HomeTvKeri Russell’s clothes in “The Diplomat” were always in the script
Keri Russell’s clothes in “The Diplomat” were always in the script
April 23, 2023
The costume designer for the Netflix series told IndieWire that she took Keri Russell from theoretical suits and Vince tops to a full “Funny Face” moment on the steps of the Louvre.
Kate Wyler has always graduated in red.
The instantly iconic look from the season finale of the Netflix series finds Keri Russell’s newly appointed British diplomat attending a gala at the Louvre, wearing a red dress and evoking none other than Audrey Hepburn in “Funny Face.” And this particular appearance was written into the script of series creator Debora Cahn from the beginning.
“Red was always in Debora’s script,” “The Diplomat” costume designer Roland Sanchez told IndieWire. “Debora wrote everything down. It’s very consistent. He’s very costume-oriented, and there’s a reason why he does these characters.”
Based on the script, Sanchez found a red dress from Galvan London that fit the bill. But then the detective brought bad news. “(The dress) was originally burgundy. But we were shooting the exact color of the dress in a burgundy room, so we needed a different red,” Sanchez said. The solution? With some changes (adjusted neckline, longer train), they recreated the dress in the “beautiful, saturated red” we saw.
The red dress is an exclamation point on Kate’s transformation from grumpy ambassador to political animal ready for the spotlight after years of supporting her egocentric husband Hal (Rufus Sewell) — not to mention her growing affection for British Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison (David Gyasi). . . The Kate we first meet is no fool, and as she repeatedly tells anyone who tries to make her look a little more glamorous, she doesn’t wear a black suit for a reason.
David Gyasi and Keri Russell in ‘The Diplomat’
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His reasons are the same as those of real diplomats: Non-stop travel. “Deobra did quite a bit of research with actual diplomats, and they have to be on the move at all times,” Sanchez said. “So most of the time we kept Kate in low heeled boots and paired it with a simple black suit from Theory and Vince blouses. It’s a practical piece for this character.”
Much less practical is the white dress that Kate lets in soon after arriving at her new home to subvert attempts to kick her out and play “the Cinderella thing” for a fashion shoot. (It’s a very busy first day on the job.) The moment Russell puts on the dress and emerges, awkwardly and in high heels, marks the moment you realize “The Diplomat” isn’t just a sappy political thriller about a woman juggling tensions. work and a more strained marriage. He also has a wicked sense of humor.
Keri Russell in ‘The Diplomat’
“This whole thing is out of Kate’s comfort zone,” Sanchez said of the moment. “Kate is used to going abroad and to the Middle East and having to deal with things there. And now he’s a diplomat in the UK and it’s all out of his comfort zone. And that white dress – it’s a stunning piece of sculpture we found at Harrod’s. I think that was the only white dress I wore.”
But while government officials (even those who shoot for British Vogue) are buttoned up when it comes to dressing up, one fabulous sidekick steps in halfway through the season and offers a surprising dose of pure glamour.
T’Nia Miller and Rufus Sewell in ‘The Diplomat’
“Debora gave me something really fun to design for,” Sanchez said. “There’s a point where we meet Dennison’s sister, and T’Nia Miller is this beautiful, statuesque, beautiful black woman. What a great character to design, he’s fantastic.”
Cecilia—recovering from a suicide attempt and wandering the floor with weed and wine during an angry conference—allows us to see a different side of Hal, even as she delivers critical information to Kate. “It confuses everybody for a minute,” Sanchez said. “Who is this butterfly? He certainly takes Hal in these scenes. We built the pack but found a few things to buy in London. And we used a lot of vintage jewelry.”
The whole series is characterized by the precision of the clothes, which immediately conveys not only the character, but also what the character is going through that day at that moment. For Sanchez, working with actors is part of the joy of the job. “When I bring pieces to the table and I’m in the fitting room, that’s the ‘Aha’ moment,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for in the assembly.” That ‘Aha’ moment is when the actor understands why they’re wearing that wardrobe and relates it to their character.”