Ask Belle: Dressing Like a TV Show

Mar 8, 2013

When I moved to D.C. in late 2004, the opinion about the District was that our city was Hollywood for ugly people.  Almost no one outside of the city talked about the culture of D.C. unless they were talking about political scandal or maybe the 9:30 Club.  But in the past three or four years, that’s all changed.

Every day…no, seriously, every day…I receive an e-mail from someone who wants to dress like fictional D.C.-denizens Olivia Pope from Scandal or Claire Underwood and Zoe Barnes from House of Cards.  I also receive e-mails from women who want to dress like Diane Lockhart from The Good Wife, Jessica Pearson from Suits and Camille Saroyan from Bones.

It’s great that television writers are putting more dynamic female characters on TV, and it’s wonderful that the costuming departments are dressing them so well.  I spent a couple of hours googling costume information for Scandal and House of Cards, and recreating a television character’s look presents a lot of challenges because television costume departments often have extravagant budgets and tailoring on the premises.

The main character on Scandal wears Dior, Armani and Christian Louboutin.  There is no bargain shopping happening on the Scandal set.  Even a D.C. power broker would have trouble rebuilding Olivia Pope’s closet without charging up her Amex.

There isn’t as much information on the wardrobe of House of Cards character Claire Underwood.  This Tumblr has a lot of pictures and quotes from the show, and it looks like the character is wearing clothes in the smartly tailored vein of Burberry and Calvin Klein.

First let me say, that having now looked at every still photo that I could find from these shows that the key to recreating these looks is choose sleek, classic pieces and then having them tailored to fit.  And I mean fit.  (In fact, just looking at all these pics has made me feel like I should call Cheryl Lofton and make an appointment.)  So if you’re looking for an easy way to achieve the look take your button up shirts, pencil skirts and jackets to your friendly neighborhood seamstress for some refining.

Secondly, the barrage of e-mails on this subject have inspired me.  I may try to use some of the stills I’ve found to create posts in the future.  This may prove difficult given the designer nature of many of the wardrobes, but I’m going to give it a go.  So if you have an outfit from a TV show that you’re particularly drawn to, drop me a line at capitolhillstyle (at) gmail (dot) com.

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  1. Lawlala says:

    I never cared much for Camille Saroyan’s outfits… the clothes are awesome but they are always too tight.

  2. LS says:

    Sara Ellis on White Collar

  3. Sarah says:

    Not DC, but it is about a woman in local politics. I like a lot of what Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) wears on Parks and Recreation. She often wears interesting blouses and I think is an example of a way to pretty easily create an interesting and achievable office look. She isn’t on the cutting edge of fashion, but I feel like she is someone that I can emulate. The show sometimes makes fun of her outfits, but if you look at what she is usually wearing, I think she looks great.

    • Hailey says:

      I found a website that gives information on many of the outfits worn on Parks & Rec. From a cursory glance, it looks like many of Leslie Knope’s suits are Theory; her suits are often Equipment brand.

  4. Suzanne says:

    I love the Diane Lockhart wardrobe. Very feminine and lots of color but fits well with the conservative work environment.

  5. Beth says:

    How do you find a good tailor though? My local dry cleaner has a seamstress right there on premises, and I’ve had buttons fixed and pants hemmed, but how do you know to trust someone with actually cutting up your blazers and blouses and skirts?

    On another note: I’ve lost 10-12 pounds (gave up milk! heed the call!) and am fitting into my old clothes again. Problem is: I spent a decent amount of money on my “new weight” clothes. Would you take in pants? If so, how? This is not a hem, this is at least a full size. I’m somewhat leery to do so because who knows, one day, God forbid, I could creep back up again and then I’d have to buy pants all over again.

    • Belle says:

      This is a good question. I found Cheryl Lofton because I asked a bridal shop owner where she sent people. I’ve also heard good things about Stephen the Tailor in Foggy Bottom. Yelp is a good place to start, but I called a bridal shop owner and it also works to call fancy boutiques that don’t offer alterations on premises.

  6. Liz says:

    I also think the Diane Lockhart character on Good Wife gets to wear fabulous clothes….and she always has an interesting statement necklace or brooch/pin.

  7. Sharon says:

    So funny that you’re discussing this – I spent all of last weekend trying to find a 3/4 white lace top similar to what Robin (Cobie Smulders) wore on an episode of How I Met Your Mother. ABC used to have part of their website dedicated to things you could buy from the show – clothing, housewares, accessories, etc.

    • CR says:

      Ditto! I love her outfits, particularly since she’s almost always wearing pants. Stana Kanic on Castle is another great pants-wearing female character. One of the things I tend to find annoying about professional female tv characters is that they’re usually dressed in skirts and dresses, which I don’t prefer to wear. Pants outfits tend to get relegated to the boring or unfashionable characters. But I love pants and would appreciate the inspiration on how to wear them creatively without delving into crazy patterns or dropped-crotch silhouettes (definitely not going to fly in the law!).

  8. Valerie says:

    This isn’t quite DC but close to it…I love Emily Van Camp’s wardrobe as Emily Thorne in “Revenge.” The character obviously has the wealthy socialite budget, but the style is very classic and could translate well into outfit ideas at all price points.

  9. Whitney says:

    I love every single thing that Robin Wright has worn on House of Cards, especially those gorgeous sheath dresses! She makes me want to start running every day and find a good seamstress asap.

  10. XF says:

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/avamburke/13-reasons-claire-underwood-of-house-of-cards-is-9d2p

    I would do unspeakable things for Claire Underwood’s wardrobe.

  11. ashleigh says:

    Not send traffic to another blog (because i love CHS!) but dana at possesionista does a really good job of working with stylists to show the actual items worn on shows and then lower price point options. She started recapping the bachelor clothing but does a ton of shows now (scandal / nashville / etc.)
    https://www.possessionista.com/

  12. D says:

    I want every Oliva Pope outfit ever. It’s so tough to find suits that project both power and femininity. They’re either too spare to look feminine or so feminine that they give off a lady of a certain age who lunches vibe.

  13. B. Lauren says:

    Looking at these comments, this could be a whole separate blog in and of itself.

    Count me on team Olivia only because she makes pants feminine. That said, a lot of it is the way Kerry Washington is built so yes, I adore her outfits, but no, I don’t see me ever wearing them. Or Diane, or Jessica. Not familiar with the rest. Googled a couple and they just looked sluty to my eye. The Hollywood fantasy of how women in the workplace should dress.

  14. JCW says:

    Daniel Lawson is the stylist for “The Good Wife” and he has a blog (I think through the CBS website) where he talks about the pieces worn on the show and how he chooses them…..very interesting and informative!

    Also, I adore your blog! Thanks so much for the entertainment day in and day out1 🙂

  15. Tiffany says:

    Rachel Zane on Suits too!!

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