Go inside the Prada-packed wardrobe of hit legal drama Suits with costume designer Jolie Andreatta:
Despite the name of the show, the prevalent Tom Ford three-pieces aren’t the stars of the buzzed-about TV series Suits, however they might just have some of the best supporting roles. For Jolie Andreatta, costume designer for the critically acclaimed New York-based legal drama, dressing characters for this high-powered world is a challenging and rewarding task.
Jolie joined the Suits wardrobe department at episode four of season one and refined the costuming to portray each of the character’s personal and professional status. “The women weren’t dressed very high scale in my eye, where the men were styled pretty nicely,” says Jolie. “My belief is that men’s wealth gets shown through the women. Their women are the ones who represent the fashion in high-end wealth.”
Gina Torres, who plays Jessica Pearson, the managing partner of law firm Pearson Specter Litt, is one of Jolie’s favourite people to dress. “I can put anything on her and she makes it come alive. She’s just so elegant and open,” says Jolie, of Gina’s character, whose wealth and status come from old money. It’s this “inherited class” that Jolie must portray through the costuming, calling on designers such as Dior, Prada and Giambattista Valli for the task. Understated top-quality items are required for paralegal Rachel Zane, who Jolie says would be an investment buyer. But the fashion fun really begins with fiery red-head Donna Paulsen, the executive assistant to partner Harvey Specter. “She’s not a lawyer so she doesn’t have to be so serious. She can be sexy, she can be avant-garde.”
Jolie uses pieces ranging from vintage Chanel and Tom Ford, to Rag & Bone and Dsquared2 and alters garments to suit the corporate environment. “I’ll get an Isabel Marant top and cut it down to make it conservative,” she says. “Or put two dresses together if it’s not long enough or doesn’t have a sleeve on it, to turn it into more suitable office attire. I have a vintage Dior jacket that’s too bright for the show – we’ve made a pattern and we’ll be re-cutting it into a grey instead of a vibrant red and we’ll list it as a reproduction of a Dior piece.”
Jolie’s customising extends to the tailoring of the male leads. Harvey – who wears Tom Ford suits exclusively – needs 20 suits in varying shades per season. Limited by the fact that Ford doesn’t produce many cloths of piqued lapel suits, Jolie and her team use his pattern to make their own reproductions – “but we always give credit to Tom because that’s where they originate from,” she says. “Gabriel [Macht, who plays Harvey] is a very elegant, gracious man and I’ve stayed very Cary Grant with him. Solid ties and higher-cut collars, so it’s a little more romantic.
Patrick [J. Adams who plays Mike Ross] started out with skinnier suits, but because he’s getting older in the firm he wanted to start being more classic. We’re using Burberry and more slender-cut suits on him, keeping the fabrics pretty conservative or office-appropriate – so that made the difference between him and Harvey. I’m putting a bit more Savile Row on Mike now, too. Louis [Litt] is the one who takes on much more colour.”
Jolie sources much of the cast’s wardrobe from vintage and department stores in Toronto, where Suits is filmed, and makes trips to New York and Los Angeles, visiting consignment stores for one-off pieces and details like ties, cufflinks, collars or shoes that make the characters feel invested, she says. “It’s harder and harder to find really great pieces but I scour those stores all the time to see what’s different, to see what I’ve missed.”
In preparation for season five, Jolie has just returned from shopping in LA for the show. Her current priority is working on the cross-plots, which reveal each character’s journey and their wardrobe. “I’m looking at about 50 costumes right now,” she says.
It appears that effortless style doesn’t come easily, after all.
The fifth season of Suits is available on Lightbox.co.nz with new episodes weekly from the US.