In the final moments of the last episode of The Good Wife, Diane Lockhart delivers a devastating blow to her law partner Alicia Florrick. This will be the slap felt around the Emmys, and it’s a stunning summation for one of TV’s finest dramas. Standing alone in the deserted hallway and fighting back tears, Florrick is shocked and wounded. How does she respond to the wakeup call?
She jerks down her peplum jacket. She takes another moment to gather herself. Then, determinedly, she adjusts her jacket again. Actress Julianna Margulies delivers an unforgettable moment with a simple sartorial gesture. Florrick is girding up for what comes next. With her armor once more in place, she walks toward an uncertain future.
The only sure thing ahead is that Florrick will continue to evolve the polished, feminine, and utterly powerful look that has made her character an office style icon.
Daniel Lawson, costume designer of The Good Wife, has been a force in driving the evolution of the heroine’s style from suburban housewife to legal giant killer. He preaches excellent rules for corporate dressing that work in real life. Women have no time to put together a perfect wardrobe as they sprint out the door in the morning. Lawson tells us to get it all together so that we only have to pull A, B and C from the closet and run. Plan ahead so that you have clothes that are appropriate for your day.
He emphasizes that tailoring can make an outfit look more expensive. Budget for alterations. If you have money for five outfits, get three and use the money for the other two on tailoring. Put money into wardrobe staples: excellent shoes, a good bag, a really good skirt and a good suit.
Choose and emphasize the star of each day’s outfit, and then cast other pieces in supporting roles. If you have a big day, don’t pile on with your favorite suit, best shoes and statement jewelry. The effect will be an overload.
Wear more color. The Good Wife was particularly successful in showing us that we can use color in the corporate world. The costume designer picked colors that were always appropriate, never too bright or garish. He says color adds another layer of femininity to your look and makes you stand out.
Look to feminine fabrics. Subtle prints and feminine details will also make you stand out and they won’t undermine your power.
Choose the right undergarments. Proper undergarments make sure your outer clothes fall in the right place. They make everything you wear look better.
Edit your accessories. Understated is always better in the corporate world. Pick one accessory as your focus.
Wear dresses with sleeves. Showing too much skin exposes you as vulnerable. Never a good sign in the corporate world.
Try a monochromatic look. A single column of color is a particularly strong effect.
Wear a skirt. You don’t have to dress like a man. A skirt that hits below the knees demonstrates femininity and the power of confidence.
Don’t carry just any old bag. This accessory should be quality to start and in good shape.
Make comfort a key component. Pay attention to how a piece wears so that you don’t have to constantly adjust or fuss.
Set aside some money for alterations. Use between 10 percent and 20 percent of your wardrobe budget for tailoring.
If you want insights on how The Good Wife changed the way women dress for the office, check out the Elle interview with Lawson.