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The stylist behind Claire Underwood’s ‘Power’ costumes in House of Cards

Costuming the First Lady turned president in the edge-of-your-seat series House of Cards is a fierce task, requiring a fierce set of outfits to match, and designer Kemal Harris has got it down to a fine art.

The final season of the gripping Netflix TV show was released late 2018. With Kevin Spacey having been sacked from the show, it now falls to actor Robin Wright to lead the show as POTUS, so it seems only right we reflect back on the immaculate ‘power’ costumes Kemal unleashed on us starting from season three.

The new president Claire Underwood exhibits a razor-sharp tongue and a sharper wit, so Kemal took on the not-so-easy task of making sure her style sliced through the politics.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the talented designer revealed the process behind the creation of such an iconic character, especially one with such an enviable wardrobe.

Severe yet sophisticated outfits in neutral tones are clear wardrobe staples in the character’s closet and a strong thread throughout Kemal’s sleek designs.

Going in a new direction…

The designer- who is actress Robin Wright’s personal stylist- was brought in on season three to take the character’s clothing in a slightly different direction, after her onscreen marriage is left hanging in the balance.

It was clear, the actress and designer duo were keen to reflect this new surge of individualism in Claire’s costumes, and introduce the ‘raw, real Claire’ through a muted colour pallette of beige, cream, and nude influences.

In a very clean cut world, with geometric lines and flawless tailoring, precision is essential and the devil really is in the detail, which is something Kemal is absolutely fixated with.

“I really nerd out over it, I take a quiet moment to read the script, and feed off the emotion I get from Claire’s character”. Kemal told the paper.

In touch with her sixth sense, Kemal explained how she would wait for an image to come to mind and follow her heart and initial reaction on which style and fabric to pick for each look.

Even though all of Claire’s costumes are tailored perfectly to her figure, Kemal revealed how only a third is actually custom made, with the remaining two-thirds comprised of gifts from design houses and purchases from elitist shops like Barneys.

Barneys New York. One of the elite shops where some of Claire Underwood’s clothes came from.

Influenced by real-life First Ladies…

And it’s not just the big designers and the household names Kemal has chosen for her impeccable costuming. She has also turned to slightly lesser-known labels such as Derek Lam and Joseph preferred by ex-FLOTUS in real life, Michelle Obama.

According to Kemal, throughout the previous series’, Robin has been actively involved with the design process, bringing her ideas to the table. She also directed some of the scenes and could offer a useful insight into how she wanted the costumes to look and how certain perspectives and angles should be shot.

However, it is Claire’s character that Kemal praises for making her visions work, catapulting her costume-styling to onscreen fashion-icon-hall-of-fame status.

“For the average working woman, it is really hard to feel put-together at all times of the day. Everyone is pulled in so many directions, but Claire makes this look so easy,” she told the paper. “What works for Claire is that she knows what makes her feel powerful: a pencil skirt, heels, blazer, and a blouse”.

Check out Kemal’s slick costume decisions in the final House of Cards season on Netflix.

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