‘House of Cards’ costume designer on Claire Underwood’s polished rise to power

Beware Claire’s flair.

During her six seasons on “House of Cards,” Claire Underwood’s ruthless ambition manifests not just in her political power plays, but through intentional shifts in the character’s wardrobe, says series costume designer Kemal Harris.

“She does this visual manipulation where she has this quiet sensuality about her,” Harris says of Claire, played by Golden Globe winner Robin Wright. “She uses that as a tool, to get the best and worst out of people.”

Claire Underwood wore more casual —but still immaculate — attire in Season 2.
Claire Underwood wore more casual — but still crisp — attire in Season 2.Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix

In the show’s final season, released Friday on Netflix, fans get to see Claire in full Madam President mode, turned out in sharp dress suits befitting the most powerful person in the world. The buttoned-up, stretchy wool-crepe attire often embraces an appropriate “presidential blue,” Harris says, conveying the regal seriousness of a military commander ready for war. That marks a stark contrast to Claire’s early days as power-hungry striver nurturing the ambitions of husband Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey).

“In Seasons 1 and 2, Francis was the political social climber; Claire was helping him behind the scenes,” says Harris, who joined the show in Season 3. At the time, Claire’s closet was filled with understated looks from designers such as Armani, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. “She wasn’t too flashy,” Harris says. “She wasn’t quite in full White House wheeling-and-dealing mode yet.”

Claire's attire took on a more button-ed up military look in Season 5.
Claire’s wardrobe took on a more button-ed up military look in Season 5.David Giesbrecht / Netflix

Things took a turn in Season 3, when Claire began her official duties as first lady. To signal this shift, Harris took style cues from screen legends such as Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. “They’re very confident and always [seemed] to be in control of their careers and characters,” she says. Claire also broke from her usual muted palette with pieces in jade green and burgundy. “For once in her life, Claire actually got to be a little bit fabulous and enjoy her fashion,” Harris says.

The character’s style story deepened further in Season 4, when Claire returned to her family’s Texas ranch to run for Congress (and lock horns with her Francis-hating mother). “We actually see her break down and cry. Like, whoa — Claire has feelings!” Harris says. The emotional mood is reflected in Claire’s “browns, tweed fabrics, a leather riding boot — things that were reminiscent of her childhood.”

Claire occupies the Oval Office in Season 6.
Claire occupies the Oval Office in Season 6.David Giesbrecht/Netflix

When campaigning for vice president as her husband’s running mate, Claire was back in business for Season 5. Harris embellished Claire’s ensembles with “military details” such as large gold buttons — also a nod to Claire’s desire to be commander in chief herself. “Claire was the epitome of that phrase, ‘Dress for the job you want,’” Harris says. (Spacey was fired from the show before Season 6 began filming, following allegations of sexual impropriety. His character was killed off-camera.)

In the final season, Claire is in the Oval Office, rocking a wardrobe that’s roughly 80 percent custom-made using a mannequin built to Wright’s exact measurements, Harris says. The precise tailoring isn’t haute-y, though; the vibe is “utilitarian,” with higher neck lines and longer sleeves than in past seasons. She now also has custom presidential cuff links and sports a blunt, sleek bob.

But, rest assured, not everything has changed.

“We continued with Claire’s well-tailored, immaculate style,” Harris says, “and the wicked black patent Christian Louboutin heels Claire is known for.”

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https://nypost.com/2018/11/02/house-of-cards-costume-designer-on-claire-underwoods-polished-rise-to-power/

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