The Good Wife: The Costume Designers Take the Floor
Vogue Italia

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By Diedre Johnson for Vogue Italia

 

Today’s business woman dresses powerfully without ever giving up her femininity and TV art imitates life on shows such as CBS’s The Good Wife and Limitless where Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski’s characters add style to their courtroom dress.
These pieces are done by show costume designer Daniel Lawson and sometimes-partner, Andrea Cecile Cohen designer/creator of number35, a clothing line she originated in the UK.
Lawson and Cohen have worked together since 2013 and recently collaborated on a spin-off line called 35·DL.  Both 35·DL and number35 designs have become a mainstay onThe Good Wife.
“It’s all about a very modern take on classic shapes and styles,” explains Lawson.
“Boxy suits made of masculine fabrics and collared blouses that are reminiscent of a man’s dress shirt are a style of the past. Today looking fresh is about high-end business suits and dresses that emphasize ‘feminine chic’ all the while being wonderfully powerful.”
Vogue Italia recently interviewed the two designers about their work on The Good Wife.

Daniel Lawson

How long have you been the Costume Designer for The Good Wife?

“I have been the costume designer on The Good Wife for all seven seasons.  I did not design the pilot, but have done every episode since.”

Are you the sole costume designer for clothes worn onscreen?

“Yes, I am the costume designer for the show which means I am responsible for every single costume worn, whether for a principle role or a background actor.”
Do you ever physically design custom pieces for them?

“I definitely custom design pieces for the show when we have time.  In addition to customizing pieces with Andrea through number 35 and 35DL, I also work with companies to make pieces specifically for the show.  I also design some of the men’s suits and have them built for the show.”

On average, how many pieces per show per character do you think you use for The Good Wife?

“It really varies from episode to episode. Sometimes, Julianna will only wear one costume for the whole episode. Sometimes, she can have a dozen looks. I would say on average, Alicia will have 5 costumes per episode. We estimate that Alicia has had well over 700 costumes for the series so far.”

Do the actresses have an idea of how they’d like to look?

“Sometimes they come in with an idea of what they would like to look like and sometimes they have no idea how they want the character to look. I have a great rapport with my actors because they know it is important to me that they feel good in their costumes and that the costumes support how they are playing the character.”
Do they get a chance to consult with you?
“I think one of the reasons the costumes on The Good Wifehave been successful is because my actors trust me and I trust them; we collaborate at every step in the process of bringing a character to life through the clothing. Sometimes we have a lot of time to think about a particular look and sometimes we have very little time, but we all always have the same goal of telling the story and conveying an emotion or thought through the costume. Please give examples of how Julianna and Christine work with you. When Julianna and I first starting working together, she and I had discussions about how Alicia should look. We both felt that despite having landed a new job, she was tired of being in the limelight of scandal and would want to dress in a way that would not draw attention. We also thought the character would be having financial problems due to paying so many lawyers, having to move, dealing with the kids alone, etc. So we didn’t want her clothes to look like she had gone out and bought a whole new wardrobe for her new job. Julianna felt that Alicia would wear very minimal jewelry, if any. It just wouldn’t be a priority for her. Similarly, when I first met with [Christine Baranski] it was important for her to look believable as a lawyer. The actress had had some very glamorous roles in the past and was known for her amazing ability to play comedy. So while it was important that Diane’s wardrobe look rich and modern and elegant, it was equally important to Christine that it look appropriate for a lawyer and not be “over the top””.

Do you have to watch every show so you can see how the characters are evolving?

“I do watch every episode, but for a couple of reasons. One, I’m a fan of the show! And I like watching it! Second, I like to watch to see how costumes ended up reading on camera – color, texture, shape, etc. Since I read each script about a million times, I don’t need to watch the show to know how the characters are evolving. I know from reading the amazing scripts that Robert and Michelle King, our head writers and producers, create. Although, I will say that it helps to see the actors playing the parts, wearing the clothes. It, of course, gives life to the words.”

When did you meet Andrea and decide that the two of you were a good fit to collaborate?

“My publicist, Linda Kearns at The Matchbook Company in NYC, had heard about number 35 and Andrea and thought her clothes would be a good fit for me to use on TGW. We eventually met in NYC on one of Andrea’s American trips, and we hit it off immediately. She let me leave the meeting with samples which I tried on the actors to great success. They loved the chic, elegant lines and beautiful fabrics and shapes.  After that initial meeting, Andrea and I collaborated on almost 40 pieces for my leading ladies via Skype over my hiatus. The results were glorious. The actors loved the pieces, I loved how they looked in them and Andrea was so impressed with what we had done that she put some of the pieces into production. Working with Andrea is like a dream. We compliment and challenge each other perfectly. I think her style and aesthetic is incredibly chic and wearable, which is a unique and valuable pairing for sure.”
Any good anecdotes from the set, maybe a time when there was a temporary wardrobe/style problem that was quickly solved?

“There are always situations that arise at the last moment that cause the heart to flutter. One time in particular was quite thrilling. Julianna had to wear an evening gown and would be wearing it for several days. Just as they were calling her to set, the zipper completely split down the back of the dress. Cool, calm and collected, we were able to quickly take the dress and put in a new zipper. Whereupon, Julianna put the dress on again and the zipper completely split a second! This time, we only had time to sew her into the dress. What a nightmare. But it all came out in the end and she looked really great.”
Andrea Cecile Cohen

What kind of working woman inspires your designs?

“The working women that inspire our designs are those that communicate clearly their needs and wants. They guide us to design simple chic clothing, to aid them in their day to evening lives.”

Do you think television allows the characters to dress a bit better than they would in the same profession in real life?
“I believe what Dan has achieved has really given women the ability to think big; think that they too can look amazing at work. He has given them hope to find brands like number35 and 35.DL, to inspire women to be able to create the looks from the shows. He has demonstrated that real women can lift their game through their clothes. We have so many women Googling “who dresses The Good Wife” They have been searching for clothes for decades, but not many designers have been able to deliver them.”

 

Diedre Johnson

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