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House of Cards costume designer Tom Broecker may have an Emmy nod under his belt for his work on the first season of the hit Netflix show, but as of Saturday night the industry vet has a statue to add to his accolade shelf, too — a Costume Designer’s Guild Award for Outstanding Contemporary Television Series.
Broecker, who was a double nominee in the same category for his work on Saturday Night Live, beat out Scandal’s Lyn Paolo, Nashville’s Susie DeSanto and Breaking Bad’s Jennifer Bryan to win the honor. And before the 16th annual awards, which were held at the Beverly Hilton and hosted by Scandal actor Joshua Malina, we caught up with Broecker and his first-half-of-season two counterpart Gersha Phillips to get the scoop on the new season, which went live on February 14 (Johanna Argan took over from Phillips for the second half of season two).
“Clothes are like armor, very reflective,” Phillips tells Pret-a-Reporter. “[Frank and Claire] reflect everything away from them. It’s almost an intentional thing. It’s like an emotional barrier.
“We wear clothes as armor, to protect us from the elements,” Broecker adds. He points to Claire and Frank as examples, discussing how every choice they make is deliberate, never casual.
Frank will get a nearly entire new wardrobe this season, full of new designers. He’ll begin the season wearing suits from Gieves and Hawkes (the London-based designers who dominated season one), will transition into Ralph Lauren and will eventually take on Burberry.
Claire’s wardrobe will consist of some old and some new. Narciso Rodriguez, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren will remain in her closet, though these labels will become slightly more tailored and fashion forward. She’ll also get the addition of Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and RolandMouret, to name a few.
Some standout pieces of Claire’s to look forward to this season? A long-sleeved, crew neck, cream Roland Mouret dress cinched with a simple belt; the dress is fitted through the hips and flares out (“very sexy, but also classy and fabulous all at the same time”). A Dior suit stands out as another example.
Produced by David Fincher, House of Cards is a show very much ingrained in structure, as well as color and shape, but these elements differ depending on the setting.
Broecker divides the show into three worlds: First, Frank’s Capitol Hill-set world of scheming politicians, himself included; second, Claire’s business world, set in her non-profit, the Clean Water Initiative, which is often part of Frank’s mischief, though Claire is no saint herself; third, the world of the journalists, including Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer) and Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus).
Structurally, Frank and Claire often align. They wear fitted, angular clothes that match their sharp, hard personalities (again, armor). As a ruthless, aspiring writer, Zoe isn’t exactly sweet as pie, but overall the journalists have a much gentler feel to them, and their style reflects that.
“That world of the journalists is much more academic, softer,” Broecker explains. “People wear wool, and they wear sweaters, there’s a lot of cashmere, and everything has a warmth to it, comfort to it because they’re working long hours. There’s almost this disheveled, student-like quality to it.”
Structure won’t stray too far from the first season, but Frank’s suits will be slimmer. He’s trimmed down as a result of the newfound stress of being Vice President. Although still clean and sexy, Claire’s style will become a bit sleeker as she steps into her role as “Second Lady.”
Color on the show is very neutral. In season one, Broecker presented Frank’s world as largely navy blue, gray, white and a dash of pink. Black frequented Claire’s wardrobe to reflect her strong, New York-like sense of style. Though a powerful color, black became her neutral. The journalists, to counter, sported lots of natural colors: earthy, warm and academic greens and browns.
This season, Spacey will be seen in much more gray, though this shift will be pretty subtle.
“One of the things that Kevin had mentioned to me was that whenever men go into the white house, they always go gray, completely gray,” Phillips says. “He took it on in the clothing as well as the hair.”
Otherwise, Phillips says color will stay pretty much the same in season 2: “Fincher has a pretty strong palette that you stay within, and there’s not a lot of deviating from it.”
She mentions how her and Wright — whom both costume designers consider a muse — toyed with red, an idea that was ultimately shut down because, as Fincher told Phillips, red must be used for a reason.
Yes, there are certainly some standouts (we’re salivating over that Roland Mouret), but Phillips still had to stay within the world that Broecker created in season one.
“It’s tricky because you’re coming into somebody else’s world, so that’s always a little bit different, and you have to adjust yourself to what they’ve done and then pick up from that,” Phillips says. “I wouldn’t say it was that bad. I wouldn’t say I had a really hard time with it. I hope I didn’t. I hope it shows there was a smooth transition (laughs).”
A daunting process, indeed, but Phillips adds: “The map was there. It was just taking this map into a slightly different route.”
House of Cards was recently renewed for a third season, and Broecker might come back in some capacity. But, for the time being, he’s just interested to see where season two takes the characters, Claire in particular.
“I’m curious to see where it goes as someone else takes over,” Broecker says. “It’s interesting to see where they go with it and what they do. I don’t own Claire Underwood. People have other ideas, so I’m curious to see where they take her.”
We have no doubts that Claire will continue being her fabulous self. Find out when you inevitably binge-watch the new season sans shame.
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Robert De Niro