How 'Murphy Brown' Costume Designer Updated the Icon's Style for the Cable News Era
Patricia Field's update for the quintessential working woman's CBS revival reflects both its predecessor and the times: "We wanted to put a special spin on our wardrobes without going overboard."
She was a badass blond anchorwoman, powerful enough to draw ire from a vice president for daring to be a single mom. She also happened to love designer clothes.
From 1988-98, Murphy Brown was a feminist heroine for working women, with a covetable wardrobe of American sportswear from Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan of colorful blazers, short skirts, opaque tights and high heels for the office and baggy trousers, baseball hats and Southwestern-patterned sweaters for the weekend. And on Sept. 27, Murphy Brown returns to CBS with the original cast hosting a cable news morning show that takes on President Trump, fake news, the #MeToo era and more.
"Pat Field is a genius," says two-time creator Diane English of the costume designer of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada fame, adding, "We wanted someone to put a special spin on our wardrobes without going overboard." Field tapped New York designer Christian Siriano to make a more feminine version of Brown's "symbolic" '80s red blazer and replaced her statement brooch with a statement shoe. (Think Tods loafers with fun, pink pompom trim.)
Candice Bergen is now 72, but Field says there was no discussion of age-appropriateness during costume fittings: "If Sex and the City proved anything, it's that women today can wear what they please, if they put it together their own way."
Murphy's colleague Corky (Faith Ford) was originally modeled after a beauty queen, and she's now a energetic morning show host and journalist a la Megyn Kelly. "A lot of frills, color and sleeveless," says Field, name-checking labels Alice + Olivia and Moschino and ankle boots as an update to heels. To draw the millennial crowd, Pat (Nik Dodani) is the office IT guy in Topman pants and Vans sneakers, helping everyone up the font size on their devices.
Meanwhile, Murphy's son, Avery (Jake McDorman), has grown up to become a TV anchor for the rival Wolf (ahem, Fox News?) network, complete with a look that includes John Varvatos pieces. "Their relationship is heartwarming and will give our show something we don't see on the news," says Field. "It opens up the possibility of uniting the two tribes."
This story first appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.