful in accentuating Julianna's figure and so we sought that out for quite a few seasons. Julianna Margulies looks amazing in architectural suiting so it was our job to find designers who were manufacturing that look. We found that Akris, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Escada to name a few were our go-to labels for creating that her ultra feminine silhouette. 

Diane (Lockhart) played by Christine Baranski looks amazing in everything! She's so tall and lean there's nothing that she can't pull off. At the beginning of the season, we'd have three solid racks of clothes and two, and we'd end up with two and a half racks that we wanted to keep. Christine loves fashion, so it was always fun to shop, and have fittings with her. 

lemond bishop
Mike Coulter as Lemond Bishop
Lemond Bishop (played by Mike Coulter) was usually dressed in very steely, silvery tones. I think that really supported his icy, drug lord character. Dan costumed him in peaked lapel suits. In the beginning, we weren't sure how long his character would be on the show, and due to budget constraints, we put him in Sean John suits which looked great on him and were very reasonably priced. As his character evolved and became a serious plot point, we started dressing him in Canali suits which just happened to be making peak lapel suits that season. As the shopper for the show I was always thrilled when I could find the perfect suit or outfit to solve the requests of the Costume Designer, the script, and the requirements of the character.

Dan really trail-blazed with Kalinda Sharma's look (played by Archie Panjabi). No one ever looked so sexy and provocative yet professional on TV in my opinion. Dan wanted her look to be seductive yet professional. She was dressed in leather and lace. Soft and hard. So we set out to shop leather jackets in rich colors worn over form-fitting tops, and usually a black mini skirt and her signature black knee hi boots. She's dressed kind of like a superhero. 

Ms. F: How much of a character's look was created directly from what was happening in the script for a scene?
 D.W.: It's essential that we derive the look of the characters based on what's written in the script. The design team which consists of the Costume Designer, and two assistants all read the script. It informs all our decisions. There are also meetings between the Costume Designer, and the director, and a production meeting which also inform us on what needs to be addressed for the characters in each episode. 

byron lars good wife
Me, in jewel-toned dresses (both Byron Lars)
Ms. F: Among background actors, The Good Wife is known for having the strictest wardrobe
standards. Were there general policies for dressing a large group? (I overheard that all jackets had to be closed, certain colors would be consistent for the same scenes, etc.)
D.W.: Yes, we did have strict standards for the background. We wanted to the background actors to always look polished, except when we did bond court. We asked that the women wear dresses or pencil skirts, well fitting jackets with pumps. We avoided men's shirts with collars on women and preferred a smooth shell or blouse under a jacket with a statement necklace instead. We dressed the background actors in jewel tones so that they had some color, and we avoided black because it makes the actors disappear onscreen. We were very particular about making sure men's shirts fit well at the neck, and we avoided out of date three button suits on the men.

Ms. F: What was your favorite look or creative accomplishment for your work on the series?
Karolina Zmarlak Suit on Julianna Margulies
D.W.: This is a tough one because there were so many. Working on The Good Wife for seven seasons has been the crowning jewel of my career so far. But there are a couple of very key moments. We got nominated for best Costume Design Emmy in season two. CBS flew our whole team to Los Angeles for the Emmy's. It was an amazing experience to be included and honored for our work on the show. 

I loved working with the talented Karolina Zmarlak, who created the green suit that Alicia wears when she finds out Will has been killed. We found a beautiful mossy green stand collar jacket at Saks by Karolina. We contacted her, and she made a matching pencil skirt. I loved working with Karolina. She is such a generous and talented lady. I'm sure she's going to become a household name one day. 

Ms. F: Were there any favorite fashion designers or particular labels that The Good Wife team loved to use? 
D.W.: We used many fashion labels, but we really did well for the women with Dan Lawson's label DL35, Akris, Armani, Escada, Karolina Zmarlak, Dior, Roland Mouret, Antonio Berardi, Lafayette 148 and Ferragamo to name a few. 

For the men, we had custom made suits from Isaiah for Will Gardner, Brooks Brothers for Peter Florrick, and Paul Smith for Eli Gold. Carey Ago's suits were custom-made by Martin Greenfield. We used a lot of Canali and Z Zegna on our visiting guest stars.
 It's important to mention here that at the very beginning of the series our budget was tight, so we bought less expensive designers and tailored the heck out of them. When you have the luxury of having an amazing tailor you can transform the most inexpensive garment into a truly flattering ensemble.

Ms. F: What projects are you working on next?
D.W.: We're currently working on CBS's new comic thriller "BrainDead" set in the world of Washington Politics. Created by Robert and Michelle King, who are Executive producers, and creators of "The Good Wife". The series airs June 13th at 10/9c. 

Ms. F: Thanks Daniele!

Watch the series finale of The Good Wife tonight
 Sunday May 8, 2016 at 9 PM/8PM Central on CBS.

 Stills from The Good Wife from CBS

Check out The Most Stylish Work Places on TV
by Ms. Fabulous at Mode

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