Costumes Offer Insight Into Robin Wright’s ‘House of Cards’ Character

Warning: This story contains spoilers from “House of Cards,” season five.

Since the dawn of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the wardrobe of Claire Underwood (Robin Wright, Emmy nominated for the fifth time for the role) has spoken volumes about her character. Never more so than in season five (dumped on the internet for binge viewing on May 30), which sees Claire shatter the ultimate glass ceiling, break the fourth wall and get blood on her hands — while wearing an oxblood-hued dress, of course. With the help of costume designer Kemal Harris, we decode Claire’s killer, color-steeped style.

Pastel Pink

When Claire convenes a meeting with a group of female senators in the Roosevelt Room, she’s sporting an uncharacteristically feminine blouse. “Whenever Claire wears pastels, it’s to fake-show people ‘I’m really nice. You can trust me,’” says Harris of the Co blouse she pairs with tweed trousers. She adds, “This is a great example of Claire being a chameleon to seduce whoever’s in the room to come to her side.”

Presidential Navy

What does America’s first female president, albeit one in a fictional series, wear to her swearing in? In this case, an “Oval Office blue” dress with gold military-style buttons from neck to knee. The idea, says Harris, who custom-created the look, was that it resemble a military coat. “She’s ready to step in and go to war,” she says of the character’s take-charge attitude. “In my mind, Claire’s had this dress in the back of her closet for years. She played out this scenario a long time ago.”

Funereal Black

While toasting the success of her husband, Frank (Kevin Spacey), after he wins Ohio and his opponent, Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman), concedes the presidency, Claire strikes a somber tone. “It felt like a nice little death of her moment,” says Harris of Claire’s Uniqlo blouse and Balenciaga pants. “There’s this crazy ebb and flow to her character’s path this season — she’s sworn in, then Frank takes it back — so the use of black is a nice way to close that chapter.”

Powder Blue

For her second swearing in, we’re shocked to see Claire in a soft, full-skirted, pale blue Lela Rose design. “The brand is fresh and lovely — and the opposite to what you think Claire is,” says Harris of the purposeful choice for her do-over. “She’s brought back in because the population no longer trusted Frank, so she had to soften her militaristic edge,” which makes the character appear “more approachable.”

Oxblood Purple

“This is the first time Claire truly gets blood on her hands,” says Harris of her final tryst with her lover Tom Yates (Paul Sparks). “I don’t like to be so obvious in color choices, but that just felt so appropriate,” she says of the sinister second-skin Kimora Lee Simmons design. The dress, which Harris tailored, accomplished Claire’s desired task of seducing Tom — before poisoning him.

Innocent White

In her first act as president, Claire wears dove white while overseeing a strike that takes out fictional terrorist Yusuf Al Ahmadi. “She has to look like the hero, or the angel,” says Harris of the demure Lela Rose design that later transitioned to Claire’s first televised address to the nation as POTUS. “That’s a great example of how one outfit has to move from the situation room to the public eye.”

Stealth Black

In the finale, Claire enters the Oval Office looking more Catwoman than commander-in-chief in black spandex (Under Armour and Nike). “That shows her character’s arc,” says Harris. Given that the season opened with Claire at a funeral (in black Dolce & Gabbana), she’s come full circle. Only this time she’s marking the death of Frank’s political career. After ignoring her estranged husband’s calls, Claire turns to the camera and declares, “My turn.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content