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The Good Fight, the recently-renewed spinoff of The Good Wife, just kind of feels more fun than its predecessor — and not just because of its ripped-from-the-headlines plot points or the joy of watching Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) drop F-bombs. The costumes, by Dan Lawson — who also dressed Lockhart/Gardner and co. on The Good Wife — are full of colors, prints, and textures that push boundaries, but not in an Ally McBeal sort of way.
“I feel like we upped the ante across the board and definitely punched it up with Diane,” Lawson tells Racked. Plus, he decided to play with equally distinctive palettes to establish and differentiate the four strong women joining Diane in the offices of Reddick, Boseman, and Kolstad, the predominantly black firm she joins as a junior partner after losing her money (and, nearly, her career prospects) in a Ponzi scheme.
But the pilot’s much-discussed (and famously reshot) opening scene didn’t involve any color at all, since Diane was originally set to wear head-to-toe white — but not because she’s a member of Pantsuit Nation, exactly.
The reshot opening moments show the liberal senior law partner watching the inauguration of Donald Trump, instead of triumphantly planning her retirement to the south of France on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s victory. So Lawson dressed her in an elegant and “funereal” all-black suit from his own line, 35·DL, accessorized with layered pearls. It’s a prim look that makes Diane’s following F-bomb especially jarring.
“[Diane] was certainly in mourning for what had happened to her friend. I’d always assumed that she was at least acquaintances with Hillary Clinton,” he says. The chic but somber suit was also Lawson’s sartorial homage to his early work with Baranski. “We’re having our little mini funeral for [The Good Wife],” Lawson says.
At the start of her own series, Diane celebrates her soon-to-be-doomed Provence retirement through a few more relaxed, carefree, and colorful looks, like a brown and chartreuse houndstooth skirt suit by Lafayette 148 and a watercolor dress and jacket set by Akris Punto that reminded Lawson of a Monet. “It just felt so fresh and new, and we hadn’t seen her wear anything like that before,” he says.
Quickly the Ponzi bombshell blows wide open, though, and Diane’s finances tighten — but she doesn’t reach for her leggings. “She’s certainly not going to look like she’s a character out of Oliver,” Lawson laughs. “She lost her money, but it’s not like suddenly she’s wearing rags and horrible stuff. She has a huge closet of clothes.” At first, the costume designer stayed true to the character’s classic power wardrobe to make it look like she “dug deep” into her closet to recycle past-season gear, like a brown pony hair suit by Akris and a dark ombre Lafayette 148 coat, the latter of which she wears while sadly strolling back to the apartment she might have to sell.
But once Diane starts receiving a salary and benefits at Reddick, Boseman, and Kolstad, she begins shopping again — and fully commits to prints and color. “She’s a real fighter and she’s gonna survive no matter what, and I wanted her clothes to reflect that fire and fight and this sort of rebirth she’s experiencing,” explains Lawson.
He points to the red and white printed Armani jacket she wears after landing Google-esque client Chumhum and demanding a promotion, which saves her from downsizing to a studio. “She holds all the cards,” he says. In episode 6, Diane experiments with a trifecta of texture in a white tonal outfit Hillary Clinton would adore: a sheer polka-dot mock neck top by Akris Punto, a shimmery jacquard jacket by St. John, and a Max Mara pencil skirt. Baranski was initially skeptical of the combination, Lawson says, but the outfit turned out to be one of the costume designer’s all-time favorites.
Pattern and texture mashups in the boardroom and courtroom come to a head as The Good Fight slams into its chaotic and eventful sixth episode, featuring John Cameron Mitchell’s flamboyant Milo Yiannopoulos-esque alt-right leader — who’s also a massive fan of prints. Lawson admits that playing with patterns is a personal style preference (“It’s really fun!”), but the mismatching serves as a plot driver, too.
“If there is a lot of activity going on in the script — and we’re trying to create an urgency or a sense of cacophony within a scene or episode — print and color are good ways for wardrobe to punch that up and echo the action,” he says.
The queen bee of color play, however, might be Barbara Kolstadt (Erica Tazel), Diane’s reluctant new boss and senior law firm partner. To help establish the strong, confident character, Lawson put her in a palette of metallic tones and rich textures somewhat inspired by “17th-century Spanish royalty.” He looked to regal brocade jackets and detailed blouses from labels like Lanvin and Escada — plus Zara, where he found a fabulous, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gold midi skirt she wears in the sixth episode.
Lawson says he and series creators Robert and Michelle King discussed whether or not to incorporate “African fabrics or African-American nods” into the costumes; together, they decided on the latter. “We wanted it to feel not self-aware or self-conscious,” he explains, but he does allow Barbara to show a little eclecticism with her jewelry. To contrast Diane’s classic brooches and cocktail rings, Barbara wears artier, bold accessories, including some hand-crafted ethnic pieces from Dem Two Hands in Montclair, New Jersey.
Also on staff at Reddick, Boseman, and Kolstadt: Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), who appeared in the last season of The Good Wife. Even when everyone else is in suits, Lucca keeps her style consistent in ultra-flattering statement dresses — starting with a navy floral jacquard number by Jason Wu she wears to a deposition. In this series, the whip-smart and alluring three-year associate enjoys an extracurricular storyline, too.
“As she finds romance, we’ve tried to make her clothes a little more sensual, a little more flirty, but still elegant and chic,” Lawson explains. Despite the character’s junior status (and, presumably, her smaller wardrobe budget), she’s the one wearing the killer designer pieces, including a mod Gucci tuxedo dress with a pink pussy bow (more on that in a bit), a floral embroidered Roberto Cavalli dress, a laser-cut velvet Alexander McQueen shift — and, in an upcoming episode, a Prada dress fully embellished with “huge, 3D white patent plastic flowers.”
On the more understated end of the style spectrum, there’s Diane’s mentee and goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie, of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey), whose father happens to be the Madoff-esque head of the fraudulent investment fund that bankrupted Chicago’s liberal elite. “In the back of my mind, I wondered if Maia was like the beginning Alicia [Florrick],” says Lawson, referring to The Good Wife’s heroine played by Julianna Margulies. “I always said about Alicia, ‘She had one foot in the classic and one foot in the modern,’ and that’s how I felt about Maia.”
So as not to distract from Leslie’s “understated and elegant” performance and Maia’s mysterious storyline, Lawson looked to minimalist Calvin Klein images for inspiration, which he mixed with a “vague little nod to Courrèges and the early ‘70s and ‘60s,” he says. “Very clean, classic, modern, and we played that all the way through.” As many of Maia’s scenes involve “sedentary” close-ups at a desk or a courtroom table, he chose clean, minimalist pieces with subtle but beautiful details, like a gray Karen Millen shift with triangular panels at the bodice, a mauve, scallop-piped blouse and pencil skirt set by Reiss he layered under a brick-colored collarless Theory blazer, and quite a few Michael Kors dresses. Maia’s outerwear game is strong, too. “Oh my god, she has a dozen coats!” laughs Lawson.
Alicia’s former assistant and fan favorite Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) proactively snags a position as Diane’s staffer — and quickly stands out thanks to her investigative skills (just call her Kalinda 2.0). She starts the season in more youthful looks that aren’t exactly office-appropriate, but then enjoys her own wardrobe evolution as she embarks on her new career track.
“Marissa is smart. She sees what other people are wearing and how they put things together,” Lawson says. “Her look becomes more sophisticated, but still true to her original look.” And true to a young twentysomething on an assistant salary (albeit one who’s still getting help from her deep-pocketed dad — hi, Eli!), Marissa mixes high with low. She’ll pair Akris with Urban Outfitters, for instance, or Alice + Olivia with Gap. Plus, her “eclectic” style helps her fly under the radar. “It’s her secret weapon,” Lawson says.
At the risk of restating the obvious, The Good Fight isn’t afraid to make political statements, and that goes for the costumes, too. You may have noticed a few pussy bow blouses — like Lucca’s paisley Diane von Furstenberg version — sprinkled throughout the fifth episode, which features a story arc clearly inspired by Law & Order: SVU’s delayed Donald Trump episode. The following episode addresses the topic of hate speech on social media and features even more pussy bows — from a yellow-printed Nine West top on the always-wonderful Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) to Lucca’s aforementioned Gucci. Considering the content of both episodes, it’s hard not to wonder whether the costumes were one bigly anti-Trump statement on Lawson’s part.
“I was like, ‘Are people going to think that I’m making a political statement here?’” laughs Lawson, who confirmed the sartorial trolling wasn’t a script direction from the Kings. “I mean, our show is certainly political, but yeah, it’s not so wrong to think that was in the back of my mind when we were pulling it all together.” Or, as one might say, it was an easy D.
The Good Fight airs on Sundays on CBS All Access.