Thursday, August 2, 2018

Style Inspiration: Elizabeth McCord from Madam Secretary

Madam Secretary is, more often than not, an extremely silly show, with some outlandish storylines involving secret agents and the wackiest foreign policy situations (including one where Mongolia was voting on a referendum to become part of China, which is... wild), sometimes involving fictional countries, but I actually kind of love the show nonetheless. The actors all do a great job with the not necessarily high quality material, and generally are likable and funny, especially Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, the titular Secretary of State. It also shares some of the traits I loved from The West Wing, presenting this idealized vision of government and the people in it as these larger than life, smarter, and just all-around better than real life people (even when they've made mistakes) which, well, was fun back in the day, and makes me sad now, given the officials we've got.

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It's hard to find enough screenshots to fully illustrate this, one may need to watch the show, but one strength of Madam Secretary is the costume design. It may not be realistic for its setting (I've not spent any time working in DC myself), but I think it's an accurate take on how these particular characters would approach mostly business formal and sometimes business casual if they had a bit of freedom and well, infinite money, to do so. In particular, I find a lot of workplace style inspiration, and even some general personal style inspiration, in how they dress Elizabeth McCord. 

Some of it may just be that I'm totally jealous of Elizabeth McCord's fictional life. She's written to be  an impossibly perfect person, incredibly intelligent and capable and simultaneously warm, personable, down-to-earth, and good-humored. (And because Tea Leoni does a good job, it's not annoying.) She has - literally - been able to "have it all", spending much of her life in a high-intensity career until shifting gears to be a professor before getting appointed Secretary of State out of the blue, with a professor-slash-secret-agent husband, and they've somehow still managed to raise a happy family with three kids and spend a lot of time with them. Oh and she's independently wealthy too, so lived comfortably and looked fabulous through it all. My own secret, outlandish, impossible dream is to be an independently wealthy academic with a lot of free time on her hands, dressed in nice, expensive things, who also gets to do other cool things on the side, so basically Elizabeth McCord, and similarly fictional!

The costume designers dress her like someone who likes fashion and is open to some experimentation  on that front (as seen in the occasional more adventurous work outfit, or when she dresses up for galas and state dinners), but generally needs to suit up in business formal and thus sticks to more of a uniform (sharply tailored suits, generally with a subtle detail or two that suggests they're designer) most of the time. She mostly still manages to put a bit of her own spin on that uniform, in particular with many fabulous silk blouses with feminine details rather than more traditional cotton button-downs (rather like Stella Gibson in The Fall). She also re-wears many of the same blouses, and I noticed in the most recent season on Netflix that she has a few suits in multiple colors. As for her casual style, it's laid-back and emphasizes comfort, whether with her law school sweatshirt or the kind of cozy, slouchy knits in neutral colors that I like.

As for how to translate that style to real life? I think it may, honestly, just be too rich for my blood. The thing I'd want to bring into my closet most is those silky blouses with interesting tucks and draping, but after searching on a few occasions, I find it's a genre one is likely not going to find at my typical Ann Taylor or J.Crew on sale price. Out of the mall brands I typically shop from, Ann Taylor is the only one that typically offers something approximately similar, usually with a tie neck or sa ruffled or pleated neck. Except that I know from experience that I rarely wear polyester work blouses of this type anymore because they're not comfortable, I tend to get sweaty. Plus, I think the key part of Elizabeth McCord's look is that it looks really expensive and luxe, both in design and material. Just for fun, I window shopped for a few higher-end silk blouses that had the general look, and of course, they're all too fancy in price for me. For instance, there's a St. John tie-neck shell in white and a Milly tie-neck shell in blue-green. There's also a L'Agence pintucked white blouse with long sleeves and a Rag & Bone faux wrap blouse in pale blue.

In actual practice, this is not a category of item I'd be buying anytime soon, both because of the price point and because my sizing for blouses might change in the near future. Oh, and I do have a lot of other silk blouses that are similar to some of Elizabeth McCord's more standard silk blouses, but they are somewhat impractical for frequent wear, as they're very delicate, need to be hand-washed gently, and I've found it very difficult to get stains out of silk without causing weird darkened spots to appear on the fabric. Certain silks also don't retain their texture well after being hand-washed and air-dried. It's very likely that Elizabeth McCord goes to the dry-cleaner frequently! Both the Ann Taylor and more high end options I've linked are also in the below widget, along with some other pretty, high end options to look at.

Anyone else watch Madam Secretary? Are there any television or movie characters that you get personal style inspiration from? The last character I posted about like this was Amy Dunne from the Gone Girl movie (Rosamund Pike is gorgeous), so I clearly have, er, diverse and sometimes strange interests when it comes to personal style inspiration from the screen. 

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