episode 509 - August 3, 2009
Not that the Television Academy, that esteemed body of TV. industry professionals who award the annual Emmy Awards, really analyze the subtleties of costume as character when they vote for Excellence in Costume Design...but if they did, this episode of The Closer might just have won an Emmy! From the final scene when Brenda and her mama Willie Ray walk off arm in arm down that long murder room hallway, you truly see where Brenda got her inspiration of color and sense of style. The elder Ms. Johnson wears a satin mandarin collar dinner jacket in a Chinese inspired floral print in fuscia, green, chartreuse, turquoise and yellow and carries a white handbag, all from Drapers and Damon's; the younger Ms. Johnson reeks of a muggy summer in Atlanta wearing a lilac cashmere cardigan with a alfalfa green camisole and a made to order impressionistic water color floral print skirt in lilac, lavender, grass green on a black background, that sashayed and flowed with insets of chiffon and a semi fishtail hem. Ahhhh, a symphony of style.
But let's back up to the opening scene where Brenda waits in the courtroom resplendent in a new-old Irene that I gobbled up on eBay a few months ago, the first sage green Irene I had ever seen, usually Miss Irene created her suits in the earth tones of the war years so for me this was a welcome departure into a world of color from my favorite vintage designer. This suit was unique in that it featured several design details that are virtually unseen today. Start with the double shawl collar, which enveloped the wearer’s neck as though a tulip is opening and blooming to showcase the lady's face; then the buttons--would be impossible to duplicate in a mass produced world, the buttons were real ovals of natural agate surrounded by silver! The pockets at the hip line of the jacket were scallops again echoing the floral shape of the shawl collar. I had Maria in the tailor shop whip up a classic Brenda silk skirt in a carnation floral print. All while Brenda looks at her watch waiting for...who else but Mama to arrive and arrive she did in a vintage Vera blouse, in an eye popping color of summer sunshine yellow with orange and white abstract tulips blowing all over the shirt, do I have a tulip theme going on here?; add to that Willie Ray's orange shell and Koret pull-on pants and her signature string of pearls. Brenda's niece Charlene, make that Charlie, played by her real life daughter Sosie, was all teen age angst in a black leather jacket by Vince, a black Vince tank top with a purple Betsey Johnson bra peeking out and a pair of hot aqua skinny jeans from Fred Segal Fun in Santa Monica. Most of Charlie's clothes were from Fred Segal, Barney's New York and Neiman Marcus, just where a 16 year old would shop...not!
This episode was all about color, and how it coordinates, opposes and soothes. Taylor was definitely at odds with Brenda wearing his yellow shirt against her sage green. When the schizophrenic son James Clark shows up, it was like looking in a magic fashion mirror for me, not that as a teen I looked like James, quite the contrary, but I dressed like I dressed him! Sad to say, I was a bit of a geek in my junior high years, so there he/I was in a short sleeved light blue shirt with a tie and a pair of high water chinos and white socks peeking out and into a pair of cordovan penny loafers...yes, with pennies in the slits!!! However, I thought I was cool and not at all a geek. When Charlie goes to work with Aunt Brenda she was, as Willie Ray said, "not dressed to go to work" in a Jil Sander gray cashmere boyfriend style oversized sweater that Sosie loved to cocoon her hands into, most young girls love to pull the sleeves way down and cup them in their hands and Sosie as Charlie was no different. Rick Wallace one of our directors and producers suggested I needed to come up with some kind of connection between Charlie and James that immediately draws them together...wow, all with a piece of wardrobe??? so as I stood in the stock room looking for that piece of connection I saw a vintage 1969 harvest gold cashmere sweater of mine from Gano Downs a store in Denver, and bingo there was the connection. Charlie was in her favorite slouchy sweater and James would be in his go-to sweater that he felt protected in, kind of like when Brenda feels vulnerable and she yanks on the Ralph Lauren cardigan from the pilot. So there the two teens were in there sweaters and of course who else was in a sweater? Brenda of course, the lilac cashmere from Pure. It was truly a cashmere festival of love. One more subtle bit of costume design that supports the story and becomes a character all by itself...something that the Academy, I feel, doesn't take into account when awarding that coveted golden statuette.
This was a huge wardrobe show, all the characters and costume changes. The District Attorney was perfectly pinched in suits by Theory and Jones New York, and Bruce Davison, poor thing, was resigned to wearing an orange prison jumpsuit all episode, but we have really been treated to some fabulous guest stars this season! All of the credit goes to my shopper Tracey White for pulling me great pieces for Dr. Robin Milano. I didn't have time to go shop for the actual killer, what with meetings and fittings so I sketched silhouettes and described to Tracey that Dr. Milano was Brentwood Bohemic, that I wanted earth tones to oppose Brenda, texture to play up her boho vibe and boots to ground her in the actual fact she murdered her husband. Tracey brought me back a virtual department store of choices to choose from. The skirts were from Saks, a great artistic line called Fuzzy, all stretch mesh in black lace over nude and multicolored jewel tone paisley. The black jacket in the courtroom was DKNY and was of twill with delicate seed beads in black, blush and sand. The Day 2 jacket was a cream and pale olive striped linen with olive chiffon peplum and drapes from the tucked lapel designed by Elizabeth and James (the Olsen twins) and I am very impressed with their line, very NY, very bohemic and very expensive, but worth it for this character. And the final act of brilliance on Tracey's part were the Frye boots, just perfection with all of the feminine and eclectic fabric and jewelry. It's a shame that shoes aren't seen more on the small screen, but we and the actor know that they are there, especially for a character like Dr. Mialno who needed that grounding of a substantial boot to give her character that extra bit of power.
Often TV. costume designers are so busy that they are resigned to put clothes on an actor just to get them before the camera, often we don't have the time to really plot the color story and emotions of a pair of boots and it truly becomes a race to call the actor in for a fitting as soon as they are cast which sometimes is at 7 p.m. and they shoot the next morning at 6 a.m. and my favorite stores have closed by then...so it is nearly a lost art to be able to do what I did in this episode. But that's when I realize how lucky I am to be the costume designer for The Closer and get to, whether I have the time or not, hopefully create a color palette that tells and supports the story that the writers have come up with and then get incredibly talented and diverse actors to hang some unique bits of cloth upon and send them on stage in front of a camera that records it all for that voting body to assess and figure out if it be worthy of an award. I didn't submit an episode this year for the academy's consideration. I couldn't bear one more year of not being nominated...perhaps next year I'll submit Identity Theft...nah...they won't "get" it.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer/speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.