Broadcasting Style: House of Cards’ Claire Underwood

Jan 8, 2014

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Robin Wright’s character, Claire Underwood, is the undisputed Ice-Queen-in-Chief on Netflix’s hit series House of Cards.  As the conniving wife of a crooked Congressman, she is the hellish spouse that every staffer dreads.  Essentially, she’s Lady MacBeth with a better wardrobe.  And what a killer wardrobe it is.

1. Neutral Colors.  Claire’s wardrobe is all about neutral colors: black, grey, white and navy.  You like color?  She is not the wardrobe icon for you.  This woman thinks camel and pale blue are adventurous.

2. Fitted Outerwear.  Toss your puffy parks, lose your voluminous winter coats, Claire is all about tailored outerwear.  It’s structured, it’s belted and it all looks amazing.  Don’t miss this camel London Fog belted trench or this Wallis seamed funnel-neck coat.  And if you are looking for an evening coat, don’t miss this tuxedo-style wool coat from J.Crew.

3. Structured Button-Ups.  Now, I know some of you will not want to hear this, but the only way to get a button-up shirt to fit you as perfectly as Claire’s fit her, is to take it to the tailor.  Buy one that fits a bit too big and let your tailor go to town.

If you want to find a great shirt to tailor, Brooks Brothers is the place to begin.  They’re classic non-iron shirt comes in misses, petites and tall sizes.  Banana Republic also makes a decent button-up shirt for the money.  I’m not sure where the best place to buy button-up shirts for plus-size ladies is, so I’ll let you fill the comments with your recommendations.

4. Strapless Gowns.  Having arms like a Ukrainian gymnast, Claire shows them off in a variety of simple, but impeccably tailored, strapless cocktail dresses and gowns.  I like this Grecian-style gown from Mignon.  For cocktail attire, try this strapless dress with a light peplum, also from Mignon, or this under-$100 Bebe dress with a textured black fabric.

5. A Classic Satchel. Lose your crossbodies, your hobos and your bucket totes, Claire Underwood is all about a satchel.  In the photo, Claire is carrying a YSL satchel, but since that’s a bit out of our price range, let’s try for some less expensive items, shall we?

Like the look of a dome satchel?  Try this Tory Burch Robinson bag or this Ivanka Trump Ava bag in Saffiano leather (a good buy at $150).  I also recommend the basic Rebecca Minkoff Mini-MAB, I’ve had mine for four years, and it still looks great.  In the under-$100 category, try this Zara satchel with pockets or this BlockIt satchel from JCPenney.

6. Tailored Sheath Dresses. If Claire has a signature piece, it’s a perfectly fitted sheath dress.  Again, this isn’t a look you can achieve without tailoring, but it helps to start with the right dress.  Here are a few that I felt were Claire-worthy:

This Alexia Admor sheath dress with a mock-neck is lovely, and under-$200.  This Ann Taylor dress with short sleeves and a dipped neckline is also a good choice (also in petites).  This grey Club Monaco Ariana sheath is not to be missed.  I also like this navy dress with black sleeves from Rachel Roy.  But if I had to pick a favorite, this Ivy & Blu cowl neck dress is the perfect choice at $175.

Plus-size? This cap-sleeve Calvin Klein is nice, but it deserves a better belt.  And even though the bodice is dark teal, I think this Scarlet & Jo dress is quite Claire like in fit and attitude.

7. Boatnecks and Squarenecks.  Given her toned shoulders and slim figure, anything would look good on Robin Wright’s character, but boatneck and squareneck pieces look especially chic.  For tops, try this Akris Punto squareneck jersey top or this Vince boatneck tee.  As for dresses, this Nicole Miller square neck tube dress is good for cocktail hour, while this Calvin Klein sleeveless sheath is perfect for the office.

8. Chic Workout Attire.  Would you expect Claire to tone those arms in a college t-shirt and some shorts?  Of course, you wouldn’t.  Instead, Claire wears the chicest gym attire I have ever seen.  For running outside, I’d start with a pair of Zella leggings and a long sleeve Under Armour top.  And don’t forget the tech vest, so you can keep warm while running along the Potomac.

Need inexpensive workout attire? is my go-to.  Whatever you need, you can find it there.

Want to see more of Claire Underwood’s superb fashion sense?  Check out the write-up on Worn Fashion Journal, and don’t miss Buzzfeed’s “13 Reasons Why Claire Underwood is a Fashion Icon.”  Not watching House of Cards?  You should be, you can catch the entire first season on Netflix before the second season is released on Valentine’s Day.

Broadcasting Style, Career Style

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  1. Sara says:

    Hit the nail on the head with this one, Belle. She really is the Congressional wife you hope to emulate, style-wise, but has your mama back home praying her daughter will never become! 🙂

  2. Ashley says:

    This was perfection. I love that show, partly because of Claire and her style. I swear I only dress in black, grays and other neutrals and get told I need to bring some color into my life, completely disagree. Thanks for putting this together, so useful!

  3. SM says:

    Excellent post! I am obsessed with Claire Underwood’s style. Of course, her wardrobe only works if you are a tall, slim, size 6 and under but at least it is good eye candy. Her handbags are to die for. Lucky Robin Wright with her bone structure and hair cut…

  4. I really love everything she wears- so classic. Love your workout attire suggestions- Zella leggings are wonderful. Have you run outside in them- are they warm enough? I’ve only worn mine indoors!

    • Belle says:

      I don’t usually workout outside, but I’m sure someone can answer that for you.

    • CH says:

      I have the Zella “Live In” leggings and I find them warm enough for an outdoor run in all but the most frigid temps. If you want something extra warm, I love love love the Nike thermal running tights. Mine have a swoosh in an obvious place and look more like technical fabric than the Zella leggings, so I only wear them as workout pants — they don’t really double as an under-a-dress layer — but they will keep you toasty.

    • Sarah says:

      Wore my Zella leggings for an outdoor run today (in Arlington this morning, so ~20 degrees) and I was definitely warm enough. I have noted that the waistband stretches out/they tend to fall down on me, though–my Under Armour and Nike running tights stay up a bit better.

      • Belle says:

        If you have a pair that is stretching, take them back to Nordstrom. I had a bad pair that did that, my other three pairs don’t.

  5. THinDC says:

    Thank GOODNESS you finally had this post! I’ve been buying so many Clair-esque pieces lately. I LOVE her style. I’d have to disagree with SM though that you need to be tall and slim to have her style. Everyone looks amazing in well tailored suiting and outerwear. It’s all about the fit! I don’t know what I’d do without my tailor. You can take mid-price pieces (JCrew, Banana Republic) and once you get them tailored, they look high end! Having free alterations/tailoring from JCrew is absolutely worth getting the credit card.

    Thanks Belle for a great post!

  6. Mrs Type A says:

    I am currently marathoning this show and you took the words right out of my mouth. I just keep exclaiming to my husband, “She’s so chic!!!!” and he just rolls his eyes. Thank you for this!

  7. Dani says:

    Hands down best button ups for women are Thomas PInk! The shirts are so great that they look better of the rack than any of my bespoke shirts do. A full price shirt will set you back about $200, but if you’re lucky enough to live near Woodbury Commons, you can score a bargain at the outlet center.

    • Jane Doe says:

      I’ve gotten a couple Thomas Pink brand new shirts on EBay for less than $40.00. I’ve found they run small.

      • Dani says:

        Thomas Pink is a European brand so the shirts tend to be slimmer fitting than what we’re used to in America but no different than other European brands. I’ve had a few lucky finds on ebay too. Great suggestion.

  8. Bee says:

    Love your post and your blog!
    Just wondering what happened to your tags/archive?

    I’ve been wanting to go back to your previous building a wardrobe posts and I look it up within your site.

  9. Ashley says:

    In my next life, I want to come back as Clair Underwood.

  10. rachel says:

    Dear Belle,

    I have tried email you several times at the gmail id provided on your blog with no luck. Is there another way to send you questions?

    • Belle says:

      You can leave them here, but the email seems to be working fine. I’m a bit behind on replies due to the holidays, so is it that you haven’t received a reply, or it’s not going through?

  11. GoGoGo says:

    Great post! The word “fierce” is a bit overused these days, but “fierce” is what Claire is, and I love it. She’s like, the epitome of DC chic, only with more of a sexy/androgynous thing than most people can pull off.

    I noticed a kind of great little detail in the Ann Taylor dress listed under #6. Am I seeing things, or are there darts in the bodice of that dress that are, like, in between the boobs? Like, to make them slightly pointier? It’s subtle, but it’s kind of fabulous. Is that a thing we’re doing? Bringing back pointy 40s boobs? Why not.

  12. Caroline says:

    I guess I’m the dissenter– I find Claire’s look to be too cold and practical. It would be nice to see her in something patterned or slightly messy-looking.

    • RoseAG says:

      I think her style goes with the personality she embodies. Given that she’s a woman who APPEARS to have/be it all, but is shown living a life that falls short on emotional satisfaction I think I’d rather stick with Janna Ryan style. It may be off-the-rack but the smile is genuine.

      That said, Claire does embody a consistent, fashionable but not trendy style that would blend in quite well with the career wear that is acceptable in DC.

    • Belle says:

      If it’s not your thing, than that’s fine, but she’s cold and practical. Her wardrobe suits her perfectly.

  13. Candace says:

    When tailoring a blouse, can the shoulder be adjusted in without the sleeve getting shorter? Anything I get to fit my bust, hangs off my shoulders.

    • Belle says:

      Yes. Mine are always too big in the shoulder. Cheryl Lofton takes them in for me without messing with the sleeve. It costs a bit more because I think she actually removes the sleeve, but it’s worth it to me.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Dear Belle,

    It is really helpful to see a step-by-step deconstruction like this. I wonder if you would consider doing something similar for the Duchess of Cambridge? There seems to be a difference in her wardrobe before/after engagement, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint it. No more bare arms? Only modestly cut necklines? Not sure what’s different about the hair, exactly. A point-by-point analysis could be good. (I know she’s not what we would consider a “professional,” but she dresses beautifully and it could still be helpful.

    Just a thought.


  15. We are obsessed with the show and her style! love the diamond stud earrings, so simple and extremely wearable style that goes with any outfit.

  16. Dress Obsessed says:

    I saw this dress in season 2 and I am completely obsessed with the neckline:

    Someone please tell me they know where to find that dress! I’ll pay anything!

  17. Phyllis says:

    What about those running shoes? Are they boxing boots or something? They’re pared down, of course; not as boxy as most running shoes…
    Any ideas?

  18. Tami says:

    I am new to this party and totally obsessing with Claire’s look. Wondering about pantyhose? I know many women have liberated themselves from them, but I rather like them for refinement purposes.

    • Alana says:

      I don’t know but in watching the show. When she takes off her heels upstairs she doesn’t appear to be wearing pantyhose or stockings. Of course I am just on season one.

  19. […] And the utterly non-controversial and self-evident: how to dress like Claire Underwood. […]

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