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Emmys: Consider Daniel Lawson’s Costume Design On ‘The Good Fight’

Costume Designer, Daniel Lawson on creating the wardrobe for Diane Lockhart on ‘The Good Fight’

For seven seasons, Daniel Lawson created the sleek legal look of The Good Wife on CBS. Now, it’s spin-off show, The Good Fight takes Christine Baranski and her character Diane Lockhart on its own journey. This past season we saw her character bounce back from losing all her money, she micro-dosed unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news, the world around her was topsy-turvy, but her wardrobe transformed.

I caught up with Lawson when he was in LA recently to talk about that evolution of Diane’s wardrobe, dressing Audra McDonald and creating the unique look for the men of The Good Fight. 

Photo Cr: Patrick Harbron/CBS
You’ve come a long way since you’ve dressed Christine in The Good Wife and here we are talking about her in Season Two of The Good Fight. Talk about her journey and how her style changed.

During The Good Wife, what was great about Diane and her look, she didn’t change a lot over the seven seasons. When we first meet her, she was already the successful lawyer, near the top of her game. I always said she was my Park Avenue meets Madison Avenue. She already had a certain style and a certain elegance that never really went away.

When we started The Good Fight, we wanted our audience to recognize The Good Wife in that first episode, but by the end of the first episode, feel that they were already on to a new show that could stand on its own, away from The Good Wife and be an entity unto itself.

When we first meet Diane, she is truly at the top of her game so much so that she is ready to retire and she finds out she’s lost her money and she’s been part of this scheme unwittingly and the breaks have been put on her career and retirement.

In that first season, there were no new clothes for her. We joked that after she lost her money, the next time we see her, she should have holes in her clothes and her hair is a mess and you see she’s out of money. We made it look like she was reaching back into her closet and she was pulling things that she had possibly worn before. We wanted that feeling that she had dug deep into the closet. When she joins the African-American law film, we didn’t it to look as if she was stealing thunder from Barbara Kolstad who is one of the partners. She just wanted to be one of the principals and blend into the woodwork a bit, but we wanted to be true to Diane as well.

Going into the second season with the political landscape being turned upside down and lawyers being shot and racism being rampant, we wanted to do two things with Diane. First, she was definitely getting back on that saddle again, she was buying new clothes again and she was making money. By the end of the season, she has recouped her loses. Secondly, she acquired this, “What the fuck attitude.” She has this what the heck are we going to do. She starts micro-dosing.

Which was the best thing ever!

Wasn’t it wonderful? She’s wondering if she is seeing things or if she isn’t seeing things. We wanted her to have a look and I was inspired by elegant Roman women who take pieces, a skirt, a jacket, a blouse that don’t necessarily go together, but it’s thrown together and it’s a fabulous outfit. It’s uneffortless and that’s what we wanted.

I wanted to bring in this sense that she was armoring herself and I introduced a very significant element of metallic into her wardrobe throughout the season. It started with a little bit of leather, but we very got quickly into the metallic. Around episode seven or eight, I think every outfit in that episode contained some element of metallic involved. I wanted pieces that would not necessarily go together because of pattern, texture or shape, but you put it together and it was an outfit. I felt I really pushed the envelope with her which was really exciting and fun for me.

For Christine who plays the role, I think she really appreciated that and felt that the wardrobe really supported this odyssey that she was really going on this season from real highs to real lows and that’s the journey of her wardrobe. We really upped the ante.

You did. Episode one was all black and the pearls and it’s this different look by the end.

That first episode mirrored her journey in reverse with this African-American funeral. All our principals were in black, but being an African-American funeral, there was a lot of color around. When our people went into the environment of this funeral, there was so much color with so many rich purples and gold. When we get to the cemetery, less people from the community were there. So it was half in black and navy and half in these fabulous colors and African fabrics. When we get to the inner sanctum of her home, and we have almost everyone in black or their own version of black, to me, that’s the opposite of Diane’s journey. She started in black and stopped in colors and by the end of the season, she’s in this great red dress.

Let’s talk about dressing the men because they are the best dressed men on TV.

It’s a suit and a suit and suit. It’s a black suit, a gray suit, a navy suit, another suit, another navy suit. What makes it fun is how to make character delineations between all these men and suits? Delroy who plays Adrian is my showman. He walks into that room and he takes control. We custom made his suits. I would do three-piece suits, single-breasted, double-breasted. We’d do stronger colors or patterns that were a little off the spectrum, again charcoal, navy. He’d have strong ties with a big knot. We did custom coats made in electric blue or taupe to give him punch because he really is my showman. Delroy and I would keep each other in check to make sure it was appropriate for court.

Colin is straightlaced. He wore Hugo Boss and would run the gamut from navy to gray and back to navy. He’s the straight guy.

Julius Cain has a little punch, but not as much as Adrian. His character has changed a little. When we first started dressing him, we didn’t know he was conservative. That’s what was exciting that by the time we get to The Good Fight, he is a Republican and voted for Trump and is ultra-conservative so his wardrobe definitely went through a change from The Good Wife to The Good Fight. I started custom making his suits because I wanted to give him extra shoulder and I wanted to give him extra presence and authority.

Then, we had guest stars and other people who come in and out of the show. I feel that by looking at pleats, shoes, ties, belt and all of these details add up to creating a unique character standing in front of me in the fitting.

Was it fun getting to dress Audra McDonald again?

First of all, I’m black and blue from having to punch myself. It was so funny because I couldn’t remember if she had won five or six Tony Awards and we were in the fitting and said, “Five Tonys” and she said, “Six.” We laughed so hard.

In the tapestry of my show, to contrast with Diane, I wanted her to be very clean and very solid. I guess you could say, she was a female version of Julius, not necessarily conservative, but I wanted clean and sleek for her. She’s wonderful to work with, they all are.

What I loved the most about her, she was happy to try things. I think she added this magnificent present to the show with her wardrobe and it felt like a missing element and it felt so nice to have it there.

We have Lucca’s look who is her own quirky and youthful, but it’s appropriate, especially this year with her being pregnant. We had to handle that challenge. I used non-maternity clothes that would accommodate her pregnancy but would maintain her character for me.

Maia’s look is A-symmetrical and has very solid tones. It’s really clean. Part of that is because Rose is very slim and delicate, I didn’t want to upstage that. At the beginning of the season, she is acquitted and there’s a strength that comes in and that goes hand in hand with this modern, clean and sleek look.

We have Marissa Gold, she has undergone a change. She was immature in her clothing, but now she knows what to wear to work. It’s more sophisticated than what she wore before. She wears print dresses and might throw a jean jacket over it. I didn’t want her to look like a lawyer.

The floral jacket she wears in episode two was one of my favorites.

I loved that. That was from Micahel Kors. I think I bought it months before we started prepping the episode. I saw it and thought it was magnificent. I knew I’d be able to use it.

I think it worked really well in the tapestry of that episode. She is the lynchpin for the prosection’s case and I thought it drew a lot of attention to her in a good way. She is unwittingly the center of attention.

Photo Cr: Patrick Harbron/CBS
Do you do that when you’re out?

I am always shopping. I was in London and shopping. It’s always great to get things that are not from New York. I’ll always keep my eyes open.

Do the Kings give you full control?

We had an immediate trust going back to when we started and we have a great trust. We are also incredibly collaborative. Michelle and I touch base daily about wardrobe and character looks and where they’re going. With our principals, if I feel good about it, I’ll press on. Anytime, I feel we’re stepping away from our standard course, I’ll touch base. We dress our background too. The thing is Robert and Michelle have created this sophisticated world. We want everybody to be at that elevated level of sophistication. We do have this great relationship, there’s always this ongoing dialogue. These are living, breathing characters, and just like us they all change from day to day, but in their case, it’s all plotted out.

We’re so invested in them

And that’s because they make them like real, living, breathing people. That’s why we’re invested. I think this season was riveting and exciting and interesting. I think trailblazing too. I don’t think a lot of people took on politics the way they did.

Do you have a favorite outfit for the whole season?

I think just because it was so spectacular. The party where no one comes. That fabulous gold embroidered dress and the jacket. I thought it was so gorgeous. I had custom made jewelry. I designed the belt and had it made. I felt that outfit was just so sophisticated and so sharp. She looked like she was dressed up with nowhere to go because nobody showed up at the party.

I loved the accessories this season.

It is all thought out. I go through each costume and outfit and pick all the accessories. It’s like a giant puzzle that I put together for each episode and it’s so much fun.