The phenomenal series that was The Good Wife aired for the final time in the US last night (sob). The award-winning show was full of complex story arcs and multi-layered characters, but it was leading actress Julianna Margulies’ portrayal of lawyer Alicia Florrick that carried all seven seasons. Florrick always lit up the screen; she’s intelligent, emotional, driven and exceedingly elegant – something that was always reflected in her outfits; they were perfectly tailored to highlight her (enviable) silhouette, smart, and above all, feminine.
Much of this is down to costume designer Dan Lawson, who said he felt femininity had disappeared from the modern woman’s workplace when he began working on the show in 2009. He spoke with Elle Magazine about the lasting impact the costumes have had on the fashion industry and how each outfit was integral to the development of Alicia Florrick and all the female characters.
“We set out to have women look feminine in the workplace and not look like men. We didn’t want them to look masculine. We have three strong female leads on this show, why do we want to make them look like men? Or why do we want to dress them in a masculine style? We want them to look strong and feminine and elegant and powerful, all at the same time,” he said. The team succeeded in a big way.
Within the first month of the show airing, Julianna and Christine would both come in and say, “Oh my gosh, this lawyer stopped me on the street. She was so excited. She said, ‘Now I know what I can wear to the office, and it doesn’t look like men’s clothing.'”
He pointed out that Alicia’s emotional journey is reflected in the clothing she wears, apparent from the very first season when on the brink of a scandal, she was desperate to blend into the background. “Her first season was very much about mix and match and simple neutrals —it was about taking pieces she already had because she didn’t have money to get a whole new wardrobe. The other part of it was, because of the scandal, all she wanted to do was blend into the background. She was tired of having everyone look at her.”
This changed as the series went on; more colour was added with differing textures and designs with the finer details – such as whether or not Alicia would wear jewellery early on – decided by Margulies. “[Some of] that came from Julianna herself. She said, ‘I don’t think I would take the time to be putting on jewellery and dealing with that. My whole thing is I can hardly get the kids out the door and get to the office. Because everything’s new for her.’ Then, as we started to move along in the second and the third season, she really became much more about hitting her stride with who she was as a single woman, who she was as a mother, who she was as a lawyer, and who she was as a sexually viable woman again. We used little peplum jackets, detailed pockets, stronger shoulders and moved away from suburban and went more city as the fifth and sixth seasons approached,” he explained.
His advice to women dressing for work IRL is on the same lines – think core pieces and the little details, without going OTT. “It’s really important to set aside a certain amount of your budget for alterations – that’s a way we can have the less expensive clothing look like it’s much more expensive. It’s also important to spend a little extra money on staples in your closet, the things that are really going to be your workhorse pieces—a really good skirt, a good suit, really good shoes, a good bag. That’s very much what we did with my ladies on the show. We spent the money on those core pieces. And the other thing that’s important to remember is that if you have a really big day coming, and you want to impress, don’t overdo it,” he advised.
And the main thing? “I really think it’s so important that women feel good in what they’re wearing. The last thing women should think about is their clothes when they’re trying to get ready for work or whatever. They should just know what’s in their closet, what’s going to make them feel good and look good.”
Go forth, and stream all seventh seasons if you haven’t already, but be warned, you will want to binge-watch the entire show.