The Good Wife: What We Wear and How We Are Perceived

17 Mar

Presentation and perception are at the heart of The Good Wife – it all started with a woman standing beside her disgraced husband with the media and public making all kinds of judgement calls. Alicia Florrick has come far since that press conference; she has her own firm and she’s the wife of the governor. So while we know Alicia’s origin story and we’ve seen her life as a stay-at-home mom, her attempt to go back to work immediately post-scandal is something previously discussed and not shown. “A Few Words” revisits this period as Alicia writes a keynote speech about “opting back in” after a period away from practicing law and we see her struggle to get a job thanks to her name and how a chance elevator meeting (of course) led her to Stern, Lockhart & Gardner.

One of the many striking aspects about The Good Wife is how costume designer Daniel Lawson uses clothes to add insight into a characters thoughts, feelings and background. This is something I have written about on multiple occasions this season and this episode incorporates many of these aspects; memory, power and sex. What you wear can be a powerful tool and the contrast between present day Alicia and the one we see in her flashbacks is striking.

The Good Wife 5.14 contrastAlicia’s first flashback suit is a cornflower blue jacket and she instantly stands out while waiting with the other all male job candidates. These dudes are all pretty interchangeable even if their suits are slightly different colors. Alicia is reading a magazine (one that she buries beneath the stack as she sees her own photo) while everyone else is busy (or at least pretending to be) on their Blackberries. We’ve already seen Alicia in this attire in the previous interview scene and this just reinforces the notion of how much she has changed both in her style and who she is.

The Good Wife 5.14 buttoned upKalinda’s original investigation into Alicia reveals that Alicia was going to get fired from her job just prior to her leaving to raise her family as she lacked “a killer instinct.” This is something she definitely possesses now, it took time to get there but her departure from Lockhart Gardner demonstrated her killer instincts. What this past look at Alicia also shows is how buttoned up she is in both senses of the word; just look at that collar. This attire reeks of her well-to-do suburban lifestyle and this color is not something that would feature in Alicia’s current wardrobe.

The Good Wife 5.14 elevatorHere’s a slightly better shot of the jacket and the reunion between Will and Alicia happens in an elevator, as if it could have happened anywhere else. This is where memory comes into play and while there isn’t a suit color change this time – thoughts aren’t clouded by sex recollections – both remember their greeting in a slightly different way. Both recall the other calling them by their full name; the flirtatious, warm overtones are present in each one.

The Good Wife 5.14 cream jacketEverything Alicia wears in the past is from a soft color palette and while Alicia still wears cream now, everything we see in the present in this episode is on the dark end of the scale.

The Good Wife 5.14 speech writingOther than factors such as hair and makeup this provides instant coding as to what is now and then; Alicia is in a position of power and while she’s still trying to sell herself to other lawyers, she’s far from the bottom of the pile.

The Good Wife 5.14 pearlsAh yes, imaginary conversations with Jackie Florrick as Alicia awaits her interview with Will and ‘Jackie’ tells her “You like nice things, so go be a whore.” ‘Jackie’ also calls Alicia a slut; imaginary Jackie as her inner voice isn’t very kind. Alicia’s interview attire is more revealing than her previous attempts and yet it still screams wife of a politicians thanks to the pearls. Grey is definitely going to make you look more lawyer like than cornflower blue.

So what purpose does ‘Jackie’ serve? Well she lets us know that on one level Alicia does feel like she got the job because of her past almost romantic relations with Will (bad timing remember). It’s a complicated situation, especially as Will claims he never linked work and Alicia together. This I don’t completely buy and maybe Will only pushed hard (phrasing) for Alicia because she was his friend at college, but a small aspect of it had to be down to their connection. Alicia has reconciled these feelings in her speech “Use everything you have to get the job and don’t feel entitled.” Basically don’t listen to your inner Jackie.

The Good Wife 5.14 Cary and AliciaThere’s a fun moment with Cary and Alicia’s first meeting – that is not a good hair look Cary – as Alicia asks what his first impression of her was. Cary initially lies (“I liked you”) and then admits he thought Alicia was entitled. Alicia agrees with this summation as does he with her assessment that he was a “cocky new associate.” Now look at them! The Cary/Alicia relationship progression is one of my favorite things on The Good Wife and it shows that sometimes we can be semi-right about our first impressions, but there is also much room for growth.

the good wife 5.14 got the jobAs we already know Alicia got the job (as did Cary) and between this closing scene and the diner handshake between Will and Alicia, I have a feeling she will be bailing him out soon in one way or another thanks to this line from Will “Alicia, when I’m broke and lying in an alley somewhere, do something nice for me.”

The Good Wife 5.14 red tweedBack in the present and the keynote speech not only acts as a way to add another layer to the Alicia/Will story, but it also shows Alicia trying to sell herself in another manner. Now it’s all about promoting the new firm and they want to land lawyers like Rayna who bring big business. The speech is the perfect way to do this and Alicia uses feminism as the overall theme to try and win Rayna over. It doesn’t quite go to plan and while they don’t end up with Rayna (she’s setting up shop with Elsbeth!), Alicia is definitely in demand as one of the original firms that turned her away because of her name offers her a job. She doesn’t take it of course, but it must be incredibly satisfying to come full circle in this manner; some new clients for Florrick/Agos would have probably been a better score though.

The Good Wife 5.14Red and black are the present day color palette choices with a red tweed jacket as she’s writing followed by the black keynote speech ensemble. As I mentioned before it’s all about being taken seriously and these are Alicia’s confidence clothes.

The Good Wife 5.14 red jacketRed is Alicia’s ultimate power armor and as she’s leaving the hotel she’s wearing this color. This is when she gets the job offer and all looks pretty good from here and in a previous scene Alicia’s responds to the question of “What do you want Alicia?” with “A happy life and to control my fate.” This is well within her reach, until it all comes crashing down next week with the election scandal brewing and Will’s huge dilemma.

The Good Wife 5.14 ElsbethIn terms of perception, Elsbeth is incredibly disarming as we have seen on countless occasion as people underestimate her ability to go for the jugular. Just because she wears scarves and frilly collars that have an Austin Powers feel doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be taken seriously, even if ultimately Dubeck ends up gaining the upper hand. It’s always a joy whenever Carrie Preston guest stars and I think I might be shipping Elsbeth and Clarke after her “High Hopes” rendition.

The Good Wife 5.14 bird pinThere’s not a lot of Diane this week sadly, but she does make sure Will tells her what is going on and all while wearing yet another incredible pin that rivals the dragon fly (these pins tend to come from antique shops if you are on the hunt for one). This bird pin is like a mockingjay has just spread its wings and flown free.

“A Few Words” deals with a variety of the long term arcs like Will and Alicia’s relationship which has been present since The Good Wife started and other more recent overarching stories like the ballot box swap. How Alicia is perceived in relation to Peter is another consistent theme and this time feminism in the workplace is also in focus (as my friend Noel Kirkpatrick points out the last time they were this overt was with Caitlin).

Costuming helps signify how far a character has progressed and Alicia is far from the person we met in the pilot; professionally and personally. Alicia is no longer perceived as the woman standing behind her husband with a look of shame on her face; she’s standing tall upfront and on her own. Well, she’s not entirely on her own as the Florrick name is still important and with Peter heading towards another scandal, Alicia might have to dig down into those stoic reserves. If she wants to really be happy and control her own fate, standing by Peter’s side once again might not be the way to do it.

5 Responses to “The Good Wife: What We Wear and How We Are Perceived”

  1. jola March 20, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    Can anybody tell me who designed Elsbeths coat in this (March 17) episode. There is a shot of her sitting in a car with Wil, being intervied by the police?


  1. Distraction and Memory on The Good Wife | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 28, 2014

    […] choice of suit when she was trying to distract Will with memories of sex. Continuing with Alicia’s keynote speech and how she came to be at Stern, Lockhart & Gardner and the first flutters of those elevator […]

  2. The Good Wife, Identity and What it Means to be Good | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 5, 2014

    […] Good Wife is Alicia’s story and this season filled in some of the blanks of Alicia’s return to work after Peter’s scandal. For the audience Alicia’s role […]

  3. Best of TV Costuming 2014: The Good Wife and Grieving | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 9, 2014

    […] Even when they were fighting for the majority of the fifth season there was still a spark and the reconciliation of sorts in a New York City diner hinted at the next phase of their relationship. This was not to be the […]

  4. Paranoia Runs Wild on The Good Wife | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 22, 2016

    […] “A Few Words” Will approaches Elsbeth at a conference in New York and asks her to represent him in this […]

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