Costume designer Ann Roth made a rare foray into TV to dress Sigourney Weaver’s character, Secretary of State Elaine Barrish, in the new USA Network series “Political Animals.”
“I was only asked to do Sigourney’s clothes, and that was pretty much at the last minute,” she tells Zap2it. “We are very old good friends, and she is an actress as opposed to a movie star. I work in the movies and do Broadway shows. I have done maybe three TV shows. It is not my medium.”
One of Roth’s challenges was to design clothes that spanned several years in which Elaine goes from first lady to presidential candidate to secretary of state.
“We approached it by inventing the clothes that we think this woman had,” she says. “She’s probably a Harvard graduate, but she’s very educated and very poised and a very smart woman beloved by America. … We wanted her dressed as a woman who could be on a plane to Paris or Belgrade and suddenly they say turn the plane around and go to wherever, and so her life should be exciting that way. She should not be dressed like an intimidating statesman but easy, in a lot of skirts and jackets and blouses.”
However, dressing the 6-foot-tall Weaver for the role was not easy. It was important to Roth that Elaine always was covered in a polite way, and when she sat down you couldn’t look up her dress.
“She should not in any way be provocative in the real sense of the word,” she says. “We made all of her clothes, except maybe her blouses. Show me a dress for a 6-foot-tall woman in America that comes below her knee.”
Roth notes that Weaver “has a very nice waistline and is in exceptionally good physical shape,” which led to the creation of an important skirt she established very early on.
“This is a pattern that I made in the beginning when I first started this. I did that very high waistline that gave her long legs and a tiny waist. You can always do with another 2 inches of legs. The skirt was made by Eric Winterling in New York at his shop. All of her things were made there. It’s a cross blouse. The jacket we bought the first day because we were in such a hurry. I liked it very much. I like how the shoulders look, where it ended at her upper hip and the slimness of it.”
“The red one-piece is pants and a halter neck. It is made of six-ply silk and rayon crepe. It’s a very wonderful piece of fabric. Fabric is everything to me. We also made the orangey-red patent leather belt that is rather spectacular.”
“This is a gold lace dress that we found that was maybe vintage, and we tore it apart. We needed it to say at least 15 years ago, and she was a hostess wearing that. That was a hard one.”
“That grey, silky trench is Armani. The red coral necklace came from Capri. We wanted her to wear jewelry that was not precious but that reflected her life as someone who appreciates other countries. The red disc necklace is from China or maybe Iran.”