Pret-a-Reporter

'Billions' Costume Designer Dishes on Wendy Rhoades' Enviable Looks

Courtesy of Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Showtime
Wendy Rhoades in Showtime's 'Billions' episode 5; inset of Eric Damon

Eric Daman breaks down Maggie Siff's character's powerful, streamlined style on the Showtime series, explaining, "The minute she walks through the office you know you don't want to f--k with her."

Maggie Siff's character Wendy Rhoades on the Showtime series Billions is a case study in New York power dressing, rocking body-hugging designer frocks in mostly navy and black.

"There is an 'in your face' to it even though she wears a lot of dark colors, because of the silhouettes, the seaming, the necklines — there is an architectural feeling," says Eric Damon, the show's lead costume designer who describes the character's style as "chic, streamlined but edgy and powerful."

We caught up with Daman, whose work has been seen in The Carrie Diaries and Gossip Girl, after the show's finale on Sunday to chat about how he accessorizes the character, her "no nonsense" style and why he loves Roland Mouret dresses. He says, "I feel like those types of dresses are the power suits of right now."

Pret-a-Reporter: What do you consider before selecting pieces for the character?

Eric Daman: I am really into Wendy’s wardrobe. Going into it I wanted to give her a streamlined, architectural — almost a body-con look but in an elevated way. Roland Mouret was kind of my inspiration dress, it has design features that are elegant and sexy and also very business and no nonsense, like Wendy is. She is in this boys' club surrounded by men who are in fleeces and t-shirts. So I think it is important for her to come in there and own the situation and own her sexuality. She also has a great tomboy quality to her in the way she holds herself and acts that I think it was great to find a balance between those extremes. Not to mention Maggie’s body looks so great in that silhouette.  

What's the difference between creating looks for Billions compared to The Carrie Diaries or Gossip Girl, even though they're all New York-centric shows?

Going into Billions was fun because it was such a male dominated show and that was nice to get back into male dressing after doing so much female ensemble work. Billions is a very adult world and I think a lot of people felt like it was going to be more Gossip Girl-y in the way that it would be very fashion forward and over the top, like billionaires wearing incredible suits all the time. And it is turned around because the office is so aggressively casual and the surroundings are so monochromatic. It was a great style challenge to create this other world that is Manhattan that isn’t teenagers waltzing around Bergdorf’s all day. I loved that by the way, but it has a different style iconography to it that feels very real to what the city is now with these hedge fund guys. It is a different world from the other shows. And it isn’t the world of Wall Street and it isn’t an '80s throwback of suits, it’s this new contemporary world of high-end casual. And then to add in powerful women, like Maggie, giving her strong silhouettes and the minute she walks through the office you know you don’t want to f--k with her. And I think she needs that to wield her power with the guys and to make sure they have confidence in her and know she can play ball.

There are a lot of prominent zippers on the clothing Wendy wears. Is that intentional?

That is a very intentional thing. There are some innuendos of her dominatrix, S&M life. I wanted to subtly drip that into her day wear as far as zippers and little grommets on her clothing and there are these really great shoes from Sarah Jessica Parker (called the Carrie) and they have a t-strap and almost a corset-looking detail and she wears them a lot. They are kind of one of her signature shoes. It has a little sexiness to it, she is a powerful New York woman and the zippers kind of play to that as well while having a very elevated, high fashion style without it being too into your face. There is an important balance, because we didn’t want her to feel like she is this fashionista. She is very serious about her choices and they are reserved in a certain way, but have accents like the zippers or elements that are a nod to that S&M feel. It is really cool to be able to play with that.
Sarah Jessica Parker Carrie t-strap pump; $214.90, nordstrom.com.

What are your favorite brands for the character to wear besides Roland Mouret?

We do a lot of Roland and Narciso Rodriguez. There is some Prada; they make the perfect pencil skirt, so she wears a lot of Prada pencil skirts. Victoria Beckham, Cushnie et Ochs, A.L.C. and Black Halo are also go-to’s.

What is something the character would never wear?

She would never wear a peasant blouse. She would be caught dead before she was in one of Lara [Axelrod, played by Malin Akerman]’s peasant blouses. Which I think is great because those characters are such polar opposites, they are not besties by any means.

Are there certain jewelers you continually source for Wendy?

My go-to is Vale, both Malin and Maggie’s character wear this brand. Catbird in Brooklyn is a fantastic local place. And she wears a lot of Vita Fede.

Billions season 1, episode 11 (left): Dress by Black Halo, Obsidian spike necklace by Samantha Wills and Bar and chain earrings by Catbird; episode 5: Dress by Roland Mouret and Triple Spike necklace by Vale. (Photos: Showtime)

Wendy wears a lot of Y-necklaces. What is the thought behind the character often donning a necklace?

It is incredible, people are so into her jewelry and I am a jewelry freak so that is very, very exciting.The lariat/Y-necklaces have a harness look and a S&M feel, without people really realizing I am doing that. There is a resurgence in the lariat necklace trend right now too, but we turned into a play on the dom world. And it feels like they are a little provocative. A lot of them have sharp edges, but there is also a beautiful femininity to it. It is a dance between being a jagged, sharp object, something that is almost a weapon in a way but it is still very sexy and slinky and just walking that fine balance between sex, edge, power and femininity.

Will we see Wendy in a statement necklace or will it mostly be delicate pieces?

She doesn’t really do statement necklaces, that’s not her vibe at all. I feel like I really did statement pieces so much with The Carrie Diaries and Gossip Girl, it was like six statement necklaces at once with 15 bracelets and it was fantastic, a lot of fun. For this, these characters are not those women. So it feels fresh for me to be able to dabble into that light layering. And she repeats necklaces a lot which is something that I learned from Sarah Jessica Parker (while working on Sex and the City). It is good to have some kind of signature piece, like the "Carrie" necklace. I think Wendy’s is a spike necklace that is a lariat, Y-style and she wears it like 90-percent of the time. It’s from Catbird.  

On Siff in Billions season 1, episode 2: Alexander Wang t-shirt worn with a Prada pencil skirt, short strand Thorn necklace and Rhoades' signature Y-spike necklace from Catbird, and chain and cuff bracelets from Henri Bendel. (Photo: Showtime)

How did Wendy's style evolve during the season?

During season one there is a definite evolution. I didn’t design the pilot so in the first episode she is more of a blazer and skinny jean type of psychologist. And then when I came in we slowly adjusted her into these body-con, very powerful, sexy silhouettes. And with the details you can see she keeps dialing it up and really works it and it becomes a powerful element throughout the story. She is caught between two worlds and is a strong figure, so it was important to elevate the silhouette and give it that drama. It is really cool to play with.  

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