house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

Style Story / Claire Underwood

9 years ago by

This year, I once again devoured House of Cards as if my life depended on it, and once again, I found myself being slowly hypnotized by the beauty, strength, and perfection of Claire, played by Robin Wright.

I don’t know if you’ve gotten into the series, but in a few words, Claire and her husband Frank Underwood are a couple with all-consuming presidential ambitions (says the girl who’s trying not to give too much away). In Season 3, Claire is a First Lady who’s suffering, and she’s absolutely fascinating.

The style in the show is just as good as the acting. Perfect on every level. Super sexy and powerful, completely suited to Claire’s beauty. It must be crazy to have a job where your appearance matters that much. I don’t think I’d be capable of having such high standards every single day. It makes me realize how relaxed we actually are in the fashion world, after all :)

I watched the series like I was watching a sublime fashion shoot, and I thought it would be great to select some of my favorite outfits – and to do an interview with Johanna Argan, the costume designer for House of Cards…

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

Interview with Johanna Argan
Costume Designer, House of Cards

Tell me a little about your background in styling and costume design. How did you come to work on House of Cards?
I sort of fell into it, styling and costume designing. I was working as an assistant in fashion on the buying side for a popular NYC retail store and I met a ton of stylists who would come in and pull clothes for their clients. I, of course, got to know some of them and was intrigued by what they did. I had been wanting to leave my job for something creative and it so happened one of the stylists who came in was looking for an assistant. Cut to, I actually quit my job, and started working for the stylist and never looked back. And that’s how it all began, eventually transitioning to costume design.

As for how I came to become the costume designer for House of Cards, it’s actually luck met by opportunity. I had been on maternity leave, staying home with my infant daughter Estella when my agent called me saying HOC was looking for a new costume designer and she wanted to put me up for it. At first I had the mommy guilties and didn’t know if I was ready to go back to work and spend time away from my daughter. But then I was a fan girl of the show. It didn’t hurt that I already had a long working relationship with Kevin Spacey and I reached out to him and went through the interview process, eventually getting the job.

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos


house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

You are the force behind House of Cards’ incredible outfits! Describe the show’s style in 3 words.
Tailored, Minimal and Timeless.

What was the process in building Claire’s personal style? What was the inspiration?
First, it must be said that Tom Broecker did a wonderful job establishing the initial razor sharp lines of Claire Underwood’s season 1 look that has been maintained across the seasons. I would say the inspiration behind Claire’s style from its inception is very Lady MacBeth. She’s very controlled, revealing what she wants you to see. Her wardrobe reflects this.

How much does the script inform your styling choices? Do actors ever make suggestions for character’s wardrobe?
The script is the guide I use to bring the characters to life on screen, collaborating closely with the actors, directors and show runner to make it all come together.

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

When you’re given a script, how do you first approach outfits for that episode?
I start out each season trying to build a closet for all my characters. I usually get an outline for all the characters’ story lines, the overall plot and arc of the show, and we fine tune the wardrobe choices along the way based on the script details. Sometimes the actors have an idea in mind and we work together to help translate what they are trying to express through their wardrobe.

The small details, the accessories and personal items, how much thought and procedure goes into those? What are the items that Claire wears all the time?
Jewelry, in general, is very minimal. I like things to be timeless and not distracting. Frank and Claire have never worn a lot of accessories. It’s just a part of their overall aesthetic.

Do you think Claire and Frank naturally dress as they believe the President and his First Lady should, or are they constantly struggling to project the perfect image?
Everything and anything the Underwoods do is carefully calculated. Especially now that they are in the White House fighting to maintain control of their power.

=house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

Are Claire’s outfits, as First Lady, intended to be shown as those of her own choosing or is she dressed by a stylist?
In season 3 we do touch on the importance of Claire’s appearance to the public in the polls. We brought on Robin’s stylist, Kemal Harris, this season to do the First Lady’s looks. It just makes sense since our real-life FLOTUS Michelle Obama uses one herself.

The show’s tailoring is incredible, everything fits perfectly. How does this reflect Frank and Claire’s personality?
Tailoring, since the first season, has always been a very important part of the look of our show. The Underwoods, from the inception of the show, have always been plotting and calculating. They go to battle every day to get what they want. Their wardrobe is their armor, so to speak — tailored and fitted to protect their secrets.

How have audiences seen Claire’s style evolve over the seasons?
Claire’s style evolves from her season 1 private sector world of structured shirts, skirts and shift dresses into more suiting and appearance-appropriate dresses as she becomes a public figure, the wife of the Vice President in season 2. We added some subtle feminine details like kick pleats to the back of her skirts and raising her sleeves to show a hint of her wrists, a subtle ode to vintage Dior. The strongest representation of this is during the swearing in of Francis as President and her wearing an Akris A-line dress with raised sleeves and belt to accentuate the waist, with a Dior coat and leather gloves. It’s all about presentation with the Underwoods.

Claire seems to have a select range of colors in the wardrobe, is that intentional? And does she live by other fashion codes?
The color selection of the entire show was deliberate by our show’s originating director and producer David Fincher. He created a dark color palette to go with the show’s dark, moody tone. You see a lot of black, grey, navy, neutral earth tone and the darkest side of the jewel tones. Red and primary colors in general are a big no-no.

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

Are there any little flaws in Claire’s style that you intentionally leave in there?
No, as I mentioned, the Underwoods are very calculated in everything they do. They show you what they want you to see. It’s all very controlled.

Who are Claire’s favorite designers to wear?
We have used Ralph Lauren, Dior, Akris, Dolce and Gucci. If she existed beyond the show, I think Ralph Lauren would be a staple. Classic, strong and feminine all in one.

Claire’s haircut is such a big part of her character, how do you work on the beauty side?
Claire’s hair has definitely evolved from season to season. It really is the work of Robin and our Emmy award winning hair department head, Sean Flannigan. The sleek, minimal hair works well with her sharp, sophisticated wardrobe.

Do Frank and Claire dress to look good together?
There is definitely some thought put into what is being worn when Francis and Claire make public appearances together. Because the color palette is so specific, whatever I and Robin’s stylist choose generally works great together. If there are any specific choices one of us is making, we consult with each other, our show runner and directors to make sure it works for them as a couple and go from there. It really depends on the scene.

Of all the looks this season, which was your favorite?

I would have to say I loved how the Underwoods looked for Episode 3’s state dinner look. Sophisticated and regal.

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

How has your time working on House of Cards changed you as a costume designer and stylist? Has it pushed you in ways you hadn’t been pushed before?

Working on a show like House of Cards is really an opportunity of a lifetime. The Underwoods have really become a pop culture phenomena and Claire a fashion icon for the power woman. Since our show is contemporary it’s always challenging to evolve wardrobe and make things look fresh. I have definitely pushed myself to take risks and do more custom clothing for my characters to help distinguish and develop signature looks. To date, it really is the best job I’ve ever had.

Can you expand a little upon the custom clothing for the season?
I did a lot of suiting and shirting for the Frank Underwood character. Kevin and I discussed where we should go with Frank’s Presidential looks this season and we paid a subtle tribute to Bobby Kennedy’s shirt collars. Kevin’s shirt collars were a made a little longer and lapels on his suiting a hair wider than his season 2 Vice President look. It gave a nice balance to Kevin’s jawline and shoulders.

Our version of the power suit for the leader of the Free World. Fabrics chosen had subtle details, like a birds eye. It was a nice change from flat navy and grey suits that are traditional politician. But, as the show’s audience knows, there is nothing traditional about Frank Underwood… As for Claire, Robin’s stylist, Kemal, designed some beautiful custom pieces that worked so beautifully with Kevin’s suiting. Great examples of this are the episodes where they renew their vows and take their White House portrait.

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos
house of cards claire underwood garance dore style story photos

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Add yours
  • I really enjoyed this interview! I’m a huge fan of House of Cards and Claire is such a wonderful and powerful character. It always attract my attention her style and how the tailoring reflects her personality. I love how the third season ends and I can’t wait to watch the next one!

  • Merci pour ce bel article! <3
    Je n'ai jamais regardé cette série mais je compte m'y mettre (je suis une fana de séries mais j'en ai trop en cours en ce moment)!!!
    Des bisous

    Le monde des petites

  • I’m also a big fan of HOC. Season 3 has been my favorite. I love that Claire looks like a woman in her late 40s who is chic and not trying to look like she is in her twenties. It’s so refreshing to see that on TV.

  • “Style makes the difference” !!!love the strong and chic character of Robin Wright she is an amazing actress with great the interview ..but i just read another interview about house of cards where they talk mainly about Kemal Harris as the Stylist for Robin..confusing..
    Yael Guetta

  • Jessica April, 27 2015, 9:51 / Reply

    Wow! Thank you! Every time I watch HOC I feel so inspired by Claire’s wardrobe!! It is the perfect example of chic minimalist clothing. Whenever I shop, I always think “Would Claire Underwood wear this?”

  • I adored, adored Robin Wright’s clothing on the show! And can I say that I would look very good in all of it myself? I’ve been told I look like Wright. Well, those were my friends… Nevertheless, I think she and Argan have opened up a whole new style cabinet for American women. Yay! J’Adore!

  • J’adore la série, les acteurs aussi sont extras,… mais côté cook, c’est plutôt Kerry Washington dans Scandal qui me bluffe, c’est plus féminin et plus sensuel. Robin Wright a l’air d’une femme de pouvoir glaciale et sa garde-robe stricte, carrément collet monté, ne me fait pas tellement envie… mais merci du partage, toujours intéressant d’entendre les explications de la styliste

  • Les vêtements sont très chics mais la coiffure est vraiment moche moche moche

  • Wow! I’m just into my first season of the series and equally under the spell of Claire (and her dresses)! Thanks for the insight, xxSol

  • Génial d’avoir réalisé ça ! Merci !!

  • Je suis au milieu de la saison 1 et holala le mega spoiler au début de l’article, je crois que je vais pleurer!!! Bon je vais essayer d’oublier et je reviendrais lire le reste quand j’aurais fini la série…

  • vraiment une entrevue très intéressante! merci :)

  • Wow! I haven’t watched the House of Cards (YET!), but the pictures and the interview make me want to watch it right now. Claire is so elegant and stylish! And bravo for not having big, blond hairdo + enough botox to fill out a mini van. What a beautiful woman!

  • Caroline April, 27 2015, 11:33 / Reply

    Je n’aime pas beaucoup la série (en tout cas, pas la saison 3…), mais ai toujours été très impressionnée par le style de Claire Underwood. Quelle élégance, quelle composition! Et ses vêtements sont parfaits sur elle.

  • mademoiselle mauve April, 27 2015, 11:38 / Reply

    very very interesting thank you! <3

  • I need to watch this show!

  • I’m such a geek for this show, and Claire is a total style hero of mine. Awesome choice of a style story, Garance!

  • Amazing interview. I was the the Women In the World Summit on Friday and Robin Wright and Samantha Powers were there presenting on their work as advocates for global issues. Claire’s wardrobe was definitely brought up :)

    Warm Regards,

  • Je suis et je resterai à jamais une fan inconditionnelle de la série, du couple underwood et du style de Claire. Perfection. Impossible de s’en lasser. C’est l’expression d’une classe très pure, dans la retenue, mais qui suscite constamment un petit “wouah” à chaque nouvelle scène. Je serai curieuse de voir un épisode avec un “flash back” où elle n’a pas à représenter autre chose qu’elle même. Peut être que le début de la prochaine saison va offrir cette possibilité : en se détachant de Francis…

    En tout cas merci pour l’article!

  • Merci Garance pour ce post !! C’est vraiment intéressant de voir l’envers du décors, le pourquoi du comment elle est habillée ainsi… En plus c’est une série que j’adore !!
    Et merci d’avoir réussi à en parler sans spoiler ;) (Heureusement que j’ai fini la saison 2 hier (oui je suis en retard!!!) parce que sinon je t’en aurais voulu pour le “first lady en souffrance” :) ahahahahah
    Surtout continue!! <3

  • J’adore le style de Claire. Elle est tellement élégante.
    Merci pour cet article super intéressant. :)

  • Lorsque je bossais dans la mode, j’ai fait l’expérience de costumière sur des films. Ce n’était pas très agréable, les acteurs étaient hyper chiants et tellement égocentriques ! Lorsqu’ils ne voulaient pas porter un truc, au lieu de le dire au metteur en scène, ils me demandaient de dire que je n’avais pas trouvé ! Du coup, c’est moi qui me faisait engueulé et je finissais par les balancer ! Ambiance exécrable garantie.

  • Ghislaine April, 27 2015, 2:07 / Reply

    Euh …Mon commentaire n’est pas passé on dirait…
    Bref, je disais que je trouvais le post très intéressant, le processus créatif tel qu’il est raconté par Johanna Argan est vraiment passionnant.

  • Mais comment fais-tu Garance, COMMENT FAIS-TU? Chaque post de ce blog me parle!
    J’adore Claire Underwood, son style, mais surtout son personnage, cette ambivalence constante… MERCI pour cette itw, elle tombe (comme toujours) à pic!

  • Claudia April, 27 2015, 4:39 / Reply

    I love, love, love Claire’s HOC icon style. Every item is so beautifully tailored to fit her, tres chic.

  • Geneviève April, 27 2015, 4:39 / Reply

    Encore une belle pub pour Netflix!

  • Sara Stoneham April, 27 2015, 4:39 / Reply

    I thought the styling great but her hair really irritated m: the way the parting was so low that it constantly lolled over her forehead. As someone who has been on set on many hair commercials I just felt it looked so over primped. I constantly expected the hairstylist to appear at the edge of the shot. And also unattractive. But the change of colour was an insightful aspect of the plot line and also interesting to see.

  • She has great style!
    Passa a trovarmi VeryFP

  • Gabrielle April, 27 2015, 6:02 / Reply

    Thanks for doing this post! Great clothes, great style. did you notice that Claire almost always still has her heels on while she’s just hanging around at home, even if home is the White House? It was only in the final few episodes that she began to take them off!

  • What a great interview. I love success stories like this. When someone takes a leap of faith to follow their heart and it works out. Funny but I always paid attention to what Claire is wearing! Lady Macbeth sooooo true.

    Allie of ALLIENYC

  • That interview is fabulous and so so interesting to me! Knowing she started out as a stylist and who made such great connections along the way is uplifting to hear!!! Love her and love the deep dive into this amazing individual!!

    adorn la femme

  • Eh bien, je pense que je vais me mettre à HOC !

  • Loved this. I always like those “behind the scenes” tidbits and this had plenty. I could never wear that wardrobe – for one I am not built at all like Robin Wright so much of what she wears would look ridiculous on me. And I love color and accessories too much to limit my own wardrobe in that way. But it’s very impressive to see how details, angles, textures, and the amazing fit of the garments is used instead to make a subtle but very definite style statement.

  • melissaleehealing April, 27 2015, 11:57 / Reply

    I love this look of Claire’s.
    It helps to keep her tightly held persona together.
    I am thinking that there is going to be a transformation as she get’s close to becoming head of the Country.
    That’s right, am I the only one that see’s that coming?

  • yes, Garance. I was waiting for that interview and comments on style in the House of Cards. Absolutely amazing tailoring which add so much to the movie, not only aesthetically. Thank you for that post. I tried to find this info online but it was not available. You are the Star – perfect timing :) Hugs for you! :***

  • Awesome interview, G! Thanks for sharing!

  • Classe, mais strict. Une coiffure un peu moins austère aurait apporter cette petite touche de légèreté qui manque à son style !

  • Francesca April, 28 2015, 4:36 / Reply

    I’m a huge fan of House of Cards and I totally admire Claire’s style! Loved reading this amazing interview!

  • So interesting post ;)


    Mónica Sors



  • Robin Wright me fascine depuis l’adolescence. Elle est si belle !
    Je te remercie pour cette interview. On a beaucoup parlé de la styliste de Hunger Games et celle de la série Scandal. J’avoue que j’aimerais en lire bien plus (mon fantasme: la styliste de la série Pride and Prejudice produite par la BBC)

  • She is such a fab and strong character :) Nice idea to make a post on her!


  • Quel rêve de porter ces vêtements d’un chic absolu ! Simplicité et perfection ! La coiffure pourrait peut-être mieux mais elle doit correspondre au personnage nous n’avons pas vu la série).
    Merci de nous faire entrer dans les coulisses d’une série à succès

  • I love this show so much and Claire’s style is so precise and incredibly tailored, which reminds me I need to find a tailor to overhaul my wardrobe, stat. Great post!

  • Hello Garance,
    Grâce à toi j’ai découvert “House Of Cards”, cette série ressemble un peut à “Scandal” sur ABC avec Olivia Pope et son staff, dommage qu’il n’ont pas réussi a développer le personnage de Frank en quelqu’un de plus charismatique dans le style de Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) , sexy, déterminé et manipulateur, séduisant…Ultra-moderne avec beaucoup de classe. Le personnage de Frank habiller comme ça, me fais penser à des vieux films pour retraiter.

  • enfiiiiiiin!!!! tu as écris un article sur Claire!!!!
    merci Garance!
    J’attendais CA avec impatience de ta part.
    Robin en plus d’être un canon, est juste l’incarnation de l’essence de la féminité du XXI siècle.
    Les mots ne sont pas suffisant pour l’exprimer , mais les soupirs oui.
    j’espère que tu pourras nous faire une interview carrière avec ROBIN en personne, ça se serait merveilleux!!!
    je t’embrasse

  • Mariateresa April, 28 2015, 6:41 / Reply

    Il ya generalment de la vraie elegance dans le serie ameriquaine. Je trouve très elegante aussi Kerry Washington en Scandal e les personnages de Beautiful, surtout Pam e Brook, et aussi le nouveau Ridge, the best: Thorsten Kye!

  • Gracias! Ayuda mucho a conseguir algo de inspiración el ver posts como este :)

  • perfect…also I like house of cards and of course claire’s style…

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