Though BBC America’s newsroom drama The Hour — now in its second season — has been dubbed “The British Mad Men,” series costume designer Suzanne Cave says there are distinct differences when it comes to the clothing. “In terms of similarities I suppose the silhouettes are similar, but Fifth Avenue advertising in the ‘50’s is worlds away from [The Hour‘s] Lime Grove,” Cave tells EW. “British fashion was a slight step behind American fashion. Even just in terms of the technology of fabrics, that kind of thing would’ve been more advanced in America.”
If anything, the costumer examined the different worlds of the British TV rivalries of the late ’50s for historical style references. “Where as the ITV guys are much slicker, much shinier, the people who work at the BBC are a little bit quirkier, so we marked the difference between those two,” said Cave, who, along with her team, custom designs many of the outfits for the show’s main characters Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw; above right), Bel Rowley (Romola Garai; above center), Hector Madden (Dominic West; above left), and Marnie Madden (Oona Chaplin).
Click on to get the scoop on each character’s look and pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, for more on the costumes of The Hour. SEE PHOTOS
NEXT: Freddie Lyon
Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw)
Cave, who researched photography, films and magazines before getting started on the wardrobe for season 2, found that there weren’t many changes in British style trends between 1956 and 1957. Still, she tells us a new style for Freddie demonstrates what’s to come for the character.
“He’s traveled a bit, he’s seen a bit more of the world so we went a little bit more towards the ‘60s in the cut of his suits,” said Cave, who used Jack Kerouac and James Dean as her muses. “We went for a much slimmer shape, which wouldn’t have necessarily been worn by the average guy in London at the time.”
Freddie returns with a new “lady friend” who is also fashion forward. Camille Mettier (Lizzie Brocheré) is “French and she’s quite gamine, cropped hair, petite, that Jean Seberg type of look,” said Cave.
NEXT: Bel Rowley
Bel Rowley (Romola Garai)
For the women on the show, Cave represents the times through the use of color and shapes. Bel Rowley dresses much like the women professionals of the day, highlighting her looks with bold colors that draw inevitable comparisons to Mad Men’s Joan Holloway. “”Sometimes the inspiration comes from a contemporary fashion shoot, where you might just see those colors put together.”
While the actors often wear reproduction underwear from companies like What Katie Wore, Angles and even modern-day Spanx to help recreate a 1950’s silhouette, Cave says Garai doesn’t need them. “With Bel we really push the hourglass shape. Romola is naturally that shape, so we play up her tiny waist.”
NEXT: Marnie Madden
Marnie Madden (Oona Chaplin)
In contrast to Bel, Marnie will be dressed in “more of a classic, almost like a Grace Kelly look,” for season 2 Cave sais. “She comes into her own and gets this position as a TV host, so I did loads of research on the cuter-than-cute ’50s housewives. There are lots of aprons, and it’s all kind of pastel heavy. Everything is matching and perfect.”
Look out for another new character, Randall Brown, the new Head of News played by actor Peter Capaldi, to illustrate the UK’s more classic style of the era. “He’s got a slight bit of OCD so he’s very particular. He has a tie fetish, and he wears glasses of the period as well.”
NEXT: Creating the Looks
Creating and Shopping the Looks
The Hour wardrobe team uses a mix of custom designs and store-bought vintage clothing to bring to life the mood board visions that Cave imagines for each character.
“We have particular cutters who specialize in that period, tailors and dress makers so for Bel, Marnie, Freddie, Hector, Lix, Sissy — all of their clothes were made,” said Cave. “We made the costumes for about eight characters, for the rest we sourced vintage items and mixed in a few contemporary items like knitwear and twin sets.”
When she has to shop, the Cave makes frequent visits to London’s famous vintage clothing hub around Portobello Road — Cloud Cuckoo Land and Rellik are the show’s go-to stores — as well as the city’s monthly Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair. “A lot of the dealers from all over the country come there to show their stuff, so you can get everything under one roof,” she explained. Things like vintage buttons, handbags, hats, gloves, all of those details.”
The Hour airs Wednesdays at 9/8C on BBC America.
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