How TV changed the way we dress, from Succession to Killing Eve
From top left, clockwise, to bottom left: Lily Collins in Emily in Paris – very chic, in a green coat from the Chanel Cruise 2020 collection; Jodie Comer in Kill Eve – This iconic Molly Goddard dress sold out shortly after the episode aired; the girl before.
David Oyelowo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The girl before – Mbatha-Raw’s elegant wardrobe as Jane was as compelling as the plot; and Tracy Ifeachor in View Trial – Duty counsel Cleo gives a masterclass on ambitious executive apparel.
Vanity Fair called the show “beautifully brilliant”. Even le Carré was impressed. By the time the BBC commissioned an adaptation of another of his novels, The Little Drummer Girl, two years later, the pattern had been set. Florence Pugh’s clothes were designed to be talking points for women.
It’s not just about female characters. From the architect of Oyelowo in The girl before at Course of action’Like police detective Steve Arnott, immense care is now taken in how the men dress, too. Arnott’s three-piece suits have become a meme (he used to get them from Ted Baker, but in keeping with his recent promotion, he now has them custom-made).
Yes Scott & Baileywritten in 2011 by the brilliant Sally Wainwright and starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp, were in the works today, I’m pretty sure their wardrobes would get a serious makeover.
The girl before shows how far British television has come. As noted in reviews, it looks like Grand Designs meets Bergerac, set in an architecturally award-winning modernist home with a main character dressed elegantly in Stella McCartney, Gucci, Prada and Brunello Cucinelli, mixed with high street, including a pale pink Zara blouse with intricate ruffles.
The Cucinelli trousers alone would have cost around £800 – if Jones’ wardrobe department had to pay for them. Once upon a time, costume designers paid for everything, which is why in a local drama, even the well-to-do and supposedly stylish characters for years often wore drab outfits. But times are changing.
As television has become a sexier industry, brands are increasingly willing to lend high-end clothing. The pandemic has also helped in unexpected ways. “Luckily these days, especially in times of lockdown, brands were happy to lend out,” says Jones.
The girl before was filmed in Bristol and London during the winter 2021 lockdown, when fashion shows were suspended or took place digitally, so television, once a reviled medium for many high-end brands, has suddenly acquired a hitherto unknown appeal, even for labels as famous as Prada.
‘Having an actor like Gugu was [also] extremely helpful in getting designers [involved]’ admits Jones – Mbatha-Raw has worked with designers like Armani. “But embarking on a television series is always a risk for [fashion] marks.’
The use of a Peloton bike in And Just Like That…, the sequel to sex and the city, is an excellent example; after Chris Noth’s character Mr Big died of a heart attack following an intense Peloton class, the company’s shares fell 11% in one day. (Peleton hired Noth to star in his commercials — a smart move, except five minutes later Noth was embroiled in past sexual assault allegations.)
A program that doesn’t skimp on clothing budgets and brilliant production is The morning showan American series with a star-studded cast and one of the highest drama budgets of all time – each episode costs $15 million.
The salaries of Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon make up a big chunk of the budget; Aniston’s wardrobe made up of bespoke Dior, Celine, Valentino and Valextra bags, presumably much of the rest.
She plays a breakfast news anchor called Alex Levy — though her sleek, mostly camel and black, ultra-luxe, draped cashmere wardrobe reflects more of what Aniston herself wears in her private life than the bright bodycon dresses of the average American breakfast. host of the show. But Alex is a star on around $25 million a year, so she can get away with channeling Diane Sawyer.
Also on the show were sisters Clare and Nina Hallworth, Aniston’s longtime stylists. ‘We worked to create a wardrobe for Alex that [contained] no disposable fashion pieces,” Nina told The Telegraph last year.