Pret-a-Reporter

'House of Cards' Costume Designer Dishes on Frank Underwood's Sharp Suits for Season 4

Courtesy of Netflix
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood on 'House of Cards'

Not only did Johanna Argan work with Hugo Boss on custom looks for Kevin Spacey's character, but First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) also got a slight style makeover.

If the president of the United States can have custom suits, then why can’t House of Cards’ fictional leader, Frank Underwood? It’s a question that the Netflix show’s head costume designer, Johanna Argan, asked herself about Kevin Spacey’s character before heading into season four of the Netflix show (which debuted on March 4). And Hugo Boss’ made-to-measure program had the answer. In collaboration with a team of tailors and the brand’s head pattern maker (who flew to Baltimore to fit Spacey on set), Argan built a wardrobe of 45 sharp suits to carry Underwood through a campaign year, and his most serious season to date.

"The great thing about Boss is they gave me access to their complete fabric library for all their suiting, all their shirting, all their silks to make ties," says Argan, who worked with the team on perfecting every look, down to where Underwood’s initials were stitched into his jacket. And if anyone knows how to dress Spacey in a suit, it’s Argan, who also happens to be the star’s longtime personal stylist.

"It’s those subtle details that help Kevin step into his character," she explains. "When you wear something that is made-to-measure, it automatically makes you walk a different way."

But it’s not just the commander-in-chief who got a wardrobe makeover this season. Kemal Harris, who works exclusively on the show with Robin Wright’s equally power-hungry character, First Lady Claire Underwood, has also shifted direction with her sartorial selections to reflect Claire’s renewed sense of self.

"Claire Underwood has always been about sacrifice, determination and ruthless ambition. In season four, Claire no longer has the time or patience to simply be arm candy and is ready to take back control of her career goals," says Harris, who also styles Wright in real life. "To show this rawer, leaner side of her, I muted the color palette and added contrast trim and pintuck details to represent her redefining her boundaries. I used vintage tweeds to represent her Texan Ranch family roots, and I designed with much sharper lines than I did in season three. Playtime is over, the frills are gone."

And if you ask Argan — politics and opinions aside — this season’s presidential candidates could take a few style cues from the show. That includes Donald Trump and his shirts and "brash" ties.

"I just think there’s a way to present yourself," she says. "A lot of politicians don’t look crisp and sharp. Frank Underwood doesn’t do everything by the book. That’s probably why he stands out so much and why people talk about the wardrobe on our show so much. He just does it his way."

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