When women segue into different jobs, they usually continue to wear some clothes from the old job – maybe a pair of favorite pumps, a funky belt or a soft sweater.
But when your former job required a G-string and pasties, sky-high heels, and a garter belt, and your new one calls for sedate suits and button-down blouses, alas, it’s time for a new wardrobe.
So Lisa (Jurnee Smollett), the young associate lawyer on CBS’ Wednesday series The Defenders, knows.
“The fashion of Lisa is very understated,” Smollett says. “You have to understand she has a past that she’s not ashamed of, but she is trying to be something. She put herself through law school by dancing, and she’s not ashamed of that at all. For her the ends justify the means.
“She is not the least flashy, not bawdy, not sexy,” Smollett says of her character. “She should be tailored but not revealing or sexy. She definitely doesn’t want to be the sexy one, even down to the choice of colors – nothing superloud.”
Lisa’s palette is one of grays and solid-hued blouses in white, blue and pink. Costume designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton shops at Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Saks, Macy’s and Banana Republic for the character.
“We are repeating her wardrobe,” Smollett says. “It’s not like she has a whole lot of money. She is new at the law firm, a new associate. She’s not dropping thousands of dollars or even hundreds of dollars on a suit. She’s taking her little savings and buying what she needs.”
Lisa mostly wears Theory, Tahari and Rachel Roy suits. Her blouses are from Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic and Jones New York. She has also worn some Faconnable, which Ottobre-Melton describes as “if you took Brooks Brothers and made it European. It’s a little sexier cut.”
The costume designer raves about soft suede pumps from Rockport, a brand more often associated with sturdy walking shoes. She bought the Luciana Corset pump in black leather, purple suede and black suede with an open toe and a bow.
Lisa’s jewelry is kept to a minimum, partly because she strives to be taken seriously and doesn’t want, for instance, the huge rings now trendy to detract from that. It’s also partly because Ottobre-Melton doesn’t want to overwhelm the petite Smollett with chunky jewelry.
“I take in zeros on her,” Ottobre-Melton says. “She has a really tiny frame. She is completely healthy. She is not one of those zeros because they starved themselves.”
Size aside, Lisa’s look is pretty easy to attain, Ottobre-Melton says.
“It is a wonderful, appealing look for the professional woman who wants to look sexy and still professional,” she says. “It is put together. When you dress in a jacket and you are polished, people really respect you more.”