Forget about those drab, boxy business suits, the powerful female characters on today’s D.C.-set TV shows are wearing figure-flattering dresses, experimenting with bold colors and patterns, and even (gasp!) going sleeveless. And they all have Michelle Obama to thank.
The first lady hasn’t just changed the fashion landscape in our nation’s capital, she’s changed the way fictional Washingtonians look on the small screen.
“[Mrs. Obama] has made D.C. a little more feminine and much more modern,” explains Veep wardrobe designer Kathleen Felix Hager, who dresses Vice President Selina Meyers (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on the HBO series. “She took risks.”
“She did inspire us. There’s no doubt about that,” says Scandal designer Lyn Paolo, who pitched her vision of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) to ABC execs with an “anti-inspiration” vision board featuring practically every real-life D.C. power woman except Obama. “No disrespect, but I don’t think there are that many women in politics today that dress like Olivia Pope. They all wear red, white, and blue—all the time. Thank God Mrs. Obama is changing that.”
After taking over the wardrobe department on the Netflix series House of Cards, Johanna Argan also realized that when it comes to everyday dressing in Washington, unless you’re talking about FLOTUS, real-life inspirations are hard to come by. “I looked [at] women in power positions — in corporate America and in D.C., [but] there weren’t any specific women that stood out,” says Argan, who is responsible for Claire Underwood’s (Robin Wright) closet. “I used Mrs. Obama [as a reference] because she’s the most fashion-forward example of what we see right now.”
Read on for more on how Michelle Obama has influenced the costume design on Veep, House of Cards, and Scandal.