'The Good Wife' Costume Designer, Dan Lawson Shares Tips on Dressing Like a Boss

The Good Wife is known for having strong female characters. How do their outfits enhance this?

The costumes underscore and support what the actors are doing and saying.  My costumes make Alicia and Diane and Kalinda come to life and look real.  If I had outfits that looked great on their own, but didn’t support what the actors were doing, then they would be terrible costumes because the illusion of reality would be broken and no one would believe that Alicia and Diane are these amazing lawyers who happen to dress really well.

What are the must-have pieces every career gal should have in her closet?

The perfect skirt (pencil or “A”); a versatile blouse; a well-heeled pump that is comfortable (not an easy thing to find, but well worth the effort of looking!); a nicely maintained bag - not a backpack; a simple, elegant earring that goes with everything.

What are your tips for finding a well-fighting blazer?

One of the biggest tips is to make sure the proportions of the blazer go with the proportions of your body. You want to make sure that the lapel doesn’t “break” over the chest.  Make sure the sleeves are the right length - ¾, bracelet, or regular.  Also, check the vent - if the vent is pulling funny on you, the jacket may not be fitting right in the hip area.  Be cautious to not have the jacket too tight in the waist - if it is, the jacket will not be able to “fall” on the body and will always ride up in the chest area.  I love zip front jackets that have two direction zippers for just this reason. I also love jackets that have some knit panels, usually on the sides under the arms, that give stretch.  

What are some easy ways to make an outfit for the office less boring?

A great blouse that doesn’t have a standard fold down collar.  I hate those kinds of blouses.  Do a blouse that has an interesting neckline, something more feminine and eye-catching.  I love blouses that have bows on them.  Tie the bow on the side and let it sit on the lapel of the jacket - so very French!

What are some tips for making a work outfit look less stuffy for post-work drinks?

Plan ahead and have a dress/jacket combo where the jacket can be removed to suddenly have a cocktail outfit.  Works perfectly and I do it on TGW a lot.  You can also do the same thing with a great blouse/skirt/jacket combo. Add a more significant necklace when going out to something a little more evening. Change your earrings from the office pearl stud to a dangle. Switch bags from the office bag to a smart clutch, then add a little more eye makeup and lips!

Many of our blog readers work in more casual environments than the women of The Good Wife. What are some tips for looking professional and powerful at a jeans and tennis shoe type of office?

Such a good question.  Just because it is jeans and casual doesn’t mean one can look sloppy and not put together.  I would counter the jeans with a great sweater or a nice starched white blouse with a popped collar.  Do an interesting sweater set or a long sweater.  You could also try an unstructured jacket that has an ease casualness about it and push up the sleeves.

How can we select the best office attire for our own wardrobes?

You need to build a strong closet of staples that support your look.  These staples will be the workhorses in your closet:  the perfect skirt that goes with everything; that blouse that is the perfect compliment to your suit; a good pair of pumps that are comfortable and have a heel that give you a little extra stature and good posture; a well maintained bag that carries your important papers and personal items without looking stuffed or like a backpack.  

Remember, these good pieces will probably cost you more in the initial purchase because you want them to last.  They need to be cared for properly and stored properly, i.e., don’t put a knit on a hanger.  Things like that.  

You need to set aside part of your clothing purchase budget for alterations.  I’ve said it a million times.  The most expensive garment will just look so-so or worse if it doesn’t fit and an inexpensive garment will look a million times more expensive if it fits you well.  Find a good tailor and make him or her your best friend.  Once they get to know your body, alterations will be a snap and you’ll look great.

Are there any alternatives when it comes to garments that are dry-clean only?

Dryel is actually an excellent alternative to dry-cleaning.  Besides the terrific smell you are left with when you are done, it removes stains and body oils as well as freshens up the garment while letting the garment maintain it’s shape and color.  Financially, we find that using Dryel decreases our cleaning budget and allows us to keep pieces “in-house” more which is great since our shooting schedule changes regularly and my department looks amazing when there’s a change and we’re asked if we can provide wardrobe for a scene not originally scheduled for the day and we can!   Keeping the day rolling is key for any set - much like at your home.  You have to keep the day moving along and not going to the dry-cleaner all the time really saves time and makes you the master of your own schedule rather than the dry-cleaner’s schedule.