If you haven’t gotten on the House of Cards bandwagon yet you are seriously (like, seriously) missing out. Netflix’s exclusive original series is full of Washinton DC scandal, intrigue and some of the most disgustingly disturbed and conniving characters in the history of television. If this type of show isn’t your thing, at least watch it to feel less guilty about yourself and the wrongdoings you’ve done in your own life. Feeling bad about the fact that you passed a homeless man on the street and didn’t give him some loose change? Didn’t recycle? Heck, even if you burned down an animal rescue shelter you’d still come out ahead of most of the people on this show.
If you’re not familiar with the plot of House of Cards, without giving you any spoilers, Claire Underwood is the wife of Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, who, in the beginning of the series, is the House Majority Whip, power hungry, ruthless and likely has pure evil running through his veins. Now when a show’s main character is an unlikable and disgusting man, typically, his wife has some sort of a moral compass, even if she goes along in support of her husband’s misdeeds. Take Carmela Soprano, for example. While she did often embrace the benefits of Tony Soprano’s profession and lifestyle, she had moments of clarity and often had the desire to be a good person. Skylar White of Breaking Bad would be another perfect example. This is definitely not the case with Claire Underwood. Again, no spoilers but if you’ve seen the show, can we just talk about that hospital scene or the fact that she threatened the life of a woman’s unborn baby with that ridiculously elaborate plan? Yes, it is quite possible that Claire Underwood is the worst of the worst.
If you’re still not feeling it, at least watch House of Cards for Claire Underwood’s style…it is AHHHMAZING! After gulping up the two seasons (in one of my quickest Neflix binges on record), I knew I had to do a post on the costuming Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, by costume designer Tom Broecker, who also happens to be the costume designer for Saturday Night Live (an odd mix, I know). Considering her attire is mostly professional in look, doing it as part of my wear to work series seemed perfectly fitting. Yes, it is easy to hate Claire Underwood, but, I think we can all agree, we’d all die to get into her closet.
How to Dress Like Claire Underwood
Monchromatic Colors: Doing my research, for House of Cards, Tom Broecker primarily uses a monochrome grey palette to underscore the shady dealings of Washington DC. Red is avoided and has only been used once in the series thus far.
To emulate Claire Underwood’s style in your own wardrobe focus on understated and monochromatic colors. This is not to say you can’t modify. As much as I love everything about the costuming of Claire, I would probably add some accents of color here and there, likely through a pop color pair of shoes or a statement bag. And if you love red, wear it.
Perfect Tailoring: As you can tell in the show, and reiterated by Broecker in this Elle.com article, “With her character we really wanted to have this armored, tailored, tight, nothing out of place feel.” Tailored is definitely the cornerstone detail of everything Claire Underwood wears and, despite her insanely perfect figure that would make a paper bag look gorgeous, a good tailor was used on the show to get a perfect fit and to create that precise suit of armor look.
Few of us have the time to jog through graveyards like Claire does or are blessed with the genetic super-body of Robin Wright, so I can’t reinforce the importance of a good tailor enough. If you watch the show you have probably noticed that Claire’s style is relatively simple with a lot of stunning sheath dresses, clean lines, modern architectural details and not a lot of fluff. Sure, some ruffles and bows show up here and there but these details are often paired with structure. When you dress this simply your clothes need to fit perfectly. There is no room for error especially without any fussy, distracting details.
Simple accessories: Claire Underwood is hardly accessorized. She wears a simple wedding band and if she does wear earrings they are small studs. In fact, the YSL Muse bag was carried by Claire on most days, and for a reason. In DC showing wealth is a faux pas, which many of my DC clients have confirmed. A seasons-old bag was used to reinforce this. This might also explain why Claire’s jewelry is simple, dripping with jewels is very un-DC. I know not encouraging accessories sounds weird coming from me, who pushes accessorizing like crack, but if you look at all the clothing that Claire wears they are practically accessories in themselves. The clothing may be simple but it is far from boring.
For you in your very real life, again, you can modify. And unlike Claire, who wears something different in every episode, you’ll probably want to change up most of your investment clothing. To embrace a Claire-like style with accessories, keep them minimal but of good looking quality. The beauty of accessories is they don’t have to be expensive to look expensive. While I would avoid a junky designer knock-off handbag, you can certainly find use pieces that look high quality but are affordable. And don’t be afraid to add some color through your jewelry.
An unlimited wardrobe budget: The Underwoods are quite wealthy and few can afford most of what Claire is actually styled in. Costume designer Tom Broecker styles this character in designers like Prada, Narcisco Rodriguez, Theory, the late L’Wren Scott, Armani, Gucci and, lest we forget, every pair of her shoes have red bottomed, Louboutin, soles. It’s hard not to be stylish when all you wear is designer clothing.
While it would be nice, the chances that your entire wardrobe will be stuffed with duds from these designers, here are some more affordable looks I put together to help you dress like Claire Underwood without breaking the bank.
Outfit #1- Pencil Skirt
You can’t have Claire Underwood style without a pencil skirt in your closet. I chose this one from J. Crew because it isn’t just your run of the mill pencil skirt, it has clean and modern color blocking of navy and ivory. Navy is a common color worn by Claire. With it, I added this ivory T. Tahari sleeveless top because, not only does T. Tahari seem like a fitting label to check out if you like Claire’s style, it wasn’t just a basic top. This is another key: even the simplest of pieces that Claire wears often have a modern twist, like the small pleats found at the neckline of this top. To finish the look, I added an affordable pair of nude peep-toe pumps from Jessica Simpson, an investment bag from Furla, that will stand the test of time and not go out of style any time soon, and, lastly, a classic trench from Reiss. As you can see the only jewelry used are these gold stud earrings by Tory Burch.
By pairing high priced items with more affordable ones, the less expensive pieces get elevated in look. This is a great way to look more expensive in what you can wear than you can afford.
Outfit #2- Claire’s iconic glasses
Every time Claire is wearing her, now iconic, tortoise frames, I thank God I am a glasses wearer, she just makes them look so stylish. For this look it’s not just about the glasses but how, when Claire wears soft pieces, like ruffles and bows, she always wears them with harder and more tailored items. Here, this short sleeve bow blouse from Alice + Olivia is styled with a pair of tailored grey pants from Mango. To finish the look, I added a basic taupe pump from Tahari (although I am quite sure Claire’s heels would be much higher), a monochromatic striped bag from Coach and completed the look with a pair of tortoise frames from Coastal and the same stud earrings used in the first look.
In a professional setting soft drape, ruffles and bows always work best when they are paired with tailored items. Also, notice how the bag proves that monochromatic can be stylish and not dull if done right.
Outfit #3- The iconic sheath
Another must-have item in order to emulate Claire Underwood is the sheath dress. Smartly, she knows that the dress is the professional woman’s best friend. Not only do we frequently see Claire wearing dresses to work but also to the many events she attends. What I liked about this Reiss dress is how it could be the perfect work event dress because its professional with an understated touch of after-five. I also found the neckline detail, not to mention the demure cap sleeve, to be indicative of Claire’s style. To finish the look in that soft but structured manner, I added a pair of soft grey stilettos, a snakeskin MICHAEL by Michael Kors clutch and a pair of diamond stud earrings.
In order to really embrace Claire’s style you have to be willing to endure high heels, which can be hard for real women, but, as someone who gets driven around everywhere, easy for her. Damn her!! If you can’t do the high heel thing, at least go for classic shoe shapes and styles. Again, not boring, simple and classic. No bells and whistles, no garish prints and definitely no clunky shoes.
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I don’t watch House of Cards but as a Washingtonian, I say “YES!!!” to this wardrobe – love it!!!
Oh you need to watch the show! It’s seriously insane!
Great post! I think you mean sheath dress, though, not shift.
And you would be correct! Over 20 years in the fashion industry and I still mix the two up. We actually used to interchange the terms quite often when I was a designer. Thanks for the call out
Love the show and Claire’s style is lovely. Fun idea for a feature. Question: how does one with a small waist and thighs wear a pencil skirt? Whenever I try one on, that style skirt just doesn’t look right.
A pencil skirt can actually work if you have this body shape. However, if you prefer something else, a trumpet skirt can give you the same effect.
Ha ha…I first saw just the headline in my blog feed and thought “Carrie Underwood? Why do I want to dress like Carrie Underwood? She had the whole “Jesus Take the Wheel” song…what happened to her moral compass since then? OH……. 🙂
And on another topic…what IS the difference between a sheath and a shift?
I love these clean, simple outfits. Great stuff!