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Every decision made by Claire Underwood, the shrewd Washington lobbyist on “House of Cards,” is calculated.

Right down to her button-down shirts and pencil skirts.

“It’s her armor. She gets ready for battle every day,” said Johanna Argan, costume designer for the hit political Web-TV drama which just began its second season on Netflix.

Argan said she approached the clothing choices for Underwood, who is played by Robin Wright (pictured), by taking inspiration from the golden age of air travel when people routinely wore dresses and suits to board a plane.

“Everything she does is a big deal. It’s well thought out,” she said. “Even Claire’s dressed down is someone’s dressed up.”


That kind of intention plays out in classic silhouettes, a neutral, dark palette, and minimal accessories. Underwood shops the racks of Ralph Lauren, the Row, Christian Dior, and Akris. But more important than the labels is the precise fit, said Argan, in a telephone interview from Vancouver, where she was working a TV pilot.

“It’s all about tailoring. We skim her body. It’s not skin tight,” she said.

Aiming to accurately portray the modern-day Lady Macbeth as a real working woman who wears her clothes more than once, Argan wasn’t afraid to dress Wright in the same black Christian Louboutin pumps or pencil skirt multiple times.

“Of course she’d wear the same skirt twice,” she said. “Her go-to bag this season is the Ralph Lauren Ricky. It’s a great carry-all bag.”

Argan thinks the timelessness of the wardrobe gives Underwood a believability reflected in the fashion choices of real women such as Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

But Wright, a blond, blue-eyed stunner at 47, is a dream to dress.

“Her genetics are amazing. She’s a great canvas to work on,” Argan said. “I could put a potato sack on her and she’d look elegant.”


Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.