Dressed for Politics

by Tina Jøhnk Christensen June 22, 2020
Ben Platt and Gwyneth Paltrow in "The Politician"

The political satire The Politician is the latest collaboration between Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, and Brad Falchuk, who are also the creators behind the highly successful musical comedy-drama Glee. In the first season of The Politician, we meet a group of very well-dressed, privileged high school teenagers in southern California. In the second season, they have moved to New York to reach for bigger things in politics. Behind the wardrobe is costume designer Claire Parkinson, who had in-depth conversations with Ryan Murphy about each character in the show before creating their look. She created a strong individual style for each of them but focused style that is timeless and classic with inspiration from several periods, including real-life politicians Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama.

In The Politician, Bette Midler plays Hadassah Gold, a ferocious campaign ad-visor, who is Dede Standish’s right-hand on her political campaign.

In The Politician, Bette Midler plays Hadassah Gold, a ferocious campaign advisor, who is Dede Standish’s right-hand on her political campaign.

“This teal look is something we designed and had our tailors create for Bette for Episode 1,” says Claire Parkinson. “We made this top with matching pants to wear underneath this stunning metallic gunmetal Burberry trench we found. It is a double-face crepe fabric, that has a nice weight to it. Bette showed us pieces from her closet for inspiration. We discussed the ideas and elements that worked for her character, Hadassah. This piece is really made for her body, with princess seams that are super figure-flattering and bold color that is so important for sassy Hadassah. We couldn’t find the color in the stores in the shapes we wanted for Bette since she is quite petite, so we made many of the looks for her throughout the season. And the earrings are CH by Carolina Herrera.”

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Georgina Hobart, the mother of adoptive son Payton Hobart. In season 2, she decides to run for Governor of California and is seen here in a blue business suit during a political debate.

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Georgina Hobart, the mother of adoptive son Payton Hobart. In season 2, she decides to run for Governor of California and is seen here in a blue business suit during a political debate. 

“Here she is dressed for success,” says Claire Parkinson about the Adam Lippes suit. “She is still old school glamorous but has to be taken seriously in the political light, so this is the Georgina version of Power Suiting. We loved this sophisticated wool suit’s more organic soft shape and sea blue color worn with a matching Adam Lippes beautiful silk charmeuse draped neck blouse.”  The jacket has peaked lapels, flap pockets and is single-breasted with a very tailored fit.

“Georgina's almost always seen wearing rings on every finger: an eclectic element from last season that we wanted to keep, although she appears more buttoned-up now in her political suiting.”

The blue ring is by Brent Neale, and the wraparound zebra ring is by David Webb, a jeweler they used on Gwyneth for every episode. She also always wore an Alexander McQueen scarab beetle ring.

Judith Light plays Dede Standish, an ambitious, veteran City Council member. This is a two-piece crepe Proenza Schouler pant suit.

Judith Light plays Dede Standish, an ambitious, veteran City Council member.

This is a two-piece crepe Proenza Schouler pantsuit.

“We loved the elegance of this,” says Claire Parkinson. “It has a tiered waist detail that is hard to see but creates a beautiful shape for Judith.  The matching pants are super high-waisted with a wide leg and front pleat detail. We discussed the prevalence of white for her character this season and this was a key moment for her and the message she is giving. This is a very elegant, but practical and relaxed look for Dede, even off the clock. Even when she is at home, she is dressed for success and is very elevated and powerful. She is very confident and knows who she is, so she doesn’t have to be flashy with her colors. Dede is often dressed in simple and streamlined looks that are quite powerful. She really wears her clothing. Her clothing doesn’t wear her!”

Ben Platt plays the role as the young politician Payton Hobart, who went from an ambitious high school politician running an aggressive campaign for class president to running for office in New York.

Ben Platt plays the role of the young politician Payton Hobart, who went from an ambitious high school politician running an aggressive campaign for class president to running for office in New York.

“In the last season the style was much more California, a Santa Barbara old- school glamour, 70s vibe, and we still use this for Georgina in California,” says Claire Parkinson. “But the New York energy and the political race is really a part of the story and the costumes. We wanted to keep colors really strong and we had some darker sets and grey weather, so Alice is more rock and roll with black leather coats. It was very exciting for us to bring in the New York street style.”

The team worked on making the location part of the character and story and they wanted it to be reflected in the wardrobe. So, the characters are all reinventing themselves. This was also the case with Payton.”

“We loved working with Paul Smith again this season for Payton’s closet,” says Claire Parkinson, who points out that Payton’s style is not fully typical for a politician as it is more colorful and wears many patterns. “It is one of our favorite brands for Payton. It has a beautiful fit. The patterns, textures, and fabrics really align with the character since they are typically a bit more exciting than a lot of the suiting out there. The super slim fit is so perfect for Ben's frame. We loved this wool windowpane suit that is dark brown and green plaid. We used a lot of warm wools and cashmere knits in New York this season and they paired really well with many of the suits we found. This is a cashmere brown turtleneck.”

“It is really nice to work with people like Bette and Judith because they have such strong visions and really understand the clothing,” says Claire Parkinson. “They both come from families that have worked in clothing, so it was very col-laborative with t

 “It is really nice to work with people like Bette and Judith because they have such strong visions and really understand the clothing,” says Claire Parkinson. “They both come from families that have worked in clothing, so it was very collaborative with them.”

Judith Light is wearing Gabriela Hearst in this photo. 

“She has a beautiful fit and we love her brand ethos, which is super committed to sustainability - she actually is one of the first carbon-neutral fashion brands out there and they were so lovely to let us come look at many samples and pieces for the show as we were prepping. This wool-silk blend suit has a beautiful gathering self-belt detail at the waist that feels rich, bold, and womanly. The necklace, earrings, and ring are by Verdura (the cage collection) with this amazing lariat necklace - this is a brand we adore and used often for the high-powered women of the show: Hadassah, Dede and Georgina.”

Bette Midler is wearing a strong-shouldered red and pink Alexander McQueen suit.

“We loved keeping her colors vibrant and saturated, often quite opposite from Dede, but contrasting well. We loved this fiery red color with the two-tone double lapel detail. Bette often brought her amazing costume jewelry for us to see and we thought these earrings were perfect - playful and really hold up to the power suit. We always want to keep the looks balanced and bold.” 

Julia Schlaepfer plays the role of Payton’s girlfriend Alice Charles. This is a Prada two-piece wool skirt suit.

Julia Schlaepfer plays the role of Payton’s girlfriend Alice Charles. This is a Prada two-piece wool skirt suit.

“We love the vintage feel with the Peter Pan collar, contrast piping, and A-line shape. The bow was an homage to season 1 since she wore them quite often in high school. We also love the Jackie O, retro-first-lady influence!  The jacket had such special details like flap pockets with piping, belted cuffs, and a tabbed back. And of course, Alice always is in her pearls and is often carrying her Tory Burch petite Lee bag that she has in a few colors.”

Laura Dreyfuss plays McAfee Westbrooke and is seen here in a brown vintage wool swing coat.

Laura Dreyfuss plays McAfee Westbrooke and is seen here in a brown vintage wool swing coat.

“We found it at a vintage vendor at A Current Affair in Brooklyn,” explains Claire Parkinson. “We bought this piece early in the season, right when we started prepping and we were dying to use it all season. She is wearing a wool Chloe sweater with metallic horses beneath over a thin turtleneck and dark green vintage Prada wool pants.  Payton is in a more casual out of office look, wearing a Sandro navy bomber, navy and red wool sweater, and red trousers. Alice Charles is in a silk bow blouse with a red wool Brooks Brothers pea coat, and her pearls of course!”

Julia Schlaepfer plays Alice Charles. Laura Dreyfuss is McAfee Westbrooke and Rahne Jones plays Skye Leighton. They all work for Payton on his political campaign.

Julia Schlaepfer plays Alice Charles. Laura Dreyfuss is McAfee Westbrooke and Rahne Jones plays Skye Leighton. They all work for Payton on his political campaign.

“They are very serious, and they want Payton to be elected,” says Claire Parkinson. “His team is often dressed in a way that complements Payton and where they are in the moment. If they are on the campaign trail with him, they will be more elevated. They are always ready for a photograph to be taken.”

Julia Schlaepfer as Alice Charles is dressed in a pale pink wool Miu Miu coat.

“It is worn with a matching skirt beneath,” says Claire Parkinson. “We loved the elegant and timeless details – from the contrast collar and trim to the pearl buttons. It is a very serious moment, but we still want to bring that more whimsical element to her looks.”

Laura Dreyfuss as McAfee Westbrooke is wearing an ornate brocade Gucci two-piece suit.

“It was another perfect suit moment for McAfee who still is committed to her ‘almost always in a suit’ closet. She is wearing a tight-fitting Rachel Comey turtleneck underneath that is shimmery purple jersey fabric. She is also wearing one of her character pendant necklaces, a piece by Laura Lombardi, a NY brand we love and have used for her character both seasons.”

Rahne Jones as Skye Leighton is wearing a double-breasted wool windowpane duster by Paul Smith.

“We paired it with a vibrant Ted Baker chunky knit sweater that really reflected her character’s cool style with such a bright green color.”

Gwyneth Paltrow as Georgina Hobart is wearing an Oscar de la Renta Moiré Faile Wide-Leg Jumpsuit in silk taffeta.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Georgina Hobart is wearing an Oscar de la Renta Moiré Faile Wide-Leg Jumpsuit in silk taffeta.

“We had seen that from the SS 2020 runway collection. It was one of the first pieces we had bookmarked and dreamed of using for the character while we were still early in the prep stages. This moment was so perfect for her to wear this because it’s glamorous and a bit carefree. It has that old school glamour that we were aiming for with some modern elements (jumpsuit!). We wanted to really separate her more political looks from her more California relaxed vibe. The earrings and ring are by Lisa Eisner, one of the biggest Georgina jewelry brands we used often - these are a stunning orange imperial topaz. She is also wearing metallic silver Gucci sandals you can't see in this shot.”